Yesterday, the Braves, Indians, and Diamondbacks took an important first
step towards advancing by winning the opening game of their respective
series. How big a step? In the 24 Division Series played to date, the winner
of the first game has gone on to win 16 times. That’s two-thirds of the
The biggest story, of course, is the Indians, who upset the 116-46 Mariners
in Seattle behind Bartolo Colon‘s eight shutout innings. The Braves
also won on the road, thanks to a Chipper Jones three-run home run.
thought the Indians had a shot to steal their series, and winning yesterday
puts history on their side: teams that open the Division Series with a road
win are 7-3.
Looking back a bit further, teams that opened with a win in the five-game
League Championship Series (1969-1984) were 22-10. Teams that opened with a
road win were 11-4.
Let’s put those together to see, independent of team quality, how the
Mariners/Indians (and Braves/Astros) series changed yesterday. The following
table covers all MLB five-game postseason series (save the 1981 first
Road Team Home Team Wins Game One Wins Game One
1969-1984 11-4, .733 11-6, .647 1995-2000 7-3, .700 11-5, .688
Total 18-7, .720 22-11, .667
Had the Mariners won yesterday, history would give them a two-thirds chance
of winning the five-game series. Now, having lost, they’re staring at
bucking a serious trend: more than seven times out of ten, a home team that
loses the first game goes back home to stay within a week.
This isn’t a perfect tool–I mean, teams that win at least 114 games are 1-0
in Division Series play–but it does indicate just how important that win
was for the Indians.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by