Since baseball began division play in 1969, only four teams have won a playoff series over an opponent with 106 regular-season victories or more.
The Washington Nationals became the fourth on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
The Rays failed to become the fifth Thursday night after a 6-1 loss in Houston ended their season. None of those previous giant-killers lost the first two games of the series as Tampa Bay did.
Here they are:
1969 New York Mets
Opponent: 109-53 Baltimore Orioles
Result: Won World Series, 4-1
Deciding game venue: Shea Stadium
Memorable names: Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and a 22-year-old relief pitcher named Nolan Ryan.
Memorable moment: Ron Swoboda’s diving catch of a Brooks Robinson liner with two runners on in the ninth inning of Game 4. The Orioles tied the game but the Mets went on to win 2-1 in 10. Robinson swears two runs would have scored and the Orioles would have won the game and the Series if not for Swoboda.
Legacy: The Miracle Mets are usually lumped in among baseball’s greatest underdogs, but they actually won 100 games themselves and swept the Braves in the first National League Championship Series. What made them so memorable was their dramatic turnaround. The Mets had finished 9th or 10th in every previous season since they joined the league in 1962. Beating a Baltimore team that had four future Hall of Famers in the dugout didn’t hurt either.
1998 San Diego Padres
Opponent: 106-56 Atlanta Braves
Result: Won National League Championship Series, 4-2
Deciding game venue: Turner Field
Memorable names: Tony Gwynn, Kevin Brown, manager Bruce Bochy
Memorable moments: The upset got underway in Game 1 in Atlanta when Ken Caminiti hit a 10th inning home run for a 3-2 win.
Legacy: When people recall this Padres team, it’s usually because they were fodder for the 114-win Yankees in the World Series. New York swept the Padres in four games, outscoring them 26-13. But San Diego did take down a great Braves team with Armwood High’s Sterling Hitchcock outdueling Tom Glavine 5-0 in the deciding Game 6 victory.
2001 New York Yankees
Opponent: 116-46 Seattle Mariners
Result: Won American League Championship Series, 4-1.
Deciding game venue: Yankee Stadium
Memorable names: Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina
Memorable moments: The surprisingly easy victory against the Mariners was punctuated by Alfonso Soriano’s walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth in a Game 4 victory that gave New York a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Legacy: The franchise has 27 world championships, but Yankees fans will always hold a special place in their heart for this team that came up just short. Beginning the postseason a month after the 9/11 tragedy, the Yankees took down the record-setting Mariners in the ALCS to offer a small distraction to a grieving city and nation. The World Series that followed was one of the most dramatic in baseball history, with Tampa’s Luis Gonzalez driving in the Game 7 winner off Mariano Rivera for a 3-2 Arizona victory.
2019 Washington Nationals
Opponent: 106-56 Los Angeles Dodgers
Result: Won National League Division Series, 3-2
Deciding game venue: Dodger Stadium
Memorable names: Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer
Memorable moments: Take your pick. Was it the back-to-back homers by Rendon and Juan Soto in the eighth to tie the game, or was it Howie Kendrick’s game-winning grand slam in the tenth to win Game 5?
Legacy: Their legacy could still be embellished by the NLCS or the World Series, but this Washington team will always be remembered for dramatic comebacks in the final innings of both the wild-card game and NLDS Game 5. This is the first Washington team to win a playoff series since the two-time defunct Senators won the World Series in 1924 with Walter Johnson on the mound. To make it all sweeter? Bryce Harper was watching on TV somewhere.