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Postseason Losing Streaks

October 6, 2019

Hugh Atkins

The New York Yankees overpowered the Minnesota Twins in Game 2 of the American League Division Series in an 8-2 win that gave the Bronx Bombers a commanding 2-0 lead in the series. Scott Boeck, writing the story of the game for the USA Today website, stated that the Twins now own a 15-game postseason losing streak. But while the Minnesota franchise has lost their last 15 postseason games, does it really make any sense to say the Twins have a 15-game postseason losing streak? Can the 2019 edition of the Twins carry on a streak started by the players on the 2004 team?

The loss certainly extended the misery for Twins fans, and it likely doesn’t help that 12 of those losses have come at the hands of the Yankees, who also have eliminated the Twins in Minnesota’s last four postseason appearances. For the fans, it really doesn’t make much difference that the losses started back in the days of Torii Hunter and Joe Nathan, neither of whom had anything to do with Saturday’s game.

The first time I remember hearing anything about a decades-spanning postseason losing streak was in 1991. After the Atlanta Braves lost the opening game of the National League Championship Series, broadcaster Tim McCarver stated that the loss gave the Braves a 10-game postseason losing streak. I didn’t think much of his pronouncement then, and my opinion hasn’t changed in 28 years since.

The 10 losses McCarver tallied began in the 1958 World Series. The Milwaukee Braves won the first two games of the Fall Classic against the Yankees, dropped Game 3, and then took a 3-1 lead in the Series on a 2-hit shutout by Warren Spahn. The Yankees came back to win three straight to take the Series.

© T.C.G.

Eleven years later, the Atlanta Braves were the first National League Western Division champions. They lost the best-of-five NLCS to the New York Mets in three straight, which became losses four, five, and six in McCarver’s version of a postseason losing streak. Henry Aaron was still with the Braves, and played in all six of those losses. The only other members of the 1958 Braves team still active in 1969 were pitchers Don McMahon, who split the year between the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants, and Juan Pizarro, who was with the Cleveland Indians; backup catcher Hawk Taylor was with the expansion Kansas City Royals. How can the 1958 Braves be responsible for the three postseason losses by the 1969 squad?

Thirteen years passed before the Braves played another postseason game, and again they lost three straight, this time to the St. Louis Cardinals. These were losses seven, eight, and nine in McCarver’s postseason losing streak. Phil Niekro started one game in both the 1969 and 1982 series, but the only other Braves players still active in 1982 were outfielder Dusty Baker, who was then with the Los Angeles Dodgers, third baseman Darrell Evans, who was then with the Giants, and pitcher Ron Reed, who was then with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Braves ended McCarver’s postseason losing streak in Game 2 of the 1991 NLCS. Several members of the 1982 Atlanta squad were still active somewhere in the major leagues in ’91–including Brett Butler, Dale Murphy, and Pascual Perez–but none of them still played for the Braves. Most members of the team weren’t even born in 1958.

Maybe the Twins can at least beat the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS, but they will have to do it without the assistance of Cristian Guzman or Johan Santana from the 2004 team.

(All game details and player references are from Retrosheet.)

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