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Mets playoffs: How have teams that swept the LCS done in the World Series?

The Mets have swept their way into the World Series - historically, how do teams who sweep do in the Fall Classic?

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Mets completed a four-game sweep of the Cubs to win the National League pennant. Since 1985, when the NLCS went to a best-of-seven series, this is only the third four-game sweep on the National League side; when it was only a five-game series, six of the 16 series ended in a sweep.

The first team to sweep in the seven-game format was the 1995 Atlanta Braves, who swept the Cincinnati Reds on their way to the World Series. This Braves team, much like the 2015 Mets, had four stud starters (Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Steve Avery), and although they took the first two games in extra innings, the last two games were relatively low-stress affairs in which the Braves never trailed. 

The Braves went on to play the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, who fell to Atlanta four games to two. Much like this Mets team, there was quite a long break between the end of the NLCS and the start of the World Series. The full week layoff seemingly didn’t seem to hurt the Braves too much, who won the first two games of the series. 

The next sweep came in 2007, when the Wild Card Colorado Rockies swept NL West champs the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rockies were riding an incredible hot streak, going 21-1 leading into the World Series, including sweeps in both rounds of the playoffs, as well as winning a tiebreaker Game 163 against the Padres.

Their luck would run out in the World Series, where they ran into the Boston Red Sox, who swept them in four games. Again, there was a long layoff between series (nine days!), and this might be the most obvious example of a hot team cooling off during a long break. The Rockies were seemingly running on adrenaline for the last month or so of the regular season, so the week-plus off may have hampered them. Also, the ‘07 Red Sox were a beast of a team, so maybe that was it.

On the American League side, there have been five sweeps since the championship series went to seven games (and seven sweeps when it was a five-game series). The first two involved Sandy Alderson’s Oakland Athletics, who took both the 1988 and 1990 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. The A’s were a powerhouse team during this era, winning at least 99 games each season, earning three straight trips to the World Series, and featuring one of the game’s best closers (Dennis Eckersley) and some of the best power hitters (Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco).

In what hopefully isn’t a trend for Sandy’s teams, both A's squads lost in the World Series. The ‘88 team lost in five games to the Los Angeles Dodgers; even the most casual baseball fans can recall Kirk Gibson’s one-legged home run off of Eckersley in Game 1. The 1990 squad was swept by the Cincinnati Reds, who outscored the A’s 22-8 over the series.

In 2006 and 2012, the Detroit Tigers swept their way into the World Series, defeating the Athletics and the New York Yankees, respectively. The 2006 team would only manage one win in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, who had just taken Game 7 from the Mets on their way to their tenth World Series championship. In 2012, the Tigers were swept by the San Francisco Giants, who finished off the series in dramatic fashion with Marco Scutaro and Sergio Romo contributing to the extra-innings victory.

The most recent LCS sweep came just last year, with the Kansas City Royals sweeping the Baltimore Orioles en route to a World Series loss to the Giants. The series went seven games, and was a nail biter until the very end, with the Giants winning with the Royals having the tying run on third base.

It is obviously a very small sample, but it is surprising that the sweeping team is only 1-6 in the World Series in the seven-game LCS era. If we want to squint our eyes and look for causation, it may be reasonable to guess that the extra-long layoff hurts the teams more than it helps them. Of all the teams that swept, most did so on the strength of their hitting, so perhaps, with their superior starting staff, the Mets will be able to reverse the trend of sweeping teams doing poorly in the Fall Classic.