After Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox, the St. Louis Cardinals head back to Boston tonight to try to win two consecutive road games to clinch the 2013 World Series. Given how evenly matched the teams’ talent levels are, their one-game deficit and home field disadvantage qualify the Cardinals as underdogs.
As you might imagine, history is not on St. Louis’ side. Since 1980, six teams have gone into Game 6 of the World Series down three games to two on the road. All six teams—the 1980 Kansas City Royals, the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies, the 1995 Cleveland Indians, the 1996 Atlanta Braves, the 1997 Indians, and the 2009 Phillies—failed to come back and win the series. Five of those six teams lost Game 6; only the 1997 Indians managed to force a Game 7.
Including the entirety of the postseason (playoffs and World Series), there have been 41 previous occasions where the road team was down three games to two heading into Game 6 of a series. Twenty-four of those teams lost Game 6, and seven of those teams won Game 6 and lost Game 7.
But 10 teams out of those 41 managed to pull off the feat of winning both Game 6 and Game 7 on the road. Below is a brief recap of each series and how the road warriors managed to pull of the difficult feat of winning two in enemy territory on baseball’s biggest stage.
1926 World Series, Cardinals over Yankees
Game 6: Cardinals 10-2. Game 7: Cardinals 3-2.
Lowest Number of Outs Away from Losing the Series: 17 (Fourth Inning, Game 7, One out)
Keys to the comeback: Grover Cleveland Alexander, Yankee Pitching Worn Out, Sloppy Game 7 for Yankees.
Despite “only” putting up a 12-10 won-loss record in 1926, midseason acquisition Alexander was the Cardinals’ ace in the postseason. He hurled a complete game victory in an easy Game 6 win and came back to pitch 2 1/3 scoreless innings the next day to lock up the series. Urban Shocker had pitched well for the Yankees during the regular season, but a heart valve condition limited him in the playoffs, forcing Bob Shawkey to start Game 6. Shawkey was no match for Alexander, and the three runs he allowed in the first were all the Cards needed. Game 7 is always remembered for Ruth getting caught stealing to end the series, but two Yankee errors led to a three-run fourth for St. Louis, and the Yankees’ Tony Lazzeri struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh with the Yanks down by a run.
1934 World Series, Cardinals over Tigers
Game 6: Cardinals 4-3. Game 7: Cardinals 11-0.
Lowest Number of Outs Away from Losing the Series: Never Trailed
Keys to the comeback: Dean brothers
Team ace Dizzy Dean pitched well in Game 5 but was outdueled at home by Tigers hurler Tommy Bridges, so it was up to Dizzy’s brother Paul to keep the Cardinals in the series in Detroit. Not only did he respond with a solid performance, but he lifted the Cardinals with his bat, too. Paul singled home the go-ahead and eventual winning run in the seventh inning of a 3-3 tie. He then got out of jams in the seventh and eighth, pitching out of danger with the tying run on third, and retired the Tigers in order in the ninth. Game 7 featured Dizzy on the road on one day’s rest. The Cardinals jumped all over Elden Auker with a seven-run third inning, and that was more than enough for Dizzy, who went the distance in a complete game, 11-0 shutout. Dean’s high-volume usage from 1932-1936 arguably shortened his career considerably, but his ’34 Fall Classic is one of the more amazing pitching performances in World Series history.
1952 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers
Game 6: Yankees 3-2. Game 7: Yankees 4-2.
Lowest Number of Outs Away from Losing the Series: Nine (Seventh Inning, Game 7, Zero Outs)
Keys to the comeback: Mickey Mantle’s heroics, Unlikely Relief Heroics
Six shutout innings by Dodgers rookie Billy Loes and a Duke Snider home run in the bottom of the sixth inning put the Yankees nine outs away from going home losers in Game 6, but the Yankees put two runs together in the top of the seventh with a Yogi Berra solo shot and a manufactured run. A Mickey Mantle homer in the eighth would provide some much-needed insurance, as Snider would hit another solo shot in the bottom of the frame that wouldn’t be enough in a 3-2 loss. Game 7 was a back-and-forth affair through five innings, but once again Mantle proved to be the hero, stroking a solo dinger in the sixth that would put the Yankees up 3-2 and give them a lead they would never relinquish. Mantle would add an insurance run in the seventh, and Bob Kuzava would prove an unlikely pitching hero, shutting the Dodgers down for 2 2/3 innings in relief to close the door on a 4-2 Yankees victory and a series win.
1958 World Series: Yankees over Braves
Game 6: Yankees 4-3. Game 7: Yankees 6-2.
Lowest Number of Outs Away from Losing the Series: 12 (Sixth Inning, Game 6, Zero Outs)
Keys to the comeback: Bob Turley’s performance, quick hooks by Casey Stengel in Games 6 and 7
Whitey Ford was the in-season ace of the staff, but it was Bob Turley who stepped up in the postseason; the Yankees were actually down 3-1 in this series before Turley threw a shutout at home in Game 5. Yankees manager Casey Stengel wasn’t afraid to exercise a quick hook in Game 6 or Game 7. After giving up runs in the first and the second innings of Game 6, Ford was pulled after 1 1/3 innings for Art Ditmar. In his only appearance of the ’58 Series, Ditmar would toss 3 2/3 shutout innings and keep New York in the game until a Yogi Berra sacrifice fly tied things up in the sixth. The game would go into extras. The Yankees took the lead on a Gil McDougald home run off of starter Warren Spahn in the 10th and add an insurance run after Spahn was removed. Ryne Duren, who had entered the game in the sixth, wore down and allowed an RBI single to Hank Aaron in the bottom of the frame and then another single that put runners on the corners with two outs. Turley was called on to relieve and got Frank Torre to line out to end the game.
Turley wasn’t done. With the Yankees up 2-1 in the third inning of Game 7, starter Don Larsen put men on the corners with one out. Stengel went back to the well for Turley. The workhorse was only human, giving up a solo shot to catcher Del Crandall in the sixth that tied things up. But the Yankees finally got to Braves pitcher Lew Burdette in the eighth. A two-out rally saw a Yogi Berra double, an RBI single by Elston Howard, a single by Andy Carey and then a crippling three-run homer by Moose Skowron. Turley put two men on in the ninth but stifled the threat, giving the Yankees a comeback series win. Turley went 2-0 with a save in the final three games of the series, throwing 16 of the Yankees’ final 28 innings in the series over a four-day stretch.
1968 World Series Tigers over Cardinals
Game 6: Tigers 13-1. Game 7: Tigers 4-1
Lowest Number of Outs Away from Losing the Series: 8 (Seventh Inning, Game 5, One Out)
Keys to the comeback: Tiger bats in Game 6, Mickey Lolich’s Dominant Performance
Like the 1958 Yankees, the Tigers had to overcome a 3-1 deficit, with the knowledge that Bob Gibson would be waiting for them in Game 7 if they even got that far. After winning Game 5 at home, the Tigers won a laugher in Game 6 with a 13-1 drubbing of St. Louis that included a 10-run third inning that gave them a 12-0 lead. This set the stage for an epic Game 7 showdown between Gibson and Mickey Lolich. The two aces squared off for six shutout innings apiece before the Tigers broke through for three runs against Bob Gibson in the seventh inning, with a two-run triple by Jim Northrup doing most of the damage. That was all Lolich would need. He went the distance, allowing a token run in the ninth inning but preserving a 4-1 victory. In the last 23 innings of the ’68 Series, the Tigers dominated the Cardinals by a 20-2 margin.
1979 World Series Pirates over Orioles
Game 6: Pirates 4-0. Game 7: Pirates 4-1
Lowest Number of Outs Away from Losing the Series: 11 (Sixth Inning, Games 5 and 7, One Out)
Keys to the comeback: Clutch late hitting by the Pirates, Chuck Tanner’s creative usage of his bullpen
The 1979 World Series was the last one to see a road team bounce back from a 3-2 deficit. This was part of another 3-1 comeback, with the Pirates winning Game 5 in Pittsburgh before pushing the series back to Baltimore. John Candelaria pitched six shutout innings in Game 6, with Kent Tekulve getting a three-out save that was more than just an empty stat. The Pirates broke the scoreless tie in the seventh against perennial Cy Young candidate Jim Palmer, then took the lead with two more in the eighth. Game 7 was a bullpen game for the Pirates. Jim Bibby went four innings and left the game down 1-0, but manager Chuck Tanner mixed and matched with Don Robinson (2/3 of an inning), Grant Jackson (2 2/3), and Tekulve (1 2/3), and the Orioles failed to get on the board again. Meanwhile, Orioles manager Earl Weaver stuck with his starting pitchers come hell or high water. Scott McGregor was fine for five innings, but surrendered a two-run shot to Willie Stargell in the sixth, which would be all the runs the Pirates would need. They tacked two more runs on off of the O’s bullpen in the ninth and took Game 7 4-1.
1985 ALCS Royals over Blue Jays
Game 6: Royals 5-3. Game 7: Royals 6-2
Lowest Number of Outs Away from Losing the Series: Never Trailed after Game 4
Key to the comeback: Steady all-around performances despite being behind for most of the series
1985 will always be remembered for Don Denkinger’s bad call at first base in Game 6 of the World Series, but the Royals would not have even been there if not for a comeback from a 3-1 deficit against the Blue Jays in the LCS. This might be one of the most non-dramatic comebacks in playoff history. The Royals never trailed at any point during Games 5, 6, or 7. They took Game 6 by a 5-3 score. The Blue Jays threatened in both the seventh and ninth innings, but both times the Royals quelled the threat. Game 7 was close until the Royals put the Jays away with a big four-run sixth inning, highlighted by a Jim Sundberg, bases-clearing triple. One key for the Royals in both games was the ability of manager Dick Howser to use any one of his starting pitchers for multiple relief innings. Four of Howser’s five starters both started and relieved in the 1985 ALCS.
1991 NLCS Braves over Pirates
Game 6: Braves 1-0. Game 7: Braves 4-0
Lowest Number of Outs Away from Losing the Series: Never Trailed
Key to the comeback: Starting Pitching
When younger fans think Braves/Pirates early 1990s series (if they think of them at all), they probably think of 1992 and Atlanta’s improbable ninth-inning comeback in Game 7. The 1991 series, however, was a great one in its own right. The Braves put up three shutouts in the series, including two in Games 6 and Game 7 at Pittsburgh. Doug Drabek and Steve Avery dueled for eight scoreless innings in Game 6 before Braves catcher Greg Olson broke through with a two-out RBI double in the ninth. Closer Alejandro Pena replaced Avery and stranded Gary Varsho on third after a leadoff single, a sac bunt, and a wild pitch. Game 7 was all John Smoltz. Pirates starter John Smiley allowed three runs and was chased in the first, and that was all Smoltz would need. Smoltz went the distance on a six-hit shutout, putting the Braves in the World Series for the first time since 1958.
2003 NLCS Marlins over Cubs
Game 6: Marlins 8-3. Game 7: Marlins 9-6
Lowest Number of Outs Away from Losing the Series: Five (Eighth Inning, Game 6, One Out)
Keys to the comeback: The Marlins’ timely hitting, the Cubs’ collapsing bullpen, leaving Wood in too long in Game 7
Some will always remember the 2003 NLCS for fan Steve Bartman interfering with a catchable foul ball with one out in the top of the eighth inning, but that happened with the Cubs holding a 3-0 lead. After the non-interference call, eight of the next nine batters reached for the Marlins. Perhaps even more devastating than the Bartman play was an Alex Gonzalez error that could have been a double play and left the Cubs with a 3-1 lead at the end of the inning. Instead, a nightmare inning unfolded, and the Marlins cruised. Once again, the Cubs took the lead in Game 7, holding a 5-3 lead entering the top of the fifth. Starter Kerry Wood allowed three runs in the first, but despite this manager Dusty Baker left Wood out through the fifth, when he was pummeled in a three-run inning. Baker’s intransigence with the bullpen (including continuing to use pitchers like Kyle Farnsworth in certain innings/situations regardless of performance) cost Chicago the series as much or more than Bartman did.
2004 ALCS Red Sox over Yankees
Game 6: Red Sox 4-2. Game 7: Red Sox 10-3
Lowest Number of Outs Away from Losing the Series: Three (Ninth Inning, Game 4, Zero Outs)
Keys to the comeback: Dave Roberts’ stolen base in Game 4, Red Sox pitching, Kevin Brown starting Game 7
You could write an entire book about Boston’s comeback from a 3-0 series deficit. Most of the heroics came in Game 4 (with Roberts’ stolen base aiding the Sox’ ninth-inning tie and extra-inning victory) and Game 5 (when the Red Sox tied the game in the eighth and won in the bottom of the 14th). Pundits expected the Yankees to right the ship once they got back to the Bronx, but the Red Sox never trailed after the seventh inning of Game 5. Mark Bellhorn’s three-run home run in the fourth inning of Game 6 capped off a four-run inning, which was enough for Curt Schilling. The Red Sox jumped all over Kevin Brown in Game 7 for five runs in 1 1/3 innings, and by the time Yankee fans were taunting Pedro Martinez with their “Who’s Your Daddy?” chants, Boston was up 8-1 and on their way to its first World Series win since 1918.