Repeat NL Champions

It’s been 13 years since the same two National League teams played each other in back-to-back postseasons, and the current St. Louis-Houston rivalry is beginning to have an eerie tone to it.

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Remember those great seven-game Atlanta-Pittsburgh tussles of 1991 and 1992? Barry Bonds didn’t hit much in either of them for the Bucs. But the Pirates had a 3-2 lead in the 1991 series heading back home into old Three Rivers Stadium and never scored another run. Steve Avery threw eight innings of three-hit ball to win Game 6, 1-0, and John Smoltz tossed a complete-game six-hitter to win Game  7, 4-0, and the series.

In 1992, the Braves actually led, 3-1, but the Pirates came back to tie with a blowout in Game 6 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. In Game 7, the Pirates had a 2-0 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth when the Braves struck back with three runs. The series was decided with two out against reliever Stan Belinda when Francisco Cabrera singled home David Justice and Sid Bream, who came barreling around from second base and just beat the throw from Bonds, the left fielder.

Cabrera only played parts of five big-league seasons and had 351 regular season at-bats. But his moment is one of the great ones in postseason history. And these are the memories that great playoff games make.

The fact is that only three times have the same NL teams played against each other in back-to-back postseasons since the advent of the League Championship Series in 1969.

The Dodgers and Phillies battled in 1977 and 1978 and the Dodgers won both times. The Braves and Pirates we’ve already documented. Now the Cardinals have a chance to repeat history by winning the final two games at home against the Astros in the second consecutive NLCS.

Eerie, wouldn’t you say? — Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

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