After a shutout in Game 4 on Tuesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks now have just one more game secured as part of their World Series opener against the Texas Rangers. The D-backs trail 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, with the two teams scheduled to meet again at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday night for Game 5. If the Rangers win, they will be crowned this year’s champions ; if the Diamondbacks win, the series moves back to Arlington.
It’s an obvious statement, but the odds are heavily in favor of the Rangers winning their first World Series title in franchise history. According to the website WhoWins.com, MLB teams with a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series have ended up winning that series about 85% of the time. If you’re a D-backs fan, you’re probably clinging to the idea that there’s still a chance Arizona can pull out this series. It really is, but it’s not great.
In the entire history of Major League Baseball, only six teams that have trailed by a margin of 3-1 in the World Series have been able to lift the trophy. There were also three close games in which the trailing team forced and then lost in a decisive Game 7. CBS Sports offers quick recaps of all nine of those series below. After all, who knows, maybe these Diamondbacks will find a way to put a 10th streak in the history books in the next few days.
1. 1912: Boston Red Sox over New York Giants
That World Series didn’t end in seven – eight games played, as Game 2 was called a tie due to darkness. The Giants trailed by a 3-1 margin through the first five games of the set, but rallied to win Games 6 and 7 by a combined 16-6 margin. The Giants built an early 1-0 lead in Game 8 and later took a 2-1 advantage into the 10th inning. Alas, the Red Sox scored a pair of runs during the half of the frame. The streak ended when Larry Gardner hit a sacrifice fly against the legendary Christy Mathewson.
2. 1967: St. Louis Cardinals over Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox found themselves on the other end of the equation more than five decades later. They secured a Game 5 victory thanks to a complete game by Jim Lonborg and a Game 6 victory thanks to a late four-run burst. Boston’s comeback efforts collide with the image of Bob Gibson. Gibson’s performance in Game 7 saw him strike out 10 and surrender just two runs on three hits and three walks in a complete game victory.
3. 1972: Oakland Athletics over Cincinnati Reds
Our last close call saw the Athletics go on a seven-game winning streak en route to the championship. Rollie Fingers let a late lead slip away in Game 5, and the Reds put up enough offense against Vida Blue and the A’s bullpen in Game 6 to force a winner-take-all contest. The A’s prevailed in a 3-2 battle, with Gene Tenace and Sal Bando providing the key hits.
Now to the moments when the 3-1 comeback actually happened.
1. 1925: Pittsburgh Pirates over Washington Senators
These Pirates became the first team in MLB to come back from a 3-1 deficit. Game 7 was played in miserable conditions at Forbes Field, causing Senators ace Walter Johnson to have a forgettable game. He surrendered nine runs (five earned) on 15 hits over nine innings. Conversely, the Pirates pulled starter Vic Aldridge after five of the first six batters he faced reached base.
2. 1958: New York Yankees over Milwaukee Braves
It was a rematch of the previous year’s World Series, in which the Braves prevailed. The Yankees were able to get the sweetest revenge, winning the last two contests in Milwaukee. Bob Turley won the World Series MVP trophy after throwing four times in seven games: twice as a starter, twice in relief. That also included appearances in Games 6 and 7 when, on zero days’ rest, he tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in relief of Don Larsen.
3. 1968: Detroit Tigers over St. Louis Cardinals
The aforementioned Gibson faced Danny McLain twice in this series, who won 31 games during the regular season. Gibson won both meetings. McClain then led the Tigers to a blowout victory in Game 6, leaving Game 7 — and another meeting with Gibson — to Mickey Lolich. Lolich was up to the task, holding the Cardinals to one run in a complete game effort. Detroit’s lineup, meanwhile, scored four times against Gibson, with Jim Northrup hitting a two-run triple as the key hit in a three-run seventh inning.
4. 1979: Pittsburgh Pirates over Baltimore Orioles
The Pirates looked overmatched midway through that streak, losing Games 3 and 4 by a combined margin of 17-10. Still, Pittsburgh managed to win three straight contests, including Games 6 and 7 on the road. The “We Are Family” Pirates turned the tables, taking those games by a 15-2 margin.
5. 1985: Kansas City Royals over St. Louis Cardinals
In order for the Royals to win the 1985 World Series, they had to engineer not one, but two 3-1 comebacks. They trailed 3-1 in the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays before coming back. Apparently, they enjoyed the experience so much that they wanted to relive it against the Cardinals. That streak is perhaps best remembered for Don Denkinger’s controversial (and incorrect) safe call in the ninth inning of Game 6 that saved the Royals a shutout. Obviously, they took full advantage.
6. 2016: Chicago Cubs over Cleveland
The last 3-1 comeback in World Series history was bittersweet as it featured two franchises with long championship droughts. The Cubs won games 6 and 7 on the road. The latter saw Cleveland tie the game in the bottom of the eighth against Aroldis Chapman. The two sides would deal with a rain delay before the Cubs eventually won in extra innings, securing their first World Series championship since 1908.