What is the Longest Winning Streak in Baseball?

What is the Longest Winning Streak in Baseball?

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Every time newspapers closely follow a team that has not lost in some time, it is typical for many fans to wonder: What is the longest winning streak in baseball? It surfaced again late in the 2021 season when the St. Louis Cardinals reeled off 17 wins in a row.

It still fell well short of the most wins in a row in Major League History. Knowledgeable fans know the 1916 New York Giants hold the modern Major League Baseball record for a winning streak of 26 games.

Even more knowledgeable baseball fans might stick an asterisk on that record, and instead point to the 22 games in a row the Cleveland Indians won in 2017. We’ll get to that later, but first let’s start by examining some of the greatest winning streaks in MLB history.

Baseball and Winning Streaks

Of all the major North American sports, baseball is a game where it is most likely that any team could beat another team on any given day. One day the mighty Yankees look indomitable; the next day they could lose 11-0 to the worst team in the league.

Mainly this is because an extraordinary pitching performance can singularly influence the outcome of baseball games. It’s a reason why they play so many games in major league baseball. Most teams are very closely matched; it takes a lot of innings to truly determine which is truly the best team.

That said, anything near or over 20 games in a row without a loss in MLB play is exceedingly difficult to accomplish. Let’s examine these notable baseball clubs.

1916 New York Giants (*?)

Some baseball aficionados believe the proper way to term it is, the 1916 Giants hold the MLB record for the longest streak of consecutive games without a loss in modern baseball. That would be 27 games ~ because in the middle there was a tie!

However, under MLB rules at the time, ties were not counted. After winning 12 games in a row, the Giants fought the Pittsburgh Pirates to a tie when the game was stopped because of rain and darkness. (This was long before night lighting at stadiums).

The rules back then ordered that the tie would not count in the standings, and the entire game would be replayed from the first inning the following day in a doubleheader. (Interestingly, the player statistics from the tie game ~ which remember did not officially exist ~ counted!). Today, the game would be resumed from the point where it was halted.

The next day the Giants beat the Pirates, and then claimed 13 more wins after that for the record 26.

For almost an entire month, between Sept. 7 and 30 that season, the Giants did not lose a game. And they still ended up in fourth place in the National League.

Not too long before the memorable winning streak, that Giants team set a franchise record by not scoring in an entire series ~ shutout consecutively by the St. Louis Cardinals Aug. 20 to 22 that year. Earlier that same season they won 17 games in a row. It might have been the streakiest baseball club ever.

How the 1916 New York Giants Did It

Despite all the wins, the Giants finished in 4th place at the end of the 1916 season, at 86 wins and 66 losses, 7 games back from the pennant-clinching Brooklyn Robins.

Overall, the Giants were an offensively fast team:

  • George Burns led the National League in runs scored with 105, and also was among the lead leaders in stolen bases with 37.
  • Benny Kauff was second in the league with 40 stolen bases, and added 74 runs batted in.
  • Dave Robertson led all the majors that year with 12 home runs. He also was 3rd in runs in the National League.

Notable Major League Baseball Winning (and Losing) Streaks

Without a Tie: Cleveland Indians Win 22 in a Row in 2017

Let’s pretend that Major League Baseball decided to go back in time and count ties, meaning the Giants streak would have ended at 12 games. If that occurred, the Cleveland Indians of 2017 would hold the all-time record winning streak for 22 games in a row.

How the 2017 Indians Kept Winning

The 2017 Cleveland Indians (now Cleveland Guardians) won 22 in a row by riding exceptional starting pitching, and a very powerful offense.

The pitching was driven by the 1-2 combo of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, who went 18-4 and 18-6 respectively on the season.

At the plate, third baseman Jose Ramirez led the league with 89 extra base hits; shortstop Francisco Lindor whacked 33 home runs with 89 runs batted in; and Edwin Encarnacion slugged 38 home runs and drove in 107.

The 22 wins in a row set the American League record, set by the Oakland A’s 15 seasons prior. The team’s 102 wins was enough to clinch the Central Division crown ~ and the most wins by a Tribe squad since the 1954 Indians won 111 games.

Unfortunately, the team was upset in the playoffs by the New York Yankees and fell short of a return to the World Series

Cracking 20 Wins in a Row

21 games: 1880 Chicago White Stockings; 1935 Chicago Cubs

20 games: 1884 St. Louis Maroons; 1884 Providence Grays; 2002 Oakland Athletics

Honorable Mention

19 games: 1906 Chicago White Sox; 1947 New York Yankees

18 games: 1904 New York Giants; 1953 New York Yankees

17 games – 1907 New York Giants; 1912 Washington Senators; 1916 New York Giants; 1931 Philadelphia Athletics; 1937-38 Pittsburgh Pirates; and 2021St. Louis Cardinals

Now, since we’ve offered so much about winning streaks, certainly some of you are wondering about ..

Top Baseball Losing Streaks

The early 1960s had some very bad MLB teams. The modern record for most games lost in a row belongs to:

1. 1961 Philadelphia Phillies, with 23 games. That team ended the season in last in the National League, with 47 wins and 107 losses for a .306 winning percentage, 46 games behind the pennant-winning Cincinnati Reds.

(The next year the new expansion New York Mets would have a more incredible season of futility, finishing 40 and 120 for a .250 winning percentage. They would end up 60.5 games behind the World Series-clinching San Francisco Giants).

It should be pointed out that long losing streaks occur more often in modern times than the big winning streaks. Here are the other notable MLB losing streaks:

2. 1988 Baltimore Orioles, 21 losses consecutively (to start the season, and that team had Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray playing for it!)

3. 1906 Boston Americans, 20 losses

4. 1916 Philadelphia Athletics (1916), Philadelphia Athletics (1943), Montreal Expos (1969)

Note that we used the word modern above. For baseball enthusiasts, this means from the establishment of the current 2-league system in 1901. However, Major League Baseball began in 1876. The real record-holders for losing for a while:

1. 1875 Brooklyn Atlantics, National Association, 31 games (not recognized by today;s MLB)

2. 1889 Louisville Colonels, 26 games

Other Non-Modern Losing Streaks

3. 1899 Cleveland Spiders, 24 games

4. 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, 23 games

5. 1890 Philadelphia Athletics, 22 games

How the St. Louis Cards Did It in 2021

As we noted from the start, very long winning streaks in the modern MLB are rare for a number of reasons, among them interleague play which means more airline travel; and specialized bullpens that lock down more games in late innings.

Still, the St. Louis Cardinals managed to do it in 2021, and we wanted to take a look at how they ticked off 17 straight wins near the very end of the season:

  • Exceptional Defense. They were the first team in MLB history to have 5 players honored with Gold Glove Awards: 3rd baseman Nolan Arenado, 1st baseman Paul Goldschmidt, 2nd baseman Tommy Edman, center fielder Harrison Bader, and left fielder Tyler O’Neill. Arenado even won the National League Platinum Glove Award ~ his 5th in a row! It goes to the best fielder in each respective league.
  • Above-Average Pitching. As starters, young Jack Flaherty and comeback veteran Adam Wainwright anchored the rotation, while Alex Reyes closed 29 games and pitched well whether starting or relieving.
  • Slugging. Tyler O’Neill and Nolan Arenado each hit 34 home runs, while Arenado drove in 105, and Paul Goldschmidt another 99. Edman stole 30 and scored 91, while O’Neill added another 15 SBs

It was the longest win streak in the National League since 1937, and the lengthiest in the majors since the 2017 Cleveland Indians. The 17 straight broke the St. Louis Cardinals franchise record of 14 consecutive wins, in 1935.

The 17 game streak vaulted the Cardinals into a big lead in the NL Wild Card race, which they won to make the 2021 MLB playoffs. Still, the Cardinals were like the 2017 Indians in not reaching the World Series, losing the National League Wild Card game to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Final Words on Long Baseball Winning Streaks

Winning streaks in baseball are probably more difficult to accomplish than in any other major sport. In baseball more than other sports, any team can beat any other team over 9 innings.

So winning 26 games in a row, like the 1916 New York Giants did, or even over a dozen games consecutively, is remarkable.

Perhaps even more remarkable is when modern teams ~ like the 2002 Oakland A’s, 2017 Cleveland Indians, and 2021 St. Louis Cardinals ~ reel off lengthy winning streaks. On top of the dominant starting pitching of past streaks, teams today must also contend with exceptional bullpens and relief specialists to win games.

Question: We know 26 games is considered the MLB’s record. What about in all of professional baseball?

Answer: The longest winning streak ever in professional baseball was 29 games, by the independent minor league (Single A) Salt Lake City Trappers, 1987. None of its players would make it as far as the majors.

Q.: What about post-season winning streaks? (and losing streaks?)

A.: The New York Yankees have won 12 postseason games in a row 4 times: 1927, 1928, 1932, and 1998-99. Losses?: The Minnesota Twins have not won a playoff game since 2003; they have lost 18 consecutive postseason games since then.

Q.: Which MLB teams have not had long winning streaks?:

A.: The Miami Marlins are the only MLB club to never have reached double digits in consecutive wins. The team has won 9 in a row 5 times. The Washington Nationals are barely ahead of them. They have accumulated 10 wins in a row, also 5 times. Believe it or not, the most the New York Mets have been able to do is 11 wins in a row, again, 5 times.

See Also:
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