History says the San Francisco Giants are in good shape Tuesday evening, but in lousy shape Wednesday. If that makes any sense.
History, of course, is a lousy precursor, in that anything can (though probably won’t) happen when Jake Peavy and Yordano Ventura try to recreate Game 2 of this World Series. Well, Ventura will. Peavy, maybe slightly not.
But here’s a mildly interesting thing. Teams up 3-2 in a series in the last 50 years have won 17 of the 27 series -- a nice 63 percent that anyone would back with actual money.
This, of course, includes all the teams that went on to win Game 6, which automatically means that 3-2 team won the series by virtue of there being no seventh game. But take those out, and teams that were a 63 percent play suddenly become 69 percent losers.
For those of you who hate math, it means that 10 of the 16 teams who were up 3-2 but forced to a seventh game ended up losing.
We chose 50 years because of Sandy Koufax, who not only started Games 5 and 7 for the Dodgers (we erred yesterday with ourotherwise stirring tale of Vic Aldridge) but threw a three-hit shutout at the Minnesota Twins three days after throwing a four-hit shutout at the Minnesota Twins.
Just in case you think Madison Bumgarner hasn’t done enough.
Since then, the litany of 3-2 teams that lost Game 6 and won Game 7 is a brief one.
1967: St. Louis beat Boston, as Bob Gibson does the triple nasty.
1971: Pittsburgh beat Baltimore, with Roberto Clemente as the hero.
1972: Oakland beat Cincinnati, and Catfish Hunter started 5 and relieved in 7.
1975: Cincinnati beat Boston, it turned out Carlton Fisk was a day early.
1997: Florida beat Cleveland, in the original Edgar Renteria game.
Otherwise, it’s been a pretty consistent tale of woe for those who did not finish the job with urgency. Texas in 2011, the Giants in 2002, the Yankees in 2001, Atlanta in 1991, St. Louis in 1968, ’85 and ’87, Milwaukee in 1982, Baltimore in 1979 and the Mets in 1973 (against Oakland).
In short, the Giants, who are already well aware of why winning is better than losing and why winning today means vacation tomorrow, have the additional benefit of this bit of arcana. The loser of Game 6 is 6-21 reverting to Koufax, and one for its last 20.
So there’s no pressure on Peavy at all, or for that matter Tim Hudson in Game 7. Or for the cast of many that will join them in this endeavor, as these will be the classic all-hands-on-deck games your father used to tell you about in the car before he snuck into Dexter’s for a quick one before taking you home from practice.
This has been a valuable series for Giants fans, who haven’t been frontrunners in a long series since ’02, when it all went to Hell in Game 6 in Anaheim. They felt invincible after Game 1, morose after Game 3, effervescent after Game 4 and were lining up on the parade route after Game 5.
They are to be forgiven. It’s the fan thing.
The Bumgarner subjugations aside, the most compelling shortcoming the Royals have displayed is their inability to insert their speed into the series. The dominant feature that pushed them through Oakland, Los Angeles and Baltimore has been almost nonexistent, and to the extent it has been in evidence it has been in chasing down deep flies and turning potential triples into annoying outs.
This isn’t enough, if Kansas City is to force a seventh game, not in what has been an essentially homerless series. Because the Royals have been unable put enough runners in motion, they have had 22 fewer plate appearances with runners in scoring position, nearly five fewer per game.
So if you can’t run, and your starting pitching cannot last (James Shields’ lost-cause effort in Game 5 was the best start Kansas City has managed), and your vaunted bullpen has only shown itself in high leverage situations once (in Game 3), you have some quick reinventing to do.
And the Giants, who have had their own reinventions to do over this year, need only put the boot in one last time to become that rarest of entities -- the on-again, off-again dynast-ette. But Tuesday matters, greatly.
Because if Tuesday leads to Wednesday, history suggests that Thursday is going to suck ... unless Bumgarner is asked to Koufax. Which doesn’t seem all that much of an ask, except that it really is. Thus for the Giants, it is better not to have to ask at all.
So if you must ask if this is a must-win game for them, the answer may not be yes. But it sure seems like the alternate suggestion -- “they damned well better” -- is close enough.