Since 1995, most eventual World Series champs have weathered worse
By David Adler
Don't panic, Houston. Even the greatest teams have had their ups and downs.
The Astros looked unstoppable in the American League for the first four months of the season, amassing a 67-33 record and a 17-game lead in the AL West. But they've scuffled in August, losing 10 of 14 games heading into their series opener against the Rangers on Friday.
But that division cushion still stands at 13 games -- and the Astros are far from alone in terms of a juggernaut going through a rough patch during the season. Many of the 22 World Series champions during the Wild Card era have gone through stretches as bad or worse.
The Astros' current three-game losing streak is as long as they've had all season, and every World Series winner since 1995 except the 2013 Red Sox has gone through a longer one. Ten of the 22 have had a 15-game stretch where they've dropped at least 11 games.
MLB.com takes a look back at the seasons of those 22 Fall Classic winners, from 1995-2016, to put the Astros' current run in perspective.
Worst losing streak
1. 2006 Cardinals: 8 games (twice, from July 27-Aug. 4 and June 20-27)
You might remember the 2006 Cardinals team for its dramatic seven-game win over the Mets in the National League Championship Series, when Adam Wainwright struck out Carlos Beltran looking to send St. Louis to the World Series. There, they rolled through the Tigers, winning 4-1. But before Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen and Co. earned their ring, they went through two long midseason losing streaks -- both of which put sizeable dents in their division lead. During the first of those, they were swept by the Tigers. History didn't repeat itself.
2 (tie). 2011 Cardinals: 7 games (June 10-17)
2010 Giants: 7 games (June 26-July 2)
2005 White Sox: 7 games (Aug. 12-20)
2000 Yankees: 7 games (Sept. 25-Oct. 1)
The Astros would have to more than double their current losing streak to equal that of these four World Series champs to post an unlucky seven on their way to a crown. And there were some good ones among them. The 2010 Giants team started their even-year magic thanks to the likes of Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval and a young Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. The '05 White Sox brought home the team's first World Series title in 88 years. Even the dynasty Yankees weren't immune, losing the final seven games of the regular season before going on to win the Subway Series Fall Classic against the Mets.
Worst 15-game stretch
1. 2000 Yankees: 2-13 (Sept. 17-Oct. 1)
Remember, this team ended up with a three-peat; the Yankees won the World Series in 1998, '99 and 2000. But in that third year, they closed out the regular season about as badly as they could have. New York held a 7 1/2-game lead in its division on Sept. 17, but it dropped 13 of its final 15 games (including its last seven), and the lead was cut to 2 1/2 games by the end of it. Of course, the Yanks turned it on in October. So much for momentum.
2 (tie). 2014 Giants: 3-12 (June 13-29)
2011 Cardinals: 3-12 (June 10-26)
2006 Cardinals: 3-12 (multiple spans in June/July)
2002 Angels: 3-12 (April 8-23)
Even with a loss Friday night, the Astros would only be 4-11 in August, and that's still better than what these four teams went through before winning the Fall Classic. On the list, again, are the Cardinals' two World Series teams, who went through tough times around their long losing streaks (see above). The 2014 Giants went from eight games up to one-half game up in the NL West in two weeks in June, later making the playoffs as a Wild Card and beating the Royals in an incredible Game 7 of the World Series thanks to Bumgarner's heroics. The 2002 Angels won the franchise's only World Series in seven games over the Barry Bonds-led Giants, a magical ending that was even more remarkable when considering the fact that they were already 10 1/2 games back in their division in late April.
Worst 20-game stretch
1 (tie). 2016 Cubs: 5-15 (June 20-July 9)
2014 Giants: 5-15 (multiple spans from mid-June to early July)
2000 Yankees: 5-15 (multiple spans in September-October)
The Cubs' World Series win last year was one of the most memorable in recent history -- it's hard to top shattering the longest World Series drought ever, winning your first title in more than a century and doing it in an instant-classic extra-innings Game 7 win. This Cubs team won 103 games in the regular season, the most in the Major Leagues, but it also went through a stretch where it lost 15 of 20 toward the end of the first half. That was just a blip on the radar, though -- and the Astros' current struggles could be, too.
Again, the 2014 Giants and '00 Yankees have the dubious distinction of going on some of the worst regular-season runs of any World Series champion of the past two decades. For the Giants, that didn't stop them from becoming the most dominant team of this decade, with a third World Series in five years. They got into the playoffs via a Wild Card berth, but then beat the Pirates, Nationals, Cardinals and finally Royals to get their title, with Bumgarner cementing his status as a postseason legend on the way.
The Yankees were already a dynasty by the 2000 season, but one more championship just added to their legacy. The '00 Yanks had started off September on a roll, including a sweep of the rival Red Sox, but by the end of it, they didn't much look like a team that was about to win a third straight championship. After postseason wins over the A's, Mariners and Mets, that's exactly what they'd done.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.