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Third game is pivotal
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10/22/2003  1:29 AM ET 
Third game is pivotal
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The New York Yankees' 6-1 victory over Florida in Game 3 of the World Series was more important than you might think. From the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals to last year's Anaheim Angels, the team that has won Game 3 after a 1-1 series split has gone on to win the world championship in all seven opportunities.

That is what you call a pivotal game. The last team to win Game 3 after a 1-1 split and not win the World Series was Baltimore in 1979. Those Orioles won the third and fourth games for a 3-1 series lead, but the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied behind Willie Stargell and won the "We Are Family" title in seven games.

"I don't think there's a game that's unimportant in the postseason," Yankees manager Joe Torre said, "but Game 3 to me, at this point -- you're running out of games. Now you have four games left, possibly, so you can get an advantage. Especially on the road for us. ... You're never comfortable, but it puts us in a good position."

Here are the instances since then and how the Game 3 winner has benefited:

2002: Angels 10, Giants 4. The Angels overcame a first-inning run by San Francisco at Pacific Bell Park. Ramon Ortiz beat Livan Hernandez. It ensured that the series would go back to Anaheim, where the Angels won their first title in seven games.

1997: Marlins 14, Indians 11. In their only other World Series appearance, the Marlins started with the same 1-1 split as their 2003 antecedents. The 1997 Game 3 was on the road, though, and those Marlins overcame a 7-3 deficit, scoring seven times in the top of the ninth on a frigid night at Cleveland. The Marlins won their first title in seven games.

1993: Blue Jays 10, Phillies 3. Toronto manager Cito Gaston shook things up when the series shifted to Philadelphia -- with the same kind of rain delay that FOX viewers saw Tuesday in Florida. Unable to use a designated hitter at Veterans Stadium, Gaston sat first baseman and American League batting champion John Olerud against lefty Danny Jackson, replacing him at first base with hot-hitting, 37-year-old regular DH Paul Molitor. The veteran hit a two-run triple in the first inning and a solo homer in the third to lead Toronto to an easy victory, and the Blue Jays went on to win in six on Joe Carter's walkoff homer.

1992: Blue Jays 3, Braves 2. Atlanta's Achilles heel was its bullpen for many big games in the '90s, and an example was this game. With the score tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth at Toronto, Jeff Reardon gave up a bases-loaded hit to Candy Maldonado over the head of drawn-in center fielder Otis Nixon. The Blue Jays went on to bring Canada its first world championship in six games.

1984: Tigers 5, Padres 2. Detroit had won 35 of its first 40 games in this season and was too good to miss opportunities -- like the 11 walks San Diego issued in the first five innings of Game 3. Detroit never looked back in this series.

1983: Orioles 3, Phillies 2. Steve Carlton had a Hall of Fame career and had won a title three years earlier, but this game was lost when he stayed in it too long. Carlton indicated to Phillies manager Paul Owens that he was strong enough to continue pitching, but with a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning, he gave up a double to Rick Dempsey, who moved to third on a wild pitch before scoring the tying run on Benny Ayala's pinch single. Al Holland then relieved Lefty, and Ayala scored after a single and a booted grounder. Baltimore won all three games at The Vet for the title.

1982: Cardinals 6, Brewers 2. This was the Willie McGee Game. He was a rookie and found a place in St. Louis by doing it all: Two homers off Pete Vuckovich, four RBIs, and two sterling defensive plays. McGee made a leaping catch of a 400-foot Molitor drive in the first inning and robbed Gorman Thomas of a homer in the ninth with a grab above the fence. Although Darrell Porter was series MVP, McGee gave a spark in this game and the Redbirds won a tough series in seven.

It should be noted that the last three times a team has won Game 3 after a 1-1 split, the team won on the road: 1993, 1997 and 2002. New York was playing Tuesday's game in South Florida after losing Game 1 and then winning Game 2 at Yankee Stadium.

Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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