2. 1995 Yankees
After play on Aug. 31, the Yankees were half-heartedly chasing this newfangled thing called the “Wild Card,” but couldn’t be too enthusiastic about their chances of rallying for their captain, Don Mattingly, looking for his first career playoff appearance.
At 57-59, they had no reason to be optimistic, especially since they were bunched behind Seattle, Texas, KC, Milwaukee, and Oakland, all within two games of the additional postseason berth, introduced before the campaign kicked off.
Also of note? The California Angels, leading the AL West at 67-50. Big lead! Surely, that wouldn’t come into play.
By the end of September, everything had changed. The Yankees went 21-6 in the month, then tacked an extra victory on to finish out the season on Oct. 1. When their season ended, they were somehow at least five games clear of all those bunched-up competitors, except Seattle, which had now vaulted into the AL West lead!
When the M’s defeated the Angels in a one-game, winner-take-all tiebreaker for the West crown, that placed California one game in back of the Yanks, and firmly on the couch for the wild, generation-defining ’95 ALDS, which fueled the Yankees’ fire for their domination for the remainder of the decade.
Two six-game win streaks (including a sweep of the AL East champion Red Sox), and a new lease on life. What a wild ride, indeed.