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Three things to consider as the Astros try to make a miracle comeback against the Rays in the ALCS



When a team goes 3-0 down in a best-of-seven playoff series in the MLB, it is assumed that their season will soon end. That’s an informed guess, as only one team – the 2004 Red Sox in the ALCS vs. Yankees – has ever overcome such a deficit.

That brings us to Astros 2020 and their efforts to overtake the rays of ALCS. The Rays relied on sparkling defense, hit in a timely manner and perhaps a bit of luck to bow to a 3-0 lead over Houston. However, the Astros ruled out one-run wins in Game 4 and 5, and now we are back and wondering if they will be the second team in MLB history to create such a miracle.

As Game 6 ̵

1; another elimination slope for Houston – weaves, let’s put what the Astros are trying to achieve and have already achieved in perspective. Here are three things to keep in mind as Dusty Baker’s squadron tries to survive another day and force a game 7.

1. We may be late with a 3-0 comeback

In all, the 38 best of seven MLB post-season series started 3-0 – from the 1907 World Series between the Cubs and Tigers to the current series of notes between Tampa Bay and Houston. Only one of these series, as mentioned above, ended with a comeback of the team down 3-0. Stated differently, teams have come back from 0-3 to win that series only 2.6 percent of the time.

Assuming two teams meet in the mail season are the same – not an unreasonable assumption – and use the coin-flip method to determine the probability of a team ripping four straight wins. It was supposed to happen 6.25 percent of the time. But maybe we should just break down our assumptions a little bit. The team 3-0 in a post-season series probably tends to be the better team by most standards of measurement. There can also be a compound psychological “penalty” that comes from being down 3-0 and facing such long odds that make it harder to get back.

Speaking of which, the team with the better record of the regular season in a post-season series wins a little more than 54 percent of the time. Since there is not much home field advantage in the playoffs in 2020, let’s round it down to 54 percent. So if we consequently give the Astros a 46 percent chance of winning every game, it gives them a 4.5 percent chance of winning four straight. While the odds are still long, 4.5 percent are significantly higher than 2.6 percent. That’s another way of saying we probably should have seen more than a 0-3 comeback in 38 attempts at it. This is especially the case in a sport like baseball, where there is so much built-in compression and randomness. To be sure, this is a minor factor, but perhaps Houston’s odds were never as long as they seemed.

2. Astros are already in rare company

Here’s how teams going down 0-3 have fared the rest of the way in these series:

  • 30 of 38 or 78.9 percent were swept.
  • Another five teams lost 4-1.
  • Only three teams – the 1998 Braves in the NLCS, the 1999 Mets in the NLCS and the 2004 Red Sox in the ALCS – lasted at least six games.
  • Only the Red Sox from 2004 forced a seventh game, which of course they won.

Astros 2020 will be the fourth team out of now 39 that forces a game 6. Among the teams goes 0-3 down, they already go among the (admittedly smaller) gods.

3. The Astros are no longer down 3-0

At the risk of sounding overt and pedantic, let’s note that the Astros no longer have the task of returning from 0-3 in the immediate sense. After Game 3, they had to win four just above AL’s best team in the regular season. At this writing, however, they must now win two equal matches over AL’s best team, which they have already done. This is not quite the “gambler’s fallacy” area where past results have no bearing on future results, but there is some truth in this way of thinking things. This particular truth can be found in the numbers: Hold down 3-2 in a best-of-seven series has continued to win that series 30.5 percent of the time. Yes, the Astros are likely to still lose ALCS to the Rays, but 30.5 percent equates to far better chances than they had after Game 3 and 4.

So will the Astros pull it off? Probably not, but it “probably” is much less emphatic than it was just 48 hours ago.




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