Kevin Millar might have said it best. When his Boston Red Sox were down 0-3 to the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, the confident Millar said before Game 4: “Don’t let us win tonight. This is a big game. They’ve got to win because if we win, we’ve got Pedro [Martinez] coming back today, and then [Curt] Schilling will pitch Game 6, and then you can take that fraud stuff and put it to bed. Don’t let the Sox win this game.” [More on this later.]
The Cubs, facing an 0-3 deficit to the Dodgers in the NLCS, got their “big game” out of the way Wednesday night as Jake Arrieta pitched them to a 3-2 victory in Game 4. And while the Cubs don’t have Martinez or Schilling in the rotation, they do have Jose Quintana, Jon Lester and all arms on deck for a potential Game 7.
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The victory moved the Cubs from about a 5 percent chance of winning the series to 11 percent, according to FanGraphs.
The win also put the Cubs down 1-3, the same disadvantage they overcame against the Cleveland Indians in last year’s dramatic World Series.
In the history of the baseball playoffs, a team has taken a 3-0 edge 34 times. Only the 2004 Red Sox have been able to overcome it.
The Cubs became just the sixth team down 0-3 to avoid a sweep. If the Cubs can defeat Clayton Kershaw in Game 5, they’ll become only the third team facing an 0-3 deficit to push a series to a Game 6.
When asked about the task of facing Kershaw, one of the game’s best pitchers in Game 5, Cubs second baseman Javy Baez channeled his best Kevin Millar and said: “Good luck to him.”
Looking for more signs of a Cubs miracle comeback? In 2015, the Cubs faced the same situation against the New York Mets in the NLCS. Theo Epstein pointed out the Cubs had nine winning streaks of four or more games that season. Of course, the Cubs were nowhere near the team they are now and got swept.
“Show up and win a ballgame tomorrow,” Epstein said in 2015. “If we show up and win tomorrow, we’re dangerous. Trust me. It’s been done before, rumor has it. We can do it. We’ve had nine winning streaks of four or more games this year, so we get hot, we get really hot, we can do it. We just have to show up and win tomorrow.”
But following Epstein’s logic, the Cubs had seven winning streaks of four or more this season, including three that concluded in the last month of the season.
On the flip side, the Dodgers lost four in a row three times this season, most notably twice in September, the same month the Cubs couldn’t lose.
In fact, the Dodgers, who were off to one of the best records in MLB history, had an astounding 11-game losing streak in September, the worst in franchise history since moving from Brooklyn in 1958.
If the Dodgers were to advance to the World Series, they’ll be fighting this historical trend: No team has ever lost more than nine in a row — the 1953 Yankees — and won the World Series.
Getting back to the 2004 Red Sox, nobody is more aware of momentum shifts during an 0-3 comeback than Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. With the Red Sox trailing 4-3 in the ninth inning of Game 4, Millar walked to lead off the ninth against the invincible Mariano Rivera. Roberts pinch-ran for Millar. After stealing second base, Roberts scored the tying run on a base hit. The Red Sox went on to win the game in 12 innings and the historic comeback was set in motion.