Cardinals' comeback unlike any other

The Washington Nationals hadn’t won a postseason series since 1981 back when they were the Montreal Expos.

No D.C. team had won a postseason series since 1924.

With one more out (or even one more strike), all of that would have changed.

Instead, the St. Louis Cardinals completed the greatest comeback ever in a winner-take-all postseason game, winning 9-7 to advance to the NLCS.

Washington's offense jumped out early thanks in part to Bryce Harper’s bat. He became first teenager to triple in a postseason game, and then the second youngest to hit a home run (behind Andruw Jones).

Largest Deficit Overcome to Win
Winner-Take-All Postseason Games

Ryan Zimmerman and Mike Morse added long balls to make it 6-0. All three coming off Cardinals’ starter Adam Wainwright.

He was just the third pitcher to allow three home runs in a postseason winner-take-all game, joining Bob Gibson (1964 World Series) and Don Newcombe (1956 World Series). Gibson’s Cardinals won that game.

Incredibly, Wainwright’s teammates mounted a comeback on Friday.

No team had ever come back from more than four runs down in a winner-take-all postseason game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Yankees climbed back from four runs behind the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. The 1925 Pirates did the same to the Senators in Game 7 of the World Series.

But coming back from six runs down? That was unprecedented.

In fact, only four teams had overcome six run deficits to win any postseason game, according to Elias.

Won Game After Trailing by 6+ Runs
MLB Postsesason History

After Morse’s home run put the Nationals up 6-0, the Cardinals had a 3.7 percent chance of winning the game according to FanGraphs.com’s win probability calculator. It was still just the third inning.

The lead had been cut to 7-5 going into the ninth inning, as the Cardinals bats came to life.

But even two runs presented a nearly unprecedented comeback in a do-or-die game.

According to Elias, the 1992 Atlanta Braves were the only team to overcome a multiple run deficit in the ninth inning of a winner-take-all postseason game. Francisco Cabrera's walk-off, two-run single capped that rally in Game 7 of the NLCS against the Pirates.

Carlos Beltran led off the ninth with a double. He finished the night 3-3 with a pair of walks. In doing so, Beltran joined Babe Ruth as the only players to reach base five times (either by walk, hit or hit-by-pitch) in a winner-take-all game.

Drew Storen managed to get the next two batters out. With Yadier Molina coming to the plate, the Cardinals’ win probability had again dipped to 3.5 percent.

In each of the next two plate appearances (both walks), Storen was one strike away from the win. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Cardinals were one strike away from elimination in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

Daniel Descalso tied the game with a bases-loaded single. Later, Pete Kozma plated two more runs for the first ninth-inning RBI in his brief career.

It had been 88 years since a rookie provided a game-winning RBI in a winner-take-all game. That was the Senators' Earl McNeely in Game 7 of the 1924 World Series.

The remarkable comeback continued a walk along a postseason tightrope for the Cardinals. They’ve now won six straight in elimination games, tying their own MLB record.