Dodgers know how to bounce back from long odds
Franchise has overcome 0-2 deficits in seven-game series three times
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers have been down this road before.
And they have celebrated.
Having lost the first two games of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series in St. Louis, the Dodgers return to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 in the twilight of a late Monday afternoon start (live on TBS at 5 p.m. PT), knowing there is precedence for their ability to overcome the hole they are in.
This season alone, the Dodgers were at the bottom of the NL West standings, 12 games below .500 on June 20, 9 1/2 games out of first. By July 22, they were atop the division, and never looked back. They were the first of the six Major League division champions to clinch in September.
Their MVP candidate of a year ago, Matt Kemp, played in only 73 games, had only 290 at-bats, and last Tuesday underwent shoulder surgery. They had only three players appear in 130 games. And they head into Game 3 with the odds that shortstop Hanley Ramirez, drilled in the ribs by a pitch from Joe Kelly in Game 1, won't be able to play for the second game in a row.
"It's not tennis," said Ramirez. "It's not like that. It's not only one guy. It's 25 guys. We've been doing this all year long.''
There is even history on the Dodgers' side. The franchise has rallied from 0-2 deficits in a best-of-seven postseason three times. They claimed World Series from the Yankees in 1981 by rebounding with four consecutive wins, and rallied to win four out of five games to overcome 0-2 World Series deficits against Minnesota in 1965, and the Yankees back in 1955, when the Dodgers still called Brooklyn home.
"It's not the end of the world,'' said Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers also have been on the other side of such a comeback, winning the first two games against St. Louis in the 1985 NLCS, the first year the LCS was expanded from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven, and becoming the only team to lose a best-of-seven NLCS after winning the first two games.
There have been two AL teams overcome 0-2 deficits in a seven-game ALCS.
Nine years ago the Boston Red Sox actually rebounded after losing the first three games to the Yankees on their way to a world championship, and Kansas City, also in 1985, overcame losses in the first two games of the ALCS to Toronto to win the AL pennant.
And those Royals also faced an 0-2 deficit in the ensuing World Series before rallying to win the only world championship in franchise history. The Royals won Game 3 in both the ALCS and World Series, but then lost Game 4 before winning the final three games of each series.
"You have a lot of doubt when you come to the ballpark for Game 3," said Hal McRae, the clubhouse leader and designated hitter for that Kansas City team. "You are embarrassed. You battled through the season to get there and you know you could be swept."
The core of that Royals team knew what it felt like to be swept. The Yankees did it to the Royals in the Division Series in 1981, and Detroit swept them in the 1984 ALCS.
Then, the 1985 Royals traveled to Toronto to open the ALCS only to lose 6-1 in Game 1 and 6-5 in 10 innings in Game 2. They, however, returned to Royals Stadium for Game 3, and things were about to change. George Brett made sure of that.
Brett homered in the first inning for a 1-0 lead. He doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly in the fourth for a 2-0 lead. With the Blue Jays having rallied to go up 5-2, it was Brett who hit a two-run home run that tied the score at 5 in the sixth, and then he led off the eighth inning with a single and scored on a two-out Steve Balboni single to provide the Royals a 6-5 win.
"When you are deep in a hole like that, you need someone to step up, and George did," said McRae. "But then, George stepped up a lot of times. Once you get that first win, the momentum changes. You start to feel good about your situation."
Even the loss in Game 4 that put the Royals down three games to one against Toronto wasn't a downer.
"What I remember the most is how terrible you feel when you leave the hotel going to the ballpark, and how great you felt once you won the first game," said McRae. "And the more you win the more confidence you gain, the more momentum you gather. You feel good about yourself."
McRae said the Royals felt so good that when they did lose those first two games in the World Series at home to St. Louis, there was a clubhouse calmness.
"And when we did win Game 3, our confidence was sky high," he said. "We had learned in the Toronto series the importance of momentum, and the momentum came with the first win."
It was, said McRae, a postseason the mirrored the Royals' regular season. It wasn't until Game No. 159 that the Royals claimed undisputed possession of first place in the AL West, and they didn't clinch the division title until Game 161. They were in third place, 7 1/2 games out on July 21, but won 45 of their final 72 games.
"We drew off that," said McRae. "We faced some strong odds during the regular season. We had more time to make up the ground, but we had to make up that ground."
It's not unlike what the Dodgers faced during the 2013 season.
Now, it's the Dodgers' challenge to see if they can repeat the postseason rally of McRae and the rest of those `85 Royals.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.