Teams leading 3-2, with a chance to clinch at home in Game 6 (since 1925)
2009 Yankees: Won Game 6
1997 Marlins: Lost Game 6, Won Game 7
1996 Yankees; Won Game 6
1995 Braves: Won Game 6
1993 Blue Jays: Won Game 6
1980 Phillies: Won Game 6
1979 Orioles: Lost Game 6 & 7 (also lost Game 5)
1977 Yankees: Won Game 6
1968 Cardinals: Lost Game 6 & 7 (also lost Game 5)
1964 Cardinals: Lost Game 6, Won Game 7
1960 Pirates: Lost Game 6, Won Game 7
1958 Braves: Lost Game 6 & 7 (also lost Game 5)
1953 Yankees: Won Game 6
1952 Dodgers: Lost Game 6 & 7
1951 Yankees: Won Game 6
1947 Yankees: Lost Game 6, Won Game 7
1944 Cardinals: Won Game 6
1935 Tigers: Won Game 6
1934 Tigers: Lost Game 6 & 7
1931 Cardinals: Lost Game 6, Won Game 7
1930 A's: Won Game 6
1926 Yankees: Lost Game 6 & 7
Since 1925, there have been 22 teams with a chance to clinch the World Series at home in Game 6, and half of them have closed it out in the first try. Of the remaining 11 teams, 5 managed to win Game 7. Of the remaining 6 teams, 3 of them had led the series 3 games to 1. The last time a team lost Games 6 and 7 at home after winning Game 5 was 1952. The other two times (1934 and 1926) had the Cardinals pulling it off on the road.
It appears highly unlikely that the Cardinals could still win this series, but this is a series that had already had one game end on obstruction and another on a pickoff. It might be even more unlikely that the Red Sox will wind it up with an easy Game 6 win.
Won with Home Field Advantage (since 1980)
4-0: 1989 A's, 1990 Reds, 1998 Yankees, 2004 Red Sox, 2005 White Sox, 2007 Red Sox, 2012 Giants
4-1: 1983 Orioles, 1988 Dodgers, 2000 Yankees, 2010 Giants
4-2: 1980 Phillies, 1993 Blue Jays, 1995 Braves, 1996 Yankees, 2009 Yankees
4-3: 1982 Cardinals, 1985 Royals, 1986 Mets, 1987 Twins, 1991 Twins, 1997 Marlins, 2001 Diamondbacks, 2002 Angels, 2011 Cardinals
Won without Home Field Advantage (since 1980)
4-0: 1999 Yankees
4-1: 1984 Tigers, 2006 Cardinals, 2008 Phillies
4-2: 1981 Dodgers, 1992 Blue Jays, 2003 Marlins
Teams with home field advantage in World Series since 1980: 25-7
There have been 11 times where a road has been able to close out a series in Game 6, and they were 3-8 in these games. Every single one of the teams that lost Game 6 went on to lose Game 7. It wasn't always guaranteed that the home team would win Game 7: from 1955-1979, road teams won Game 7 in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975 and 1979 (home teams won in 1960, 1964 and 1973).
Of the 7 teams that won without home field advantage, the only one who won the first 2 games were the 1999 Yankees. Five of the six remaining teams split the first 2 games, while the 1981 Dodgers lost the first 2 games.
The template most likely to get the Cardinals to a championship is probably the one they used in 2006: split in Boston, then win the next 3 in St. Louis. If they return to Boston leading 3-2, they'll have a shot to close it out in Game 6, but it'll be tough. If Boston forces a Game 7, St. Louis will try to become the first team since the 1979 Pirates to win Game 7 on the road. If they return to Boston trailing 3-2, recent history suggests they'll be toast.
The Dodgers seem like they're back in the NLCS after an impressive Game 3 win. It looks like a relatively close series at this point, but the Dodgers still have an incredibly uphill climb. If they lose tonight, they'll be down 3 games to 1. The Cardinals blew a 3-1 lead last year to the Giants, getting outscored 20-1 in the final 3 years. It could happen again, but it is much less likely because the Cardinals would have the final 2 games at home this time.
Dodgers - Must Win Games
Game 4 - Only 5 teams since 1926 have come back from a 3-1 deficit to close a series out on the road (1958 Yankees, 1968 Tigers, 1985 Royals, 2003 Marlins, 2004 Red Sox). It is incredibly rare and unlikely to happen against the Cardinals, who have always been especially tough in winner-take-all games at home, except in 1968 (2011 WS, 2004 NLCS, 1987 NLCS, 1982 WS, 1964 WS, 1946 WS, 1931 WS). Yes, the Dodgers have Kershaw and Greinke going again, but it is hard to imagine them hitting enough to win 3 straight elimination games.
Game 5 - If they win Game 4, it won't mean very much unless they win game 5 as well. How many teams have lost Game 5 at home and still won a 7 game series? Only 4: 1926 Cardinals (WS); 1934 Cardinals (WS); 1952 Yankees (WS); 1991 Braves (NLCS). It is even more rare than coming back from 3-1, possibly because of the momentum shift from losing Game 5.
Game 6: If they can win Games 4 and 5 at home, they'll have a chance to close it out in Game 6. This would be the first time that they are in a comfortable spot since the very beginning of the series. Teams close out in Game 6 on the road all the time in the LCS. It has happened 10 times since the LCS expanded to 7 games in 1985 and 3 times in the World Series since 1979 (1981, 1992, 2003).
Game 7: This is obviously a must-win for the Dodgers, and for the Cardinals. This would be an exceptionally difficult game for the Dodgers to win under any circumstance, especially if they lose game 6. Since 1975, there have been 15 times where a home team has won Game 6 to force a Game 7, and the home team has gone one to win 14 out of 15 (only exception: 2006 Cardinals in NLCS).
How many times has a team close the first 2 games on the road and come back to win in 6? 1978 Yankees (WS); 1981 Dodgers (WS); 1985 Cardinals (NLCS).
The Dodgers won 42 out of 50 games at one point this season, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that they would still win this series. They could easily win the next 2 games at home and return to St. Louis with a 3-2 lead, but they have no margin for error. Teams have been winning plenty of winner-take-all games in the LDS, but it is still very rare in a 7 game series.
The postseason numbers are only through 4 or 5 games, so it is difficult to make too much out of them. They can easily turn around once a team moves onto the next round and faces new pitchers, but they should be a cause for concern for several teams.
The ability to hit with runners in scoring position was a huge advantage for the Cardinals all year. They had a batting average of .330 with RISP, an unbelievable 48 points ahead of the next closest team (Tigers, .282). Oddly, they were 2nd worst when there was no one on base (.236), making it a very important part of their offense (especially since they were 27th in hitting home runs with only 125). This would be a real problem if they have to play the Dodgers, another team with excellent pitching (ranked 2nd in team ERA with 3.25).
The same goes for the A's. The A's can compensate by hitting home runs, but they would need to drastically improve their .395 OPS with RISP against Boston.
The Red Sox have been very consistent between the regular season and the postseason, and that would likely continue into the ALCS.
It probably comes as a shock to people that follow the Tigers that they hit so well with RISP in this series since their offense had been silent until the last few innings of Game 4. They would need to keep that up to have a shot against the Red Sox with Miguel Cabrera injured and struggling.
The Pirates also need to keep this up because their pitching might not be able to completely keep the Dodgers down if they make it to the NLCS and don't have a lineup that easily generates runs.
This is one of the key stats to watch as we move in the next round. If they Cardinals don't start hitting in the clutch again, they are probably going to have trouble making it past the Dodgers if they win in Game 5. Most of the remaining teams in the playoffs hit well with RISP this season, but they could be heading home if they don't start doing it in the postseason.
It is a small sample size, but teams (other than the Yankees) with a 195+ run differential have been very successful in the playoffs since 2002. The Red Sox pummelled the Rays for a 2nd straight game and appear all but certain to advance onto the next round.
If they make it to the next round, their opponent will be much more evenly matched in run differential than the Rays (+54). The Tigers are +172 and the A's are +142. With recent history as a guide, teams with an overwhelming run differential tend to win in the LCS (2004 Cardinals and 2007 Red Sox went 7 games).
Cardinals - Batting Average
Pre All Star: .276 (#3)
Post All Star: .259 (#11)
Pirates - Opponents Batting Average
Pre All Star: .225 (#1)
Post All Star: .253 (#17)
The Cardinals were a very solid offensive team all year, finishing #3 in runs scored before and after the All Star Game. They're a strange team because they scored so many runs despite finishing #27 in home runs. They compensated by hitting .330 in with runners in scoring position as a team for the entire season, a staggering 48 points better than the next highest team (Tigers).
The Pirates allowed the fewest home runs this year (101), so it seems likely that the Cardinals will have to continue getting clutch hits to score runs. The Pirates dominated hitters through the first half and then struggled a bit in the 2nd half.
One factor might be that closer Jason Grilli was injured on August 22, which may have thrown off the entire bullpen. He was out for 6 weeks and only recently settled back into the job as closer. Jeff Locke also struggled mightily in the 2nd half (6.12 ERA) after being one of their top starters in the 1st half (2.15). He will not be on the postseason roster.
This looks like an evenly matched series and the Pirates might even have the edge if their pitching is more like the 1st half than the 2nd half.