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World Series Game 5: Jon Lester vs. Adam Wainwright

Posted by David Sabino  October 28, 2013 01:19 PM

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Napoli.jpg
Tonight is the last game the Red Sox will have to choose between Mike Napoli (above) and David Ortiz, which is just part of a significant and historical home field advantage at Fenway.

We’ve said it all along. The Cardinals and Red Sox are throwing haymakers at each other and neither team is flinching. There’s the feeling between these two teams that if they were to square off 50 times the final tally would likely be 25 apiece. However over the next three games someone will be crowned champions starting with tonight’s rematch between Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright that will put one team on the brink of a championship.

This series has made history at every glance. From the overturned blown call at second in Game 1, to the first play in World Series history to see a pitcher and catcher both charged with errors, to an obstruction call ending a game and another final out being recorded on a rookie getting picked off at first base, the 2013 Fall Classic has been just that, a classic. However, no matter how unique the individual games are, we can learn something from history so we delved back a bit in the annals of baseball's finals to see how teams fare going forward when a Series is tied at two and reduced to a straight best-of-three set.

In the 44 years since the playoff system began in 1969, there have been 43 World Series played (sans 1994’s washout due to the strike), and 16 of those were tied at two games entering Game 5 (37.2%). It last happened in 2011 when the Cardinals and Texas Rangers found themselves knotted up and proceeded to see the home team win each of the remaining contests. In fact since 2001 three of the four World Series that were tied 2–2 ended with the home team sweeping the remaining games. While that doesn’t bode well for Lester and the Red Sox tonight, the chance to celebrate a World Series championship on the field at Fenway Park for the first time since September 11, 1918 are pretty solid.

In the remaining games after the 2–2 tie, home teams have an overall record of 34–9 which translates into a .791 winning percentage, a figure that would open the eyes of even the most hardened skeptic and probably more than pique the interest of those inclined to enjoy their sports dealings through Las Vegas.

Since 1982 home field advantage actually skyrockets to 24-4 overall (.857) in individual games while the team with overall home field advantage in the Series having won nine of the 10 titles. The only outlier was 2003 when then-Marlins ace, Josh Beckett, put in a superhuman effort, shutting out the Yankees on five hits in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. In seven of those 10 Series, the road team never won another game.

And how's this for a strange twist. In a series that is so close, it may be the home field advantage that finally puts the Red Sox over the top. And how did they get that advantage? On the strength of the American League’s 3-0 win on July 16 at New York’s CitiField over the National League in the All Star Game. Why is that ironic? Well, the MVP of that contest who didn't get a save but could very well have contributed to the Red Sox championship was none other than longtime Boston nemesis, alltime saves leader and newly retired Mariano Rivera. Perhaps the Sox will fete him again at a victory parade, as they did in September.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Stats Driven is powered by David Sabino, who over the last two decades has been a source of statistical analysis on the pages of Sports Illustrated, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune. David has written about all seven recent Boston-area championships for Sports Illustrated Presents commemorative issues, was the creator of such long time features as SI’s Player Value Ranking, NBA Player Rating and long running fantasy football and baseball columns.

He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrated’s 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.

Now living in Marblehead, he’s focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.

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