Friday, November 4, 2022


We've always found the 3-2 game to be a highly satisfying "middle ground" for the outcome in baseball. That score suggests good pitching on both sides, but enough run scoring to give both sides the sense that their offense is still working (even if not on all cylinders). It also means that the game is likely on the line for most (if not all) of the time.

Five total runs a game as a seasonal average would be too anemic, of course, but when it comes to fall baseball--when post-season teams face each other down for "all the marbles"--it makes sense that run scoring would be somewhat constricted due to a concentration of better pitching. But there's also enough room for rallies (successful or not--often the latter), which leads to numerous situations with men on base, adding tension to many of the innings in such a game...because, as it progresses, the sense that runs are scarce becomes a palpable part of the spectator's experience.

And that's just what we had last night, in a game filled with tension, miraculous defensive plays, and many thwarted opportunities to score that kept the game in play right up to the final batter. The only criticism of such a game that's possible stems from a rooter's standpoint: if you were rooting for the Phillies, the outcome was the flaw. 

Thinking about 3-2 games jogged an ancient memory about the early 1970s, when these games seemed to cluster in the World Series. And so we went back into the archives to look at the last 50 years of 3-2 World Series games, and discovered a curious fact. (At this point, if we were operating Joe the P's blog, we'd cut you off and ask you to pay to read the rest of the article...but we won't do that to you!)

Here's our chart of the 3-2 World Series games since 1972 (we've left off last night's game for a reason we'll get to shortly):

This takes you back in time to a different America...all the way to the point where there was no DH (and no Fox News, either). The 70s had five World Series in which there were 3-2 games, including one, in 1974, with four in a single series. 1972 wasn't far behind, with three. (Ah, the good old days...)

As it turns out, there have been 20 World Series in the past fifty years where there have been 3-2 games. (We aren't including last night's game yet, because the outcome of the Series is still unknown: our pattern, as you'll see shortly, is related to the outcome of the World Series in which 3-2 games occur.)

In those twenty series, teams that won the World Series won their 3-2 games in 19 of them. The only World Series on this list where the winning team failed to win a 3-2 game occurred in 2018, when the Dodgers won an 18-inning 3-2 game but lost the Series 4-1. There have been three series (1974, 1991, and 2014) where both teams won 3-2 games, keeping the string pretty much intact.

In short, a baseball team that wins a 3-2 game in the World Series has better than an 80% chance of winning that World Series. 

Now, of course, if we went back further in time, it's likely that this strange "pattern" will unravel. But fifty years is a good long time, and it's an odd little undercurrent in a game that needs all the undercurrents it can get. 

Reading the "Notes" above will demonstrate that many of these 3-2 games came down to the last inning before they were decided, with rallies and turnaround wins regularly in the mix. Last night's game was a most worthy addition to this list, and it's only the third time that such a contest occurred in Game 5 of a World Series (at least since 1972), meaning it's one of those rare times where the 3-2 game outcome leads to a 3 games-to-2 series situation as the World Series now enters its "do-or-die" phase.

And there's always the chance that we'll get another 3-2 game before it's all over. Stay tuned...