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Bad luck and bad play: the 1913 Yankees’ long and dumb losing streak

To show how impressive a long winning streak, like Yankees’ recent 11-game one, is, let’s dig into the history books and look at the polar opposite.

New York Yankees vs Minnesota Tiwns, 2019 American League Division Series Set Number: X162958 TK1

Last week, the Yankees had an 11-game winning streak come to an end. There’s still a long way to go in the season, but all those wins went a long way to helping the team bank some early victories for the playoff race. While it came up a little short of the 13-gamer they went on last year, it is still just one of 18 streaks at least that long in Yankees history. Despite getting one in each of the last two seasons, they don’t usually come around that often.

Luckily for the Yankees, losing streaks of that length come around even less frequently. They’ve only had three 11 or more game losing streaks in franchise history, the most recent of which came in 1913.

Let’s take a look at that one in 1913. Whereas keeping a long win streak going requires a lot of things going right, a long losing streak requires a lot of things going wrong. Well, boy did that 1913 team have a lot going wrong for it when they lost 11-straight in late May and early June.

On May 26th, 1913, the Yankees were hosting Boston and wrapping up a series against the Red Sox. Despite taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Boston would shut them out for the rest of the game and come away with a 3-1 win.

A couple days later, they headed to Philadelphia for a series against the Athletics. After the teams traded the lead a couple times, the Yankees opened up a 5-2 lead through the top of the fifth before they allowed four runs over the last four innings, including a walk-off hit to Stuffy McInnis.

The next day, the Yankees again held a lead going into the final innings. Thanks to eight shutout innings from Russ Ford, they were up 2-0 going into the bottom of the ninth. The A’s rallied yet again, scoring the game winning run with two outs via McInnis again. The next two losses came by 7-4 and 12-2 final scores, as Philadelphia finished off a sweep.

Next up they returned home for two more games against the Red Sox. The two teams played a doubleheader on June 2nd, making up April games that had been rained out.

At home, the Yankees couldn’t lose via walk-off, but they did manage to do maybe the equivalent. Losing 2-1, they allowed two runs in the top of the ninth. Naturally, they then scored two themselves in the bottom of the inning, meaning they might’ve won had the top half of the inning not played out the way it did.

The second game got arguably even sillier. Despite it taking place at the Polo Grounds, the Yankees were the road team for the second game. A five-run sixth inning for Boston had put the Yankees in a hole, but they were somewhat within striking distance after the top of the eighth trailing 6-3. The Red Sox then added two insurance runs, which ended up being very useful. For the second time in the day, a ninth inning rally ended up being rendered moot by late inning runs for the Red Sox. The Yankees scored three in the top of the ninth, but they ended up losing 8-6.

Having lost seven in a row, all in somewhat frustrating fashion, the Yankees then hosted Cleveland for four games. The opener saw them take a 2-1 lead into the seventh, only to allowed seven runs over the final three frames. The second game saw another late game rally end in vain as the pitched had just allowed a couple runs before that, losing 9-5. The third game was the first extra innings loss of the bunch as George McConnell allowed two runs in his 10th inning of work, dooming the Yankees to a 5-3 loss. The series finale ended up in another close loss, but it least it was a somewhat normal one. Cleveland scored two second inning runs and ended up leading from there, winning 2-1.

After that the White Sox came to town, and the Yankees’ nightmare run finally ended. They won 3-2, scoring three runs in the eighth and ninth innings after trailing most of the game.

The win officially snapped the losing streak at 11 games, one short of the franchise record, which had been set in 1908. Over the 11 games, the Yankees were outscored 67-34. In a year where the league-wide ERA was 3.05, the Yankees had one of 4.78 in that stretch, while they also OPSed .609. While they had started the losing streak with an already bad 9-23 record, losing 11-straight games certainly made it worse. They went from 13 games back in the AL to 24.5 games back in a little less than two weeks.

Not only were they outclassed in those 11 games, they also somehow managed to lose a bunch of close games. Nothing went right.

To makes matters worse, it could’ve been even longer. The game before the streak started ended in 3-3 tie, because 1913 baseball. In it, the Yankees lost a late 3-2 lead, allowing a run in the eighth inning before the game was called off a little while after that. Before that game, the Yankees had lost two in a row. Had just a few plays gone differently, the 1913 Yankees might’ve set a franchise record with a 14-game losing streak.

On the other hand, had a few plays gone differently, the streak might’ve ended a few different times. Just goes to show how improbable any long streak in baseball truly is.

All data courtesy of Baseball Reference’s Stathead