MLB World Series: The home field disadvantage

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: A fan holds up a Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros sign during Game 6 of the 2019 World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: A fan holds up a Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros sign during Game 6 of the 2019 World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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Houston worked hard to win the right to host World Series Game 7, but that isn’t turning out to be an advantage

The Houston Astros, who had long since wrapped up their post-season berth, labored into late September to ensure home-field advantage throughout the World Series.

Now that extra labor has come to fruition; the Astros will play a seventh game against the Washington Nationals Wednesday night.

And they’ll play it at home.

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In this particular Series, of course, it’s another question entirely whether that’s an advantage. For the first time in World Series history, the visiting team has won all of the first six games.

The prevailing assumption is that the home team has an advantage in a Game 7 situation. That’s why the Astros, having already clinched the division title, went 12-2 during the season’s final two weeks. They wanted last ups Wednesday night.

The funny thing is that the record shows home-field to be no special advantage in a Game 7 setting. There have been 39 previous World Series Game 7s, and the home team’s record is an entirely neutral 20-19.

The last three times a World Series Game 7 was contested, the visiting team won: The Astros in Los Angeles in 2017, the Cubs in Cleveland in 2016, and the Giants in Kansas City in 2014.

The last home team to actually win a Game 7 was the St. Louis Cardinals, who defeated the Texas Rangers 6-2 in St. Louis to win the 2011 title.

Prior to the Giants’ victory over the Royals in the decisive 2014 game, there was a long stretch when the home team had all the better of it. Between 1980 and 2013, the record of home teams in World Series Game 7s was 9-0.

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Based purely on the teams’ performances to date, the odds appear to favor Washington. After all, the home team is winless in this entire World Series. But in a broader sense, the Nats face even more daunting precedent Wednesday. In the entire history of major sport post-season play – that’s MLB, the NBA, and the NHL – the visiting team has never won every game of any seven-game post-season series.