This year, for the first time, Major League Baseball’s Division Series will move to a 2-3 format where the team with the better of the two records will play the first two games on the road, quite the change from the traditional 2-2-1 format which favors the home team by opening and closing in their ballpark. The alteration is only expected to be for this current postseason, but I can’t imagine I’d be too thrilled with the format if my team had the better of the two records, yet, had to open on the road.
April 8, 2011; San Francisco, CA, USA; General view of AT&T Park – ©Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE
As it currently stands, the San Francisco Giants will be the third seed going into the National League Division Series behind the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds, hosting the first two games of their series before ending with the final three (if needed) in the oppositions city. No big deal, you say? Well, in the past twenty years, only three teams in the World Series’ 2-3-2 format (the only series to use that similar 2-3 format) have won all three of their middle home games – Philadelphia in 2008, St. Louis in 2006 and the New York Yankees in 2001. Now granted, that is the World Series, but the point is winning three games in a row in the post season is far from easy and it really puts emphasis on the first two games, both for the Giants and their opposition.
In all honesty, despite the format, it all comes down to how the two teams play – starting at home (assuming the Giants don’t catch the Reds or Nationals in the standings before the season closes, which isn’t a given) is a nice benefit, but only if that advantage is seized. It could just as well be a detriment if you happen to lose one (or both) of the home games and force yourself to win two of three or sweep, on the road.
You no longer have the luxury of knowing you’ll get to return home no matter what happens in the first two games, but, you do have the momentum of putting a strangle hold on the series if the first two games go your way.
So is it an advantage? Most definitely, but it’s up to the Giants to turn it into one.