LOS ANGELES -- Following the crushing, unlikely loss to the Red Sox in Game 4 of the World Series -- a loss that put the Dodgers down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series -- L.A. manager Dave Roberts struck the expected tone: "It is a tough loss," Roberts said. "Any loss in a World Series is difficult, obviously, but now we're in a situation where we're do or die. To their credit, they fought back and won a baseball game. So now it's kind of we've just got to bow our necks and try to win a baseball game and it's one day at a time."
That's the mindset for any team on either side of these current circumstances. If you're Alex Cora and the Red Sox and you're one win away from the belt and the title, you don't want a state of assumption to settle in. The thinking can't be that you've got three shots to win one game. It has to be win today's game and end it. On the other side, Roberts and the Dodgers don't benefit from the long view -- the idea of winning three straight against 108-win team, two of which would come on the road. They have to win today's game without any thought of what would face them back in Boston.
Speaking of such a mental approach, the SportsLine Projection Model (@SportsLine on Twitter) has some Game 5 uplift for the on-the-brink Dodgers. Specifically, the SportsLine simulations give the Dodgers a 56 percent chance of winning Game 5, thus making the series 3-2 and ensuring that the series shifts back to Fenway Park. That's bit north of the typical home-field advantage in MLB, so there's more going on than just the usual boost enjoyed by the host squadron.
The obvious potential advantage is that Clayton Kershaw is going for the Dodgers on full rest, while David Price is going for the Red Sox on three-days' rest. Yes, Price pretty well shoved in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Astros on short rest, but as a general rule starting pitchers respond better to normal rest patterns.
Remember the long view we cautioned against? Well, we're under no such obligations to heed those warnings. As such, it's worth noting that SportsLine gives the Dodgers just a 14 percent chance of coming back from down 3-1 to win the 2018 World Series. Here's how that breaks down ...
- Dodgers have a 56 percent chance of winning Game 5.
- Dodgers have a 45 percent chance of winning Game 6.
- Dodgers have a 56 percent chance of winning Game 7.
High-level mathematics will tell you that multiplies out to a 14 percent chance of getting those necessary three wins in a row.
Now, though, back to Sunday: If the Dodgers do as SportsLine mildly expects and win Game 5, then all those numbers will be adjusted in the Dodgers' direction. MLB postseason history teaches us that teams down 3-2 in a best-of-seven and headed out on the road for Games 6 and 7 -- this would describe the Dodgers if they win on Sunday -- go on to win the series in question 22.4 percent of the time. That's not good, obviously, but it's better than 14 percent.
So if Roberts wishes to inspire his charges, he should rouse them with a pregame speech that tells them, via soaring rhetoric, 22.4 percent is theirs, should they have the will and skill.