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How bad is a 3-1 deficit?

Nov 1, 2010, 6:40 AM EDT

San Francisco Giants v Texas Rangers, Game 4 Getty Images

How bad is a 3-1 deficit in the World Series? So bad that only five teams* have come back from being down 3-1 to win it all: the 1925 Pirates, 1958 Yankees, 1968 Tigers, 1979 Pirates, and 1985 Royals. Is there any hope for the Rangers to take away from history here?

  • Like Texas, that 1925 Pirates team was also shut out in Game 4. But unlike the Rangers, they got to play Games 6 and 7 at home. There were also multiple weather delays in this series, and Game 7 was played in driving rain, leading to AL MVP Roger Peckinpaugh to commit two costly errors at shortstop late, leading to four unearned runs which handed the Pirates victory.
  • In 1958, Whitey Ford pitched Game 6 on two days rest for the Yankees. If Cliff Lee wins it tonight, he might be a better option on one day’s rest than C.J. Wilson would be heading back to San Francisco, what with the blister and all.
  • Tim McCarver was an important part of the 1968 Cardinals team that woofed away a 3-1 lead to the Tigers. I wonder if we’ll hear much about that during tonight’s broadcast?
  • In 1979, the Pirates’ comeback was aided in the pivotal Game 5 by Bert Blyleven, who pitched four scoreless innings out of the pen. Too bad he never pitched any important games that could bolster his Hall of Fame case or anything.
  • The 1985 Royals, you may recall, had a bit of help clawing back from their 3-1 deficit.

The 1925 and 1958 comebacks aren’t all that instructive here, because it really was a different game then. After all, no Rangers pitcher is going to make two starts in the final three games of this one, not even for all the Burma Shave in the world. 1985 was rather freaky as well, as the Cardinals got boned on the Denkinger call.

That leaves the Rangers with the example of the 1968 Tigers and the 1979 Pirates. Can Colby Lewis channel his inner Mickey Lolich? Will Andres Torres badly misplay a ball in center like Curt Flood? Are the Rangers Fam-i-ly like those Willie Stargell Pirates were? I don’t think it would be right to say there was no chance at all, but boy howdy, the odds are certainly against them.

*The 1903 Boston Red Sox came back from a 3–1 deficit, but that was back when the Series was a best-of-nine thing.

  1. Detroit Michael - Nov 1, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    Why do articles like this examine only past World Series instead of any baseball best of seven playoff series? Using a larger historical sample should yield better results.

    • willmose - Nov 1, 2010 at 9:28 AM

      ’cause the playoff ain’t the World Series!

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Nov 1, 2010 at 11:23 AM

        especially since it’s an interleague match-up, which all other playoff match-ups are not.

    • JBerardi - Nov 1, 2010 at 12:10 PM

      Why do articles like this examine only past World Series instead of any baseball best of seven playoff series? Using a larger historical sample should yield better results.

      Funny, because my first though on this article was “what, the ’04 Red Sox didn’t come back from 3-1?”. Had to remember that they did that in a series that was effectively the World Series, but not actually the World Series.

  2. Richard In Big D - Nov 1, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    Other than the 1925-1958 stretch, we are currently in the longest drought of 3-1 comebacks. History has a way of not allowing these things to drag on too long. I still have hope…

  3. BC - Nov 1, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    Burma Shave rules!

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