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History backs road teams in decisive Game 5s

Away clubs have gone 13-9 in Division Series finales since '95, and 11-4 since '02

There have been 34 decisive fifth games in Major League Baseball history, including the Cardinals' 6-1 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday, and there is one more coming on Thursday: Tigers at A's on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, TBS).

That's almost how this particular brand of craziness all began.

The initial elimination Game 5s happened in both leagues in 1972. The first one was on Oct. 11, when the Pirates played at Cincinnati and George Foster scored on a walk-off wild pitch in the ninth from Bob Moose to Hal McRae, a 4-3 clincher for the National League pennant. The next day was the American League version, and it featured the A's and Tigers. That one was in Detroit, and the A's won, thanks to a Gene Tenace RBI single for a 2-1 victory. The Athletics went on to beat the Reds in the first of three consecutive World Series titles.

Road Hogs
Since 2002, the road team has won 11 of the 15 decisive Division Series Game 5s. Here is a look at those outcomes heading into Thursday's Game 5 at Oakland.
Home team in caps:
CARDINALS over Pirates
Tigers over ATHLETICS
YANKEES over Orioles
Giants over REDS
Cardinals over NATIONALS
Tigers over YANKEES
Cardinals over PHILLIES
BREWERS over D-backs
Rangers over RAYS
ANGELS over Yankees
Astros over BRAVES
Red Sox over ATHLETICS
Cubs over BRAVES
Twins over ATHLETICS
Giants over BRAVES

Many years and format changes later, the decisive Game 5 has become a fact of life and a crucial next step.

The past two years, a Division Series Game 5 victory on the road has led to an eventual parade. In 2011, the Cardinals, already having had a Rally Squirrel assist in Game 4, advanced on a Chris Carpenter Game 5 shutout at Philadelphia and went on to their 11th title. Last year, in a one-time 2-3 series format, the Giants lost the first two games at home and then won three straight at Cincinnati en route to the crown.

Here's the good news for Tigers fans: The road team has had a huge recent advantage in decisive Game 5s since the 1995 expansion of the postseason format. The road team is 13-9 overall in Game 5s since '95, and 11-4 since 2002, when both Game 5 winners were road clubs. That included the '02 Giants club that went on to win the NL pennant, and the Twins team that all "Moneyball" viewers will remember ending the season for that Billy Beane club.

Last year marked the only time that all four Division Series went the distance, and three of the four winners were road clubs -- the Tigers, Cardinals and Giants.

Starting with 1995, when the postseason was expanded to include an additional Division Series round, there are just two other examples of a club winning a Game 5 and then going on to win it all. The 2000 Yankees won Game 5 of their ALDS at Oakland, and the 2001 D-backs won at home against St. Louis in Game 5 of their NLDS on the way to their only World Series championship.

Until 1969, the postseason was purely a World Series. Then, the LCS was added in both leagues, and from 1969-84, those were best-of-five series before expanding to a best-of-seven format for '85. An exception was the strike-shortened season of '81, when the teams with the best records in each half of the season played an additional best-of-five equivalent of today's Division Series to determine LCS opponents. The Dodgers, Expos and Yankees all won decisive Game 5s in that first round, and the Dodgers went on to beat the Yankees in the World Series.

Counting all decisive Game 5s dating back to that October in 1972, when baseball fans got a look at something new, it's a 17-17 tie in elimination games.

The decisive Game 5 has left indelible memories, such as Edgar Martinez's tiebreaking and go-ahead RBIs to lead Seattle to an incredible 11-inning victory over the Yankees in 1995, the first year for the Wild Card. Now, it is time to sit back and watch one more Game 5 unfold, on TBS and Postseason.TV.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.