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LDS History Lesson

The NLDS shifts to Los Angeles, as the Mets and the Dodgers suit up for the third game of their best-of-five series, the Mets having won the first two in New York and anxious to get the series over with tonight.

Since baseball moved to the wild card playoff format in 1995, twenty-four teams have taken a two-games-to-none lead in the division series. The final series results broke down thusly:

Series Length     Instances
Three games          16
Four games            4
Five games            4
Sixteen of the teams who have won the first two games of an LDS series -- exactly two-thirds -- went on to win the third game and complete the sweep. Four teams have gone on to win their division series in four games, and four teams have won in five. The kicker is that the four teams who won the fifth game of the series all lost the first two. That's right. Every team who has taken the first two games and then dropped the next two has lost every single LDS. The A's have done it twice, losing to the Yankees in 2001 and the Red Sox in 2003. The Yankees were on the losing end once, in 1995, dropping three straight to the Mariners after taking the first two. The 1999 Indians were the other team, losing the fifth game of their series to the Red Sox in a game where an injured Pedro Martinez came back to pitch six innings of no-hit relief for the win.

These numbers paint a story. The team that wins the first two games is most often the clearly dominant one, taking the series easily most of the time. We can also see what a big role momentum can play. I don't know that the Mets are the clearly dominant team in their series, but history tells us they have something like a 67% chance of winning tonight and an 83% chance of winning the series altogether. With Steve Trachsel going tonight and the possibility of a sometimes-dominant sometimes-shaky Oliver Perez in Game 4 there are no guarantees.