Odds stacked against Phillies

Odds stacked against Phillies

PHILDELPHIA -- Pedro Martinez has been there before -- in a deep hole as a member of the Red Sox against the Yankees in 2004, one loss away from postseason elimination.

"We're in way better shape than we were in '04," said Martinez about his Phillies team, which is down 3-1 in the World Series and can be eliminated with a loss in Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night. "It's just another battle, another hurdle that we have to overcome."

As most fans know, those Red Sox were the first Major League team ever to overcome a 3-0 playoff deficit. They defeated the Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and never lost again that postseason, sweeping the Cardinals to win Boston's first World Series title in 86 years.

Though the odds of the Red Sox coming back were monumental, the odds of the Phillies winning it all in seven games are also pretty severe, although it has happened six times in the 105-year history of the World Series, which was inaugurated in 1903.

Since then, 43 teams have taken a 3-1 lead and 37 of them have gone on to win the Series with 24 of those 37 winning it all in Game 5. A comeback from 3-1 hasn't happened, though, in 24 years, since the 1985 Royals went into Game 5 against the Cardinals in old Busch Stadium down 3-1, only to win that game behind a complete-game five-hitter from left-hander Danny Jackson.

Recent history is enough to keep the Yankees tempered, even after their stirring, 7-4, Game 4 victory with three runs in the ninth inning on Sunday night.

"It feels good, but we've been down this road before and we have to stay very focused," said Yanks third baseman Alex Rodriguez, whose two-out double against Brad Lidge drove in Johnny Damon with the winning run. "Those guys are the world champs. They're going to come out fighting, and so are we. We just have to stay in the moment."

Martinez, who started and lost Game 2 at Yankee Stadium, said he's ready to pitch Game 6 at the new yard in the Bronx if it comes to that.

Six times in World Series history, a team has won three straight to win the title after falling behind three games to one. The first of those teams, the Boston Americans (Red Sox), did it in a best-of-nine format in the very first Fall Classic in 1903.
1903 Americans (Red Sox) Pirates
1925 Pirates Senators
1958 Yankees Braves
1968 Tigers Cardinals
1979 Pirates Orioles
1985 Royals Cardinals

"They haven't told me yet if I have the start," he said. "Everybody is on the bubble until the situation comes up, but I fall on Game 6. Game 6 is my spot. I don't know if it's going to happen. I'm ready for it, though, if it does."

But first things first. The Phillies must win Game 5 behind Cliff Lee, who shut down the Yankees with a complete-game six-hitter, 6-1, in the series opener. At 3-0 with an 0.54 ERA, Lee has been the Phils' most dominant postseason pitcher. He'll face Yanks right-hander and Game 2 winner A.J. Burnett. If the task ahead seems daunting, Lee made it sound like simple math before he bolted from his locker after Sunday night's game.

"We just have to win three in a row," he said.

If he wins the first of that trio, then Phillies manager Charlie Manuel can look ahead to Game 6 and a possible Game 7. He has Martinez on regular rest for Wednesday night in Yankee Stadium, but might be in a quandary if it gets as far as Game 7 on Thursday. That's the slot usually reserved for Cole Hamels, who has had a rough postseason, losing Game 3 on Saturday night when he allowed five runs on five hits and didn't make it out of the fifth inning.

But like Martinez, Hamels -- 1-2 behind a 7.58 ERA this postseason -- is very much on the bubble with no word yet from his manager.

"I think Charlie's worried about Game 5, that's where his focus needs to be," Hamels said. "That's what we need to do now. Win these games one at a time. I'll worry about Game 7 when it happens."

A year ago, the Phillies found themselves in the absolute mirror situation -- leading the Rays 3-1 in the World Series with a much more capable Hamels on the mound here in Game 5. Hamels started and pitched well in a game that was suspended because of heavy rain and played over the course of three days. When it was over, the Phillies became the 37th team to capitalize on a 3-1 advantage to win the World Series and the 24th to do so in five games.

2009 World Series
Gm. 1 PHI 6, NYY 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 3, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 NYY 8, PHI 5 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NYY 7, PHI 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 8, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 7, PHI 3 Wrap Video

During the last two postseasons they've never found themselves in this kind of pit. In fact, they were 11-1 during their last 12 playoff games at home until the Yanks came in and put two in the Bank this weekend.

"Maybe it's a good thing to be playing with our backs against the wall," said Hamels, who was 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA last postseason and was named MVP of both the National League Championship Series and World Series for his efforts. "We're going to find out what we're really made of. The Yankees are a very good team, but so are we. And we could very well be in their position right now with a few breaks."

The Phillies will definitely find out what they're made of, perhaps as early as Monday night. In the NLCS both this year and last year against the Dodgers, they went into Game 5 with a 3-1 lead and wrapped up the series. Ditto in the 2008 World Series. But this is new and fertile ground. They've never been here in this time and space.

Manuel said he would sleep on it, but then might call a short team meeting before the game to bolster the enthusiasm, if need be.

"We take a lot of pride in being resilient and the way we bounce back," he said. "I know that we're going to come out and try to win. I know that. I've seen us go through it before. We've blown a lot of games from the seventh inning on and bounced back. That's got to tell you something about the resilience of our team. Tonight was tough, but we're in the World Series now. We're down, but at the same time, you know what? We're still breathing."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.