Home field looking less like an advantage in '12

Home field looking less like an advantage in '12

One clear theme has emerged in this newly expanded postseason world:

Home crowds are having to watch a lot of visiting celebrations on their turf.

If the Cardinals or Orioles win their respective Division Series Friday on the road, the Major League record of five road clinchers in a single postseason already would be matched. If both teams win, the record is topped -- even before the League Championship Series round

The road team clinched a series five times in each of these postseasons: 1998, 2003-05 and 2010. MLB expanded the field in 1995 to three rounds, equaling seven total series.

For 2012, a fourth tier was added with a single Wild Card Game in each league, meaning nine possible clinchers, and those two knockout games definitely established a trend. Baltimore won at Texas and St. Louis moved on in Atlanta.

The Giants won all three of their series on the road in claiming the 2010 World Series title, and Bruce Bochy's club just extended that streak into 2012 by coming back from 0-2 to win Game 5 of the National League Division Series at Cincinnati.

Later that night, the Tigers took a different route but still overcame the other team's supposed home-field advantage. Justin Verlander led the way as Detroit clinched at Oakland.

Four clinchers so far, all on the road.

Two more Game 5s are scheduled for Friday on TBS. The Orioles are at the Yankees at 5 p.m. ET, followed by Cardinals at Nationals at 8:30.

The only precedent for four Division Series clinchers by the road teams was in 2009, when the Yankees celebrated at Minnesota, Angels at Boston, Dodgers at St. Louis and Phillies at Colorado.

The format for this year's Division Series was changed from 2-2-1 to 2-3, with the first two games at the home of the team with the lesser record and up to the last three at the home of the so-called favorite. It is a one-year-only change, needed to accommodate the Wild Card round, so next year it goes back to 2-2-1, where the team with the better record opens at home.

Naturally, the home edge is more tenuous early in a postseason, when series are shorter -- especially when including knockout games. Will the home field gradually mean more in the best-of-seven formats of the LCS and World Series? The NL has home-field advantage in the World Series later this month, and the Giants, Cardinals or Nationals will hope that means a third straight championship for the National League.

Before 1995, there was one other seven-series postseason: 1981, necessitated by that year's work stoppage. There were four road clinchers then, with the Dodgers winning the NL pennant at Montreal and then eliminating the Yankees on their turf, much to George Steinbrenner's dismay.

Other than the 2010 Giants, only one team has "won-out" on the road -- celebrating each of its postseason clinchers there. That was the 2005 White Sox, who clinched the ALDS at Boston in a three-game sweep; the pennant in Game 5 at Anaheim; and then the World Series sweep at Houston.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.