The Los Angeles Dodgers went into the 2021 regular season as a favorite to not only win a ninth consecutive National League West title but also repeat as World Series champions.
They have chased the San Francisco Giants for much of the year, with both clubs on pace to win at least 100 games, one figures to end up in the NL Wild Card Game come October. The one-game playoff presents its own daunting challenge but it is hardly insurmountable for a team in pursuit of a championship.
Since the introduction of the Wild Card in 1995, there have been 13 non-division winners to advance to the World Series. Seven of those went all the way to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy after the final pitch.
Wild Card teams to reach World Series
The 2019 Washington Nationals were the most recent Wild Card team to not only advance to the World Series, but win it as well. They began their postseason journey by defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in a win-or-go-home elimination game.
The Nationals then stunned the Dodgers in a best-of-five NL Division Series despite being major underdogs. The club went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series before knocking out the Houston Astros in seven games in the World Series.
The 2014 Giants won just 88 games during the regular season, but it was enough to earn a Wild Card spot. After defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card Game, they made quick work of the Nationals and Cardinals in the next two series.
The Giants then bested the Kansas City Royals in seven games in the World Series to capture their third championship since 2010.
Like the Giants, the 2014 Royals also advanced to the World Series as a Wild Card team. Prior to losing to San Francisco in seven games, they posted a perfect 8-0 record against the Oakland Athletics, L.A. Angels and Baltimore Orioles in their first three series.
Back when there was only one Wild Card winner, the 2011 Cardinals started their postseason run by defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in five games in the NLDS.
After knocking out the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS, St. Louis went on to defeat the Texas Rangers in seven games in the World Series. Former Dodger David Freese memorably delivered big hits in Game 6, tying the score with a triple in the ninth before delivering a walk-off home run in the 11th inning to force a Game 7.
The 2007 Colorado Rockies won 13 of their final 14 games to force a Game 163 against the San Diego Padres, which they took in 13 innings to claim the NL Wild Card.
The Rockies carried that momentum into the first two rounds of the postseason, sweeping both the Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks to advance to the World Series. Unfortunately for Colorado, they ran into a hot Boston Red Sox team and were swept in four games.
The 2006 Detroit Tigers eliminated the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics in the first two rounds of the postseason, but lost the World Series in five games to the Cardinals.
The 2005 Houston Astros earned the NL Wild Card despite winning only 89 games in the regular season. Viewed as a major underdog, they went on to upset the Atlanta Braves and Cardinals in the first two rounds.
The Astros’ magic would run out in the World Series as they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in four games.
2004 Red Sox
The 2004 Red Sox swept the Angels in the American League Division Series but then found themselves in a 3-0 hole against the Yankees in the next round.
Boston improbably erased the deficit by winning four consecutive games and then swept the Cardinals in the World Series to win their first championship since 1918.
The Florida Marlins showed just six years prior they can win a World Series as the Wild Card team. They did so in 2003 by posting an 11-6 record against the Giants, Chicago Cubs and Yankees.
Though the Giants won the World Series as the Wild Card in 2014, they fell just short of doing so in 2002, falling to the Angels in seven games.
The Angels, just like their World Series opponent, advanced to the postseason as a Wild Card team, and had to defeat the Yankees and Minnesota Twins to get to that point. Anaheim then edged out the Giants in seven games to win their first championship in franchise history.
In what was a stacked NL playing field, the 2000 New York Mets won 94 games during the regular season to claim the Wild Card. They defeated the Giants and Cardinals in the first two rounds of the postseason to set the stage for a Subway Series Fall Classic against the Yankees.
A highly anticipated matchup turned out being one-sided as the Yankees took care of the Mets in six games to win their 26th World Series title.
Six years before winning the 2003 World Series as a Wild Card team, the 1997 Marlins made MLB history by becoming the first team to do it.
After defeating the Giants and Braves in the first two rounds of the postseason, they edged out the Cleveland Indians in seven games to win their first title in franchise history. Edgar Renteria provided the heroics with a walk-off single in the 11th inning.
Have you subscribed to the Dodger Blue YouTube channel? Be sure to ring the notification bell to watch player interviews, participate in shows and giveaways, and more!