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The Most Unlikely World Series Winners

There is an old adage in all sports that teams just need to "get to the playoffs, then anything can happen."

That typically reigns true as it is not often that the two best teams from the regular season wind up in the championship. Major League Baseball and the World Series is certainly no exception. 

Upsets in the MLB playoffs are rather common, and here we've highlighted five of the most unlikely World Series winners in history.

Click here for a full list of MLB World Series winners.

2019 Washington Nationals

The Astros have now gone to the ALCS in 7 consecutive seasons. Their 2019 team was arguably their best even though they did not win the World Series. There are 6 teams in baseball that won 100+ games and Houston won the most of all of them with 107 wins. Washington did not quite have that level of success.

The Nationals finished second in the NL East with 93 wins and had to pull off a comeback in the wild card game for their playoff lives. 

Unsurprisingly, the Astros were significant favorites entering the 2019 Fall Classic. This was a bizarre series in that the road team won every game. 

With the Astros having home field advantage, that means the Nationals took the series 4-3. Also bizarrely, only one game was decided by a run. 

The other 6 games were 3+ run wins. The 2019 Nationals were a great example of a team just getting to the playoffs and executing bringing home the title.

2006 St. Louis Cardinals

Even though the Cardinals were a division winner and the Tigers were not, the 2006 World Series appeared to be lopsided in favor of Detroit. The Cardinals won an unremarkable 83 games which is the least in history for a team that won the World Series. 

The Tigers won 95 games in a competitive AL Central and went 7-1 in 8 ALDS and ALCS games. All signs pointed toward the Tigers winning this World Series somewhat comfortably. But the Cardinals flat out executed and took the series in 5 games.

2003 Florida Marlins

In 2003, the Yankees were still the big, bad Yankees. Loaded with talent and eventual Hall of Famers, the Yankees won 101 games which was tied for the most in baseball. 

The Marlins got into the playoffs via the NL wild card with a respectable 91 wins. But for all intents and purposes, they appeared outmatched by a Yankees team fresh off of a dynasty, perhaps arguably still in it.

The Marlins took game 1 but lost games 2 and 3. Both losses had a score of 6-1 and it looked like the Yankees would coast to their 5th World Series in 8 years. Florida found a way, though. 

They took game 4 in 12 innings to tie the series and never looked back. With wins of 6-4 and 2-0, the Marlins won their second World Series as a franchise and in 7 years.

1990 Cincinnati Reds

While 91 wins for the Reds is nothing to overlook and should not be an egregious underdog, the A's were that good in 1990. 

Oakland won 103 games which was 8 clear of the next best team in baseball. The A's had the Bash Brothers, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, and they also had great pitching highlighted by starter Dave Stewart and closer Dennis Eckersley.

Despite being outmatched on paper, the Reds took hold of the series in game 1 and never relented. Cincinnati scored 7 runs in the first 5 innings including 4 off Stewart. 

They then walked off Eckersley in game 2, and served Stewart another loss in clinching game 4. At the time, this was considered a massive upset considering no one gave the Reds a chance to win, let alone sweep. 

1985 Kansas City Royals

The 1985 Cardinals had the best record in baseball at 101-61. After beating the Dodgers to win the pennant, then taking a 2-0 and 3-1 series lead, it looked all but a formality that St. Louis would wrap up this World Series rather easily. The Royals won game 5 by a score of 6-1 leading to game 6, "The call". 

St. Louis entered the bottom of the 9th with a 1-0 lead and just 3 outs away from winning the World Series. In all 97 games that season they entered the 9th inning with a lead, they were 97-0. Jorge Orta chopped an 0-2 to the right side where he was definitely out but was called safe. 

The Royals would go on to score 2 runs that inning to win the game and force game 7. They then routed the Cardinals 11-0 to complete the comeback.

Among several MLB underdog postseason stories, these World Series upsets paint the picture that no matter what, you just cannot count out the underdogs. Because after all, anything can happen in the playoffs.

Read more about the 100+ year history of the MLB World Series here.

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