The Giants appear to have all of the momentum now with a dramatic walk-off win and a 3-1 series lead. They are poised to close out the series tonight. Then again, when asked about momentum in baseball, legendary manager Earl Weaver dismissively said, "Momentum? Momentum is the name of the next day's starting pitcher." (Weaver also said lots of other colorful things, like this).
But according to Jayson Stark, before 2010 there were 72 occasions where a team trailed 3 games to 1 in a 7-game series. And only 11 came back to win the series. However, two recent comebacks give me some optimism because the circumstances were similar: the Braves in the 1996 NLCS and the Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS. When looking for some glimmer of hope after the disappointing loss, I immediately thought of those series. Both teams were playoff-tested and in both situations the underdogs took a surprising 3-1 lead in the series with a chance to close it out at home in Game 5, facing the other team's ace pitcher.
The 1996 Braves trailed the Cardinals 3-1, but had their three aces on full rest set to pitch the final three games – John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine. Granted, the Cardinals pitching staff in 1996 was nowhere near as good as the Giants staff is today (I think Todd Stottlemyre was their #1). But the Braves won Game 5 on the road behind a shutout by Smoltz, and then won 2 straight at home behind Maddux and Glavine, allowing a total of 1 run over the final 27 innings of the series.
The 2007 Red Sox were even more similar. They trailed the Indians 3-1, but had their 3 aces going on full rest the final three games – Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, and Dice K. Beckett out-dueled CC Sabathia in Game 5 on the road. And then the Red Sox never lost again that postseason. They went back to Boston and won Games 6 and 7 handily, and then swept the upstart Rockies in the World Series.
The patient is in critical but stabile condition and the doctor will begin the revival process at 7:57pm. You traded for an ace like Roy Halladay to win games like tonight. If they can send the series back to Philly, they have a decent chance to pull this off.
The odds are long, but there is still hope.