Closest 3-0 lead in World Series history
Sox in driver's seat, but Astros could just as easily be there
HOUSTON -- If the Chicago White Sox should win Wednesday night and sweep the World Series, it will be forever compared to what happened just last year when the Boston Red Sox also won their last eight games of the year and won their first world championship since 1918. That is a given.
But if that does happen in Game 4, then in reality the only comparison in World Series history would be what happened in 1950. That was the year that the New York Yankees won each of the first three games against the Philadelphia Phillies by a single run on their way to a sweep behind rookie Whitey Ford's dominating Game 4 performance.
Houston, this probably will not come as much consolation, but the most amazing thing about this year's World Series is that it could easily be 3-0 in favor of the Astros. With the exception of 1950, it has been maybe the most competitive 3-0 World Series ever. Three close games, each with late-inning drama, each going to the same team.
There is obviously no consolation in the mind of Astros manager Phil Garner, who aired his frustration over his club's hitting when interviewed after the Game 3 loss.
"It's a tough loss, but you figure out a way to come out and try to win a ballgame," Garner said. "I'd like to put on a better show. It's embarrassing to play like this in front of our hometown. It was just not a good game for us tonight."
On paper, the series is a blowout so far and no team has ever wiped out a 3-0 World Series deficit. But to everyone who has witnessed what has happened since Saturday's first pitch, it has been a fabulously close Fall Classic -- drastically different than last year's Red Sox sweep of the Cardinals, arguably the most lopsided World Series ever. Here is a quick recap of how these three White Sox victories have unfolded:
Game 1: Even after starter Roger Clemens had to exit following two innings, in which he gave up three runs with a strained left hamstring, the Astros jumped right back with Lance Berkman's two-run double to tie the score. Joe Crede's solo homer in the bottom of the fourth would be the difference, but it was an intense finish as Neal Cotts and then Bobby Jenks had to work relief magic.
Game 2: The Astros came from behind to take a 4-2 lead, saw Paul Konerko hit a grand slam for a 6-4 White Sox lead, and then tied the score in the top of the ninth when Jose Vizcaino singled in two runs off Jenks. Then, Chicago took a 2-0 Series lead when Scott Podsednik hit his unforgettable walk-off homer in the ninth.
Game 3: Houston was absolutely in control with a 4-0 lead and Roy Oswalt cruising into the fifth. That is when Crede hit the solo homer that started a five-run inning. Once again, it seemed like everything the Astros did right was ephemeral; what you saw as a nail-biter World Series looked like a rout from a distance. Then, Jason Lane doubled in the tying run in the eighth, and the game stayed deadlocked until the 14th inning, when Geoff Blum's solo homer sparked a two-run frame that lifted the White Sox.
This Series has been in stark contrast to how the White Sox steamrolled their first two opponents in this postseason, the Red Sox and then the Angels. Not that it means the smallest pile of beans as the visitor's clubhouse now gets its lockers covered for the prospect of champagne spraying, but fans have witnessed a close Series.
There have been 18 World Series in which the losing team never won a game (1907 and 1922 each resulted in four victories and a tie), and generally speaking, the scores in those individual games have been about as close as the final series result. You have to look closely to find any that would be considered borderline competitive.
In 1966, Dodger aces Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax went down in flames for the first two respective games at Baltimore. Los Angeles subsequently lost a pair of 1-0 games, so there was at least some drama on the way out.
Just three years earlier, those same Dodgers had been on the opposite end of that scenario. After two relatively easy victories at Yankee Stadium to start the Series, they went back to Los Angeles and clinched the title with a pair of one-run wins.
The "closest sweep" was unquestionably 1950. The Yankees won the first game at Philadelphia, when Jerry Coleman's sacrifice fly in the fourth inning scored Bobby Brown with the only run. In Game 2, Joe DiMaggio led off the 10th with a homer, and that gave the Yanks a 2-1 victory and a 2-0 series lead. The Yankees had to come from behind at home to win Game 3 after scoring a run in each of the last two innings, and then they took a quick 5-0 lead and rode Ford's arm to a 5-2 clincher.
The Astros can say at least this much: It may be a 3-0 Series lead for the White Sox, but try to find a World Series in the past century that was as far from a blowout as this one has been so far. It's impossible.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.