The Red Sox held serve at Fenway Park in the first two games of the World Series and now the Dodgers come back to Los Angeles in a 2-0 hole.
While the two-game deficit may seem like a reason for despair, it’s worth remembering that it’s not insurmountable. In fact, the Dodgers have overcome the very same predicament before.
There have been 10 teams in World Series history that have come back from being down 2-0 to win the title, and three of those comebacks have been made by the Dodgers, in 1981, 1965 and 1955. The last team to win after being down two games to nothing was the 1996 New York Yankees, who beat the Atlanta Braves in six games. By the way, the Dodgers accomplished the feat all three times when they were returning home after losing the first two games on the road.
With Game 3 set for Friday night, let’s jump in the time machine and revisit those previous comebacks for a bit of inspiration as the series shifts to L.A.
1981 Dodgers Beat New York Yankees, 4-2
The 1981 World Series was the third time the Dodgers and Yankees met in the Series in a five-year span. The Yankees knocked off Tommy Lasorda’s squad in six games in 1977 and 1978. After Games 1 and 2, it looked like the Bombers were well on their way to another title. Ron Guidry and Tommy John each went seven innings holding the Dodgers to just one run over those 14 innings. The Yanks took the opening games in the Bronx 5-3 and 3-0.
Then came Game 3, featuring a pair of rookies in Fernando Valenzuela and Dave Righetti. Valenzuela got the better of the matchup, going the distance and giving up four runs while walking seven and striking out six. In Games 4 & 5, the Dodgers squeezed out a pair of 1-run come from behind victories 8-7 and 2-1, taking a 3-2 advantage into Game 6 back in the Bronx.
Burt Hooton and Steve Howe combined to pitch nine innings of two-run ball while Pedro Guerrero drove in five runs as the Dodgers took Game 6 easily, 9-2.
1965 Dodgers Beat Minnesota Twins 4-3
This series featured Mudcat Grant and Jim Kaat outdueling Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax respectively in the first two games of the series. The Dodgers bats mustered just three runs, leading the team to return to L.A. with the dreaded 2-0 deficit.
But, the bats came alive once the series moved back to the more temperate climates of L.A. The Dodgers outscored the Twins 18-2 in Games 3, 4, and 5 and Claude Osteen, Drysdale and Koufax provided stellar pitching performances. Up 3-2 in Minnesota, Mudcat Grant was able to even things back up at three games apiece, forcing a winner-take-all Game 7.
Cue the legendary Sandy Koufax, who delivered a performance still talked about today.
The lefty twirled a complete game shutout, surrendering just three hits and three walks while striking out 10 Twins hitters, as the Dodgers sealed their third title in franchise history.
1955 Dodgers Beat New York Yankees 4-3
The Dodgers entered the 1955 series having lost in eight out of their first nine appearances in the World Series (they tied the Louisville Colonels 3-3-1 back in the 1890 WS) and had lost two straight to the Yankees in 1952 and 53. When Whitey Ford and Tommy Byrne combined for 17 innings in a pair of Yankees wins to start the series, it looked to be more of the same.
But, when the series moved back to Ebbetts Field, the Dodgers found their offense putting up 21 runs over the course of Games 3, 4, and 5. Whitey Ford ended the winning streak in Game 6 with another dominant performance, throwing a complete-game, four-hit gem in which he allowed just one run.
Then, in Game 7, Dodgers lefty Johnny Podres put together the performance that would win him World Series MVP, tossing a complete game shutout as he worked around eight hits and two walks in the game. First baseman Gil Hodges drove in the only two runs of the game with an RBI single in the fourth inning and a sacrifice fly in the 6th.
As rookie Walker Buehler prepares to take the mound for the Dodgers in Game 3, fans hope he can emulate the performance of Valenzuela in the 1981 series and light the spark for a comeback.