Now that all four Division Series are off to lopsided 2-0 starts, let's take a quick look at how such series play out. There have been 88 best-of-5 postseason series in major league history, 54 of which have seen one team jump out to a 2-0 lead. Of those 54 series, 35 ended in sweeps, nine were decided in four games and 10 went the distance. Of those last 10, seven saw the team down 0-2 comeback to win the series (those seven comebacks are listed on the right).
So, a comeback from an 0-2 deficit is almost as common as the leading team winning 3-1 and is more than twice as common as the leading team losing Games 3 and 4 before winning Game 5. That said, only one team has ever come back from losing the first two games of a best-of-five series at home, which is what the Cubs and Angels are hoping to do. That was the 2001 Yankees, who came back against the A's starting with the "Jeter flip" game. Those Yankees were also the only of the seven comeback teams to win their next series, beating the 116-win Mariners before falling to the Diamondbacks in Game 7 of the World Series. Still, 13 percent of all teams down 0-2 have staged a comeback, which on its face means there's a 50 percent chance that one of this years' series will result in a comeback win. In fact, if you consider that all four series started 2-0 last year as well, the odds actually favor a comeback this year.
Note that the home team won every game of the first four series in the chart to the right as baseball used a 2/3 homefield split then. The last three series listed used a 2/2/1 split.
Series: NLDS, Game 3, Phillies lead 2-0Time: 6:37 p.m.Starters:Jamie Moyer (16-7, 3.71 ERA) vs. David Bush (9-10, 4.18 ERA)
With Cole Hamels starting Game 1 and CC Sabathia starting Game 2, the first two games of this series figured to be dominated by pitching. Despite Sabathia's struggles, that was still the case. Shane Victorino, who has driven in five of the Phillies' eight runs, is on fire (3-for-6 with two doubles, a home run, three walks, and three stolen bases), but the rest of the Phillies are hitting just .189/.317/.340, and Sabathia is the only Brewers pitcher to have allowed an earned run in this series (the three runs off Yovani Gallardo in the opener were unearned due to Rickie Weeks' error on Cole Hamels' bunt).
Still, the Phillies look like the '27 Yankees next to the Brewers. Ryan Braun is 3-for-8 with a pair of doubles and a walk, but the rest of his team is just 4-for-53 with one extra-base hit (a J.J. Hardy double). That tallies up to an incredibly impotent .075/.155/.094. By way of comparison, one of the worst hitting performances in postseason history was turned in by the Koufax-Drysdale Dodgers, who scored just two runs while being swept by the Palmer-McNally Orioles in the 1966 World Series. The Dodgers hit .142/.226/.192 in that Series. Thus far in this one, the Brewers have been worse, even with Braun factored back in.
That could change this evening as we move toward the back of each team's rotation, but the pitching matchup still favors a Philly sweep. Last year, Moyer started Game 3 of the NLDS on the road trying (and failing) to avoid a sweep. This year he starts Game 3 on the road looking to complete one. The majors' oldest player has been a road warrior this year, posting a 2.92 ERA away from the City of Brotherly Love. In his last visit to Milwaukee, in April, he held the Brewers to one run in six innings. Over his final 16 starts of the season, Moyer went 9-1 with a 3.28 ERA and allowed only six home runs. Toward the end of that stretch, he fell one out shy of another quality start against the Brewers in Philadelphia.
The Brewers counter with Bush, who has been significantly better at home than on the road this year (3.50 ERA at Miller Park) and finished strong by going 4-1 with a 3.43 ERA over his last ten starts, including a quality start against the Phillies. However, he's susceptible to lefty hitting, particularly lefty power hitting. Southpaws have slugged .473 against Bush this year, and the Phillies, led by lefty power bats Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, have connected for four homers off Bush in just 12 innings this year.
Series: NLDS, Game 3, Dodgers lead 2-0Time: 10:07 p.m.Starters:Rich Harden (10-2, 2.07) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.73 ERA)
The Cubs made five errors in Game 2, giving Chicago fans flashbacks of Alex Gonzalez and Leon Durham. Take away the five unearned runs that scored following those gaffs, and the "earned" score of Thursday night's game was 5-3 Dodgers. The remaining difference in this series can be attributed to the Dodgers' advantage in walks and home runs. The Dodgers have 17 more plate appearances than the Cubs in this series, but just three more hits. The trick is that those three hits have all been homers, and of the other 14 extra plate appearances, eight of them have resulted in a runner reaching base by a walk (the Dodgers have seven more than the Cubs) or a hit by pitch. On the season as a whole, the Cubs led the Dodgers by a lot in both walks (93 more) and home runs (47 more), but the Cubs' pitchers walked 68 more men than the Dodgers' hurlers and allowed 37 more home runs, and after Manny Ramirez joined the Dodgers at the trading deadline, the two teams were neck-and-neck in both categories.
Expect that trend to continue tonight as the Dodgers send groundballer Hiroki Kuroda to the mound. Over the final three months of the season, totaling 17 starts, Kuroda walked just 15 men (1.34 BB/9IP) and allowed just four home runs. In his two starts against the Cubs, both coming earlier in the year, Kuroda held Chicago to two runs in 15 1/3 innings (just one was earned for a 0.59 ERA), didn't allow a home run, and walked just three. In his one start against them in Los Angeles, Kuroda shut the Cubs out on three singles, striking out 11. In addition to his extreme groundball rate (3.28 GB/FB over those last 17 starts), which obviously suppresses home runs, Kuroda is particularly hard on his fellow right-handers (.246/.292/.319), which is why he matches up so well against the heavily right-handed Cubs lineup.
Harden has been almost absurdly dominant this year, allowing just 5.84 hits per nine innings while striking out 11.01 men per nine. He struck out 10 or more batters in five of his first eight starts as a Cub, and Chicago went 9-3 in his 12 starts following his acquisition from the A's in early July. Harden posted a 1.77 ERA in those 12 starts and, just like the Brewers behind Sabathia, in the three games the Cubs lost behind Harden, they were outscored by just four runs. The only concerns about Harden since his arrival in the senior circuit have been his health and his walk rate, the two of which seemed to converge in September.
Injuries limited Harden to just 72 2/3 major league innings over the last two seasons, and after making his first two starts of this season, he missed a month with a strained muscle in his pitching shoulder. Though he appeared healthy, the Cubs skipped Harden's first start in September, explaining that it was just a precaution given his injury history, but one of Lou Piniella's comments about the decision suggested there was more to it. "He needed the time," said the Chicago skipper. "Obviously, if he could pitch, we would've kept him in the rotation." Harden continued to pitch well after returning but in those three starts plus his last before the skipped start, he walked 16 men in 22 innings (6.55 BB/9), leading many to wonder if Harden's hurting again.