While reaching the century mark is grand, Astros, Dodgers know ultimate goal is a world title
By Austin Laymance
The 2017 Dodgers, Indians and Astros became just the sixth trio ever to clear the 100-win hurdle together, and the first since 2003. In fact, the Nationals fell just short of giving MLB its first 4x100.
Baseball is a sport that loves clean, round numbers. As such, a 100-win season is one of the greatest achievements a team can reach, aside from a World Series title. At its core, baseball remains a marathon, with the 162-game regular season spawning a six-month grind for players, coaches and front offices. But as the majority of 100-win teams have learned over the years, the postseason can be a different kind of beast. In fact, recent playoff history suggests that success in the regular season has not always carried over into the postseason.
There were 16 teams from 2000-16 that won 100 or more games in the regular season. Of those 16 clubs, nine were unable to advance past the Division Series. The 2015 St. Louis Cardinals (100 wins), '11 Philadelphia Phillies (102), '08 Los Angeles Angels (100), '03 Atlanta Braves (101), '03 San Francisco Giants (100), '02 Oakland Athletics (103), '02 New York Yankees (103), '02 Braves (101) and '01 Athletics (102) all fell short of their lofty postseason goals after posting triple-digit wins.
In 2017, the Indians steamrolled into the postseason with 102 wins after an AL record-breaking 22-game winning streak through September. The team was outdueled by the Yankees in five games in the ALDS, however.
There have been only two teams since 2000 that have won 100 or more games in the regular season and gone on to win the World Series: the 2009 Yankees and last year's Chicago Cubs. Three teams since the turn of the century with 100 or more wins in the regular season triumphed in the LDS before losing in the League Championship Series.
The 2001 Seattle Mariners tied a Major League record with 116 wins in the regular season. In the ALDS, the Mariners beat the Cleveland Indians in five games, but fell to the Yankees in the ALCS.
The 2005 Cardinals won 100 regular-season games and got off to a great start in the postseason, sweeping the San Diego Padres in the NLDS, winning each game by three or more runs. But their division rival, the Houston Astros, eliminated the Cardinals from the playoffs in six games in the NLCS.
The 2004 Yankees won 101 games in the regular season, the third straight year in which the Bronx Bombers had won over 100 regular-season games. New York was shut out in its first postseason game that year against the Minnesota Twins, but then reeled off three straight wins to capture the ALDS. Of course, baseball fans everywhere know what came next.
The Yankees met the rival Red Sox in the ALCS for the second straight October. New York took a commanding 3-0 lead and seemed destined to return to the World Series following a 19-8 drubbing of the Sox in Game 3 at Fenway Park. But a second-straight trip to the Fall Classic never materialized for the Yankees, who ended up on the wrong side of a historic comeback. The Red Sox rallied to win four games in a row, including extra-inning, walk-off victories in Games 4 and 5 in Boston, to become the first team in baseball history to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games. Those Red Sox, favorably nicknamed the "Idiots" by outfielder Johnny Damon and first baseman Kevin Millar during their playoff push, went on to beat another team with 100-plus wins in the regular season -- the Cardinals -- to win their first World Series title in 86 years.
The 2004 Cardinals, winners of 105 games in the regular season, were swept by the Red Sox, as Boston won its first World Series title since 1918. That Cardinals team joined the 2003 Yankees as the only two teams since 2000 to lose the World Series in the year they won 100 or more games in the regular season.
The '03 Yankees won 101 regular-season games and then beat the Twins in the ALDS in four games, reeling off three consecutive wins after losing their first game of the postseason. Next, the Bronx Bombers met the rival Red Sox in the ALCS, which ended up as an all-time classic. A year before that historic Boston ALCS comeback, the Yankees had prevailed over the Sox in Game 7, when Aaron Boone launched a walk-off home run to left field off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the first pitch of the bottom of the 11th inning. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the euphoria of winning the final game of the ALCS was followed by the disappointment of losing the World Series to the Florida Marlins in six games.
Of course, things changed for the Yankees six years later in 2009 when they became the first team in the 21st century to win 100 or more games in the regular season and cap it off with a World Series title. That year, New York tallied 103 regular-season victories, swept the Twins in the ALDS, overcame the Angels in six games in the ALCS, then bested the defending-champion Philadelphia Phillies in six games in the Fall Classic. For Yankees fans, the pain of seeing three 100-plus-win teams fall short of their ultimate goal in three consecutive postseasons from 2002-04 was erased by the joy of watching their team follow their 103-win regular season in 2009 with a World Series title in front of the home crowd in Game 6.
Cubs fans, however, endured a much longer wait. The 2016 Cubs won the World Series in dramatic fashion against the Indians, needing extra innings on the road in Game 7 to end the franchise's 108-year stretch without a championship. The Cubs won 103 games in the regular season last year, then beat the Giants in the NLDS in four games and the Dodgers in the NLCS in six games before an epic World Series triumph over the Indians.
While it hasn't been a century-long gap, nearly three decades have passed since the Dodgers have celebrated a World Series championship, too. The last time the Dodgers reached the Fall Classic was in 1988, when they beat the A's in five games. The Dodgers finished the regular season that year with 94 wins. Before this season, the Dodgers last won 100 or more regular-season games in 1962 and '74. The 1962 Dodgers went 101-61 to tie the Giants for the best record in the NL. But Los Angeles lost a three-game series to its longtime rival (officially finishing the season with a 102-63 record), and the Giants advanced to the World Series.
More than a decade passed before the Dodgers would win 100-plus games again. In 1974, the Dodgers again won 102. This time, Los Angeles reached the World Series after beating the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS, 3-games-to-1. But in the Fall Classic, the Dodgers lost to the Oakland Athletics in the first World Series to take place entirely on the West Coast. Before moving across the country to Los Angeles after the 1957 season, the Dodgers won 100 or more regular-season games in 1941 (100), '42 (104) and '53 (105) in Brooklyn. All three of those clubs failed to win the World Series: The '41 club lost the Fall Classic to the Yankees; the '42 squad finished second in the NL and missed the postseason; the '53 team lost the World Series to the Yanks in six games.
With the Dodgers and the Astros the only two teams in the postseason with triple-digit wins, can one of them be the next club to parlay 100 regular-season victories into a championship? Stay tuned.
This article appears in the League Championship Series Program. To purchase a copy, visit mlbshop.com.
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.