In sports, there’s nothing better than a playoff series that goes back and forth game after game and could end up being won by either team. In the MLB playoffs, every pitch can potentially change a series, and in a truly great series, every pitch matters.
Needless to say, the greatest MLB postseason series of all time have been series that have the momentum swing on a single pitch. It also helps that the best playoff games typically include some of the best playoff moments and greatest playoff performances of all time. But it takes a lot for a series to be considered among the greatest MLB postseason series we’ve ever seen.
Best MLB Playoff Series of All-Time
It seems like every year there are at least one or two series during the postseason that stand out. That makes it hard to pick out the best MLB playoff series of all time given all of the amazing series we’ve seen in over 100 years of history.
However, we’ve done the leg work and come up with a list of the best MLB playoff series of all time.
10. 2011 World Series
This is undoubtedly a modern classic because of the way the Cardinals came back in Game 6 and then won Game 7.
Things started promisingly with the first two games of the series being decided by one run. The next two games weren’t as exciting, but Game 5 featured a lot of tense moments and a lot of runners being left on base. Of course, Game 6 was one of the best World Series games of all time with the Rangers coming so close to winning it all, only for the Cardinals to come back late and walk off with a win on a David Freese home run before dominating in Game 7.
9. 2016 World Series
Even if this series didn’t involve the Cubs winning their first championship in over a century, this series had a lot to like, even though a few of the games weren’t that compelling. Game 3 was an epic pitcher’s duel that saw Cleveland win 1-0 to take the lead in the series.
The Cubs then had to survive a tight 3-2 win in Game 5 just to stay alive. Then came Game 7, which featured a late comeback by Cleveland and a 17-minute rain delay with the game tied after nine innings. One could argue that both teams deserve to win this series, which isn’t something you can say about every World Series.
8. 1986 World Series
There’s no denying that this is one of the best MLB playoff series all-time because the Mets made an incredible comeback.
Some have calculated New York’s chance being as low as 0.8% while down to their final out in the bottom of the 10th in Game 6.
We all know what happened next.
Of course, outside of a 1-0 win for Boston in Game 1, the series leading up to that wasn’t overly compelling. But the ending in Game 6 more than made up for that. Plus, Game 7 was rained out, adding to the anticipation. Plus, people forget that the Mets also had to overcome a 3-0 deficit in Game 7, making another impressive comeback to win it all.
7. 1986 NLCS
This is just one of two MLB playoff series in which at least six games were decided by two runs or less.
In fact, four of the six games were decided by just one run. It doesn’t get much more dramatic than that, especially when you think about the incredible pitching on both sides.
Keep in mind that Game 5 went 12 innings and Game 6 was that epic, 16-inning marathon. Of course, Game 6 was also one of the best playoff games of all time because both teams considered it an elimination game, helping to make this one of the best MLB playoff series all-time.
6. 1995 ALDS
It takes a lot for a divisional series to be considered among the best playoff series of all-time, but that’s because this series had it all despite being just five games.
The series between the Yankees and Mariners set an all-time MLB playoff record with the trailing team rallying to tie or take the lead 13 times. Again, that happened in just five games.
There was an average of 13.6 runs scored per game, so the excitement level was off the charts. When you factor in Game 2 lasting 15 innings and the Mariners winning a decisive Game 5 in 11 innings, it’s almost impossible to envision a more compelling five-game series in any sport.
5. 1975 World Series
This series is best known for Carlton Fisk’s famous home run to win Game 6 for the Red Sox and force a Game 7 that Cincinnati ultimately won. But this series was so much more than that.
Five of the seven games in this series were decided by a single run, so almost every game was tight and came down to the wire. That includes Game 7 when the Reds scored the go-ahead run on a home run in the top of the 9th, overcoming Fisk’s heroics in Game 6 and finishing off one of the greatest MLB postseason series in baseball history.
4. 2001 World Series
Coming on the heels of a national tragedy that forced the World Series into November, the Yankees and Diamondbacks gave us a great series.
The D’Backs took a 2-0 lead, only for the Yankees to win three in a row at home with all three of those wins coming by a single run. In fact, Game 4 went 10 innings and Game 5 went 12 innings with the Yankees earning a walk-off win in each.
But the Diamondbacks turned the tables back in Arizona with a 15-2 win in Game 6 before doing the unthinkable in Game 7.
The D’Backs scored two runs against Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth, giving the greatest closer of all time a blown save in Game 7 of the World Series, enabling a franchise just four years old to win a championship.
3. 1991 World Series
This was an epic series between two worthy teams in which five of the seven games between the Braves and Twins were decided by a single run.
Naturally, four of those five games ended on a walk-off hit. Kirby Puckett’s walk-off home run in Game 6 to force a Game 7 is one of the all-time best playoff moments. That set up Game 7, which went 10 innings with Minnesota starter Jack Morris pitching 10 scoreless innings. Game 7 ended up being the third game in the series to reach extra innings with Gene Larkin providing the walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th.
2. 1999 NLCS
This game went six games and after a 4-2 Atlanta win in Game 1, the next five games were all decided by a single run.
Needless to say, there were a lot of tense moments late in games, especially since one team came from behind to tie the game in the eighth three times.
There were also three times when a team came from behind to take the lead in the eighth inning. Few playoff games can top Game 5 when the Braves took a lead in the top of the 15th, only for the Mets to get a walk-off win in the bottom of the 15th.
The funny thing about this series is that despite all of the close games, the Braves took a 3-0 lead with the Mets coming painfully close to forcing a Game 7 after falling behind 3-0, only to lose in the 11th inning of Game 6.
1. 2004 ALCS
Sorry, Yankees fans, but you had to know this was coming.
One of the greatest playoff performances of all time was Boston’s epic comeback after falling behind 3-0.
It all started with a stolen base by Dave Roberts that was instrumental in keeping the Red Sox alive with a 12th-inning walk-off win in Game 4.
The Red Sox came back the next night and won in 14 innings. In those two games, the Red Sox managed to shift all of the pressure over to the Yankees.
When it got to Game 7, the Yankees completely folded, losing 10-3 and becoming the first team in MLB history to lose a series after leading 3-0. In the process, this became the greatest MLB postseason series ever played.