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ALCS anything but over

ALCS anything but over

CLEVELAND -- The last two times the Indians went to the World Series, they finished it off with a Game 6 victory on the road. In that sense, they shouldn't have to sweat where they're at heading into this weekend at Fenway Park.

As Indians third baseman Casey Blake put it, "Who wouldn't like the position we're in?"

History, however, is mixed.

Three years ago, the Astros won three straight from the Cardinals at home and headed to St. Louis with a chance to finish it out. The Cards won Games 6 and 7 at Busch Stadium to earn the right to face the Red Sox, who won back-to-back games at Yankee Stadium to finish off their incredible comeback.

In 1996, the Cardinals had a 3-1 series lead on the Braves and a chance to finish off the defending World Series champions in St. Louis, but ended up leaving town on a sour note with a 14-0 loss. That gave the Braves new life, which they carried to Atlanta, where a 3-1 victory in Game 6 set up a 15-0 Game 7 blowout.

It's not that easy. That's why, while 10 out of the previous 13 teams in best-of-seven ALCS history with 3-1 series leads have ended up winning the series, eight of them did it by winning Game 5. Once it gets to Game 6, it's basically a coin flip. Two teams -- the 2000 Yankees and '97 Indians -- lost Game 5 and came back to win Game 6, and another won Game 7, but three teams ended up losing the whole thing.

In other words, get to Game 7 and it's trouble. That's the kind of hope that will envelop Beantown on Saturday night as the hint of magic from the Red Sox's 2004 postseason is rekindled.

Expand the numbers to all best-of-7 series, including the NLCS World Series, and the Indians can have a little more confidence. Sixty-five previous series have gone to a 3-1 advantage, and 55 have finished it off. But again, 34 of those teams did it by winning Game 5 -- most recently the Cardinals last year over the Tigers to prevent the World Series from heading back to Detroit.

Seventeen other teams lost Game 5 and won Game 6. But if it reaches Game 7, the team that once held the 3-1 advantage is 4-10 in those deciding contests. Moreover, no team has lost a 3-1 series advantage and won in seven games since the 1992 Braves beat the Pirates on Sid Bream's legendary dash home to complete an Atlanta comeback.

However, there's another wild card thrown into this series, and it's the extra off-day. Once the Indians and Red Sox arrive in Boston, they'll be on their second off-day in three days. The Indians will not work out at Fenway, instead choosing to give their team a rest.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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