The San Francisco Giants, for the second time this postseason, are faced with the task of winning three straight elimination games in order to advance to the next round. They accomplished that task in the division series against the Reds in the most difficult circumstance possible -- having to win three straight on the road, something that had never before been done.
They did it. This time, if you believe in home field making any difference, it might be "easier", as the Giants would have Games 6 and 7 at home if they can defeat the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night.
"Easier", of course, is a relative term. There have been 11 teams that have come back from 3-1 deficits in a seven-game series; five in the World Series and six in the LCS. Here's a brief look at those 11 series; what might give the Giants hope is that their 2012 opponents, the Cardinals, have been on the losing side of three of these comebacks.
1925 World Series, Pirates over Senators: The Senators, going for their second straight title, had limited the Pirates to six runs over the first four games. But the Bucs tied the series, and in Game 7 in Pittsburgh, Hall of Famer Walter Johnson couldn't hold a 7-6 lead. The Pirates tied the game in the bottom of the eighth; Washington could have gotten out of that inning with that tie, but shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh made a throwing error that should have been the third out. That error loaded the bases, and Kiki Cuyler hit a two-run double that won the game, and the Series, for Pittsburgh.
1958 World Series, Yankees over Braves: Like the '25 Senators, the Braves were going for a second straight championship. The Yankees shut out the Braves in Game 5 in New York, then won in extra innings in Milwaukee in Game 6. Game 7 was tied 2-2 in the eighth, when Elston Howard singled in the go-ahead run; after another single, Bill Skowron hit a three-run homer to ice the Yankees' win.
1968 World Series, Tigers over Cardinals: Denny McLain had made history in the regular season by winning 31 games. But in the World Series, it was his teammate Mickey Lolich who pulled off the miracle comeback, almost by himself. Lolich had won Game 2; five days later he gave up three runs in the first inning, but settled down and threw a complete-game, 5-3 win. On two days' rest, Lolich took the ball again in Game 7 and threw another CG, allowing just a two-out ninth-inning home run in a 4-1 Detroit victory.
1979 World Series, Pirates over Orioles: The "We Are Family" Bucs shut down a powerful Orioles offense in the final three games, allowing just two total runs, and winning the final two games in Baltimore for their second title of the decade.
1985 ALCS, Royals over Blue Jays: The Jays were heavily favored to win this series, and they took a 3-1 series lead with a three-run ninth in Game 4. But the Royals held the powerful Toronto offense to just five runs in the last three games, and became the fourth of these clubs to win the final two games on the road.
1985 World Series, Royals over Cardinals: St. Louis fans will always blame umpire Don Denkinger for his bad call in the ninth inning of Game 6 (and imagine the outrage over that call if it were made in 2012, with HDTV cameras all over!), but the Cardinals still had a chance to win the Series in Game 7; instead, they got shut out by Bret Saberhagen and the Royals became the only team to have two comebacks from 3-1 deficits in the same year.
1986 ALCS, Red Sox over Angels: Dave Henderson's three-run homer with two out in the ninth of Game 5, the second home run of the inning (Don Baylor hit the other), actually gave Boston a 6-5 lead; the Angels tied the game and lost in 11 innings. One of the indelible images of that series was a TV camera shot of Angels manager Gene Mauch after Henderson's home run. Mauch had at the time managed 24 previous seasons without ever having made the World Series. The look on his face said he knew he wasn't going that year, either, and he was right; the Angels got blown out 10-4 in Game 6 and 8-1 in Game 7.
1996 NLCS, Braves over Cardinals: The Braves won Game 1, then lost three straight, scoring nine total runs in the three defeats. Somewhere before Game 5, they found their lost bats; they won the last three games 14-0, 3-1 and 15-0 to head to their second straight World Series.
2003 NLCS, Marlins over Cubs: I'm a Cubs fan. Do you really expect me to write the details of this one? The Cubs were up 3 games to 1, and within five outs of winning the series in Game 6. They lost that game and Game 7. I'm sure you've heard about it. Enough said.
2004 ALCS, Red Sox over Yankees: This is the only series in MLB history in which a team came back from being down three games to none, and not only that, but with just three outs left in the ninth inning of Game 4. The Red Sox won that one, then Game 5 in 14 innings and a close, 4-2 Game 6 before blowing out the Yankees 10-3 in Game 7. They then swept the World Series, winning eight straight postseason games for the title, one of the most amazing feats in postseason history.
2007 ALCS, Red Sox over Indians: Boston became the only team to come back from a 3-1 deficit three times by defeating Cleveland; the Tribe pitchers apparently forgot how to pitch, as Boston won three straight games by huge margins -- 7-1, 12-2 and 11-2 -- and then went on to sweep the World Series from the Rockies.
So it can be done. It's been done three times in the last decade. Can the Giants come back and win the NLCS? They'll have to start tonight, behind Barry Zito, or watch the Cardinals celebrate their second straight National League pennant.