World Series 2019: Why the Astros Have to Make History to Come Back from 0-2 Deficit

This was not the way the World Series was supposed to pan out for Houston. The Astros arrived into the Fall Classic on the back of a 107-win season—the highest in the majors and the third consecutive year with at least 100 wins—and as the biggest favorite since the Boston Red Sox took on the Colorado Rockies in 2007.

The scenario, however, has changed dramatically. Houston finds itself 2-0 down in the series and has already lost more games at home in this World Series than it had done in the entire postseason.

Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander—two of the Astros' trifecta of ace starting pitchers—have been outplayed by Washington, while Houston's fielding crumbled in the seventh and eighth inning of Game 2 to give up nine unanswered runs which put the Nationals 11-2 ahead.

The World Series moves to Washington for Game 3 on Friday night and there is no guarantee the series will return to Texas this year.

Having rewritten records throughout the season—Houston struck out 28.9 percent of the batters during the regular season, the highest-ever rate in the history of the MLB—the Astros now find the chips of history firmly stacked against them.

Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros reacts against the Washington Nationals during the eighth inning in Game Two of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 23 in Houston, Texas. Elsa/Getty

The Washington Nationals are only the second team since the New York Yankees in 1999 to win the first two games of the World Series on the road.

The Yankees went on to vanquish the Atlanta Braves 4-0 to secure their second consecutive World Series sweep and in a row and the second of three consecutive titles.

In the history of the Fall Classic, the last 10 teams to have taken a 2-0 lead—irrespective of where the first two games were played—went on to win the title and six of those did so by sweeping the series.

In the history of best-of-seven series, teams that have won the first two games on the road have gone on to win to series 22 out of 25 times.

When series where the team has won the first two games at home are included, clubs who have taken a 2-0 lead have gone on to win the series 71 times out of 84.

To illustrate just how big a hole the Astros find themselves in, just consider these figures. Before Game 1, Houston was a 5/11 favorite to win a second World Series title in three years, while the Nationals were a 19/10 underdog.

FiveThirtyEight projections, meanwhile, gave the Astros a 60 percent chance to win the World Series, to the Nationals' 40.

Ahead of Game 3, the Nationals are as short as 3/10 with some bookmakers, while the Astros' odds have drifted out to 12/5.

Similarly, FiveThirtyEight now gives Washington an 81 percent chance of clinching a first-ever World Series title, while Houston's chances have shrunk to 19 percent.

All is not lost for the Astros, however. In Zack Greinke, who will start Game 3, Houston has yet another super starting pitcher and it would not be surprising to see Cole and Verlander bounce back if given the opportunity later this series.

New York Yankees, World Series
John Wetteland #35 of the New York Yankees celebrates the final out of Game six of the 1996 World Series against the Atlanta Braves at Yankee Stadium on October 26, 1996 in Bronx, New York. The Yankees defeated the Braves 3-2 to win the series 4-2 and are the last team to come back from a 2-0 deficit in the World Series. Al Bello/Getty

Similarly, the Astros' line-up has misfired so far, but remains a formidable unit when firing on all cylinders. Houston can find some comfort in the history books too, as 10 of the 13 teams to come back from 0-2 in the postseason did so in the World Series.

The New York Yankees were the last team to manage that, when they erased a two-game deficit to beat the Braves 4-2 in 1996 after losing their first two games at home.

The Yankees are also the team that has pulled off such a comeback more than anyone else in World Series history, achieving the feat in 1956, 1958 and 1978—New York lost the opening two games on the road in each occasion.

The New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers did it once each in 1921 and 1955 respectively, while their Los Angeles-based successor pulled it off in 1965 and 1981—losing Game 1 and Game 2 on the road both times.

The Pittsburgh Pirates also lost their first two games on the road before storming back to take the World Series in 1971, while the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets lost Game 1 and Game 2 at home before winning in seven games in 1985 and 1986 respectively.