A New York team down 0-2 in the World Series? It’s been done.

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NEW YORK — We talked yesterday and this morning about how dire a thing it is to be down 0-2 and, heaven forbid, 0-3 in a World Series. And, to be sure, most Mets fans are walking around with a knot in their stomach over how bad things have started out for them.

But rather than dwell on the negatives of that predicament, let’s think positively. For, as many have noted, teams have come back from being down 0-2 before. Indeed, the last two teams to do it called New York their home.

1986: From Snoozer to Thriller 

The 1986 World Series between the Red Sox and Mets started out a decent bit like this one. Game 1 was close and Game 2 a six-run blowout. It wasn’t exactly the same, of course. Boston’s Bruce Hurst absolutely dominated the Mets in the opener so they never had the chances this year’s club had in Game 1. Whether that makes you feel better or worse about the current club’s lot is probably a matter of taste. Personally, I think the 1986 team had a much bigger reason to feel demoralized after the first game. That team had a hell of an offensive attack — they lead the NL in offense that year — and it was totally neutralized.

That year’s Game 2 had at least a little in common with Game 2 on Wednesday, at least if you squinted a little. Johnny Cueto is no 1986 Roger Clemens so his facing off versus Jacob deGrom was not billed as a matchup for the ages, but deGrom can fill the Dwight Gooden role well enough, at least insofar as he is the best of the Mets’ young aces. But, as was the case in 1986, the young ace was not on his game and the opposition took advantage. The Mets left New York and headed for Boston that year having to have thought that they had fired their best shots but missed.

Everything changed in Game 3, however, when the Mets were jump-started by Lenny Dykstra’s leadoff homer, after which they put up three more in the first inning. Yordano Ventura is a demonstrative, colorful and arguably excitable guy. Can this year’s Mets team get to him early like the 1986 edition did against the demonstrative, colorful and excitable Oil Can Boyd? If they do, we’re back to a competitive World Series by 9pm this evening, just as we were back in 1986. The gloom of the past two days lifted.

1996: The Birth of the Yankees Dynsasty

Ten years later the other New York team found themselves in the same boat, down 0-2 to the Braves. We think of the late 90s Yankees as some inevitable juggernaut and the 1990s Braves as the team that couldn’t win the big one, but at the time the Derek Jeter Yankees hadn’t won anything yet and the Braves were the reigning World Series champions. Having been utterly blown out in a 12-1 Game 1 and then shut out 4-0 by Greg Maddux and Mark Wohlers in Game 2, there was every reason in the world to write off the Yankees. And those of us who are old enough to remember that Series vividly remember the Yankees being written off by many, many people.

Everyone remembers Jim Leyritz hitting his dramatic homer in Game 4 which totally broke the Braves’ back, but Game 3 is what Mets fans should be thinking about today. There David Cone put up a gutsy, solid performance and the Yankees’ then-moribund offense manufactured a couple of early runs — one by taking advantage of a Braves’ error — to get to Tom Glavine. Mariano Rivera wasn’t yet MARIANO RIVERA and he gave up a run in the setup role, but the Yankees held on. It wasn’t a terribly dramatic game. It had little excitement to it, really. But it was baseball survival at its best. Doing little things, getting a little good luck and simply not folding. The next night Leyritz would jump on that Mark Wohlers slider (A slider?! Why a slider?! ARRGH!) and the dynasty would be born, but Game 4 would arguably have been academic if the Yankees didn’t hang tough in Game 3.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but as the 1986 Mets and 1996 Yankees showed, it doesn’t take much to change the momentum in the third game of a seven game series. One big inning. A few balls bouncing in your direction. Just some ordinary plays in what, all of the pomp and circumstance of the World Series notwithstanding, is still an ordinary baseball game.

Blue Jays clinch 1st playoff spot since 2016, beat Yanks 4-1

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Barred from playing in their own ballpark this year because of COVID-19, the vagabond Toronto Blue Jays have found a home in the playoffs.

The slumping New York Yankees, meanwhile, look likely to play on the road in the postseason, where they’ve struggled all year.

Hyun Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the Blue Jays clinched their first postseason spot since 2016, beating the Yankees 4-1 Thursday night and further damaging New York’s chances of hosting a first-round series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games following a 10-game winning stretch and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

“We’ve got to get it rolling again, obviously, if we’re going to get to where we want to go,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I’m confident we can do it.

New York went 21-7 at home this season but was 11-18 on the road. Boone said he’s not concerned about that split even as a potential road playoff series looms next week.

“We’ve got to get ourselves in order and start playing really good baseball if we’re going to give ourselves a chance,” Boone said.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason. The Blue Jays had endured three losing campaigns since their previous playoff trip, going 67-95 last season.

“I’m just so proud of my club and everything we’ve gone through all year,” second-year manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Canada’s federal government refused to allow games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre this season, citing the closed Canada-U.S. border and the travel risk associated with the pandemic. Stuck on the road to start the season, the Blue Jays eventually ended up at their Triple-A ballpark, Sahlen Field in Buffalo, but didn’t gripe about their fate.

“They never complained,” Montoyo said. “They had their mind set on getting to this moment right now.”

Blue Jays players embraced after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it, donning blue T-shirts that said “Respect Toronto.”

“This is something we want to make an every year thing,” infielder Cavan Biggio said. “For us, we’re happy, we’re excited we’re able to put ourselves in this position, but this is only the start of hopefully something special for a long time.”

The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by two games for second place in the AL East. Both teams have three games remaining. Toronto hosts Baltimore in Buffalo this weekend while the Yankees host the Marlins.

New York failed to hit a homer for the fourth straight game, matching its longest streak since June 2016. It’s the first time the Yankees have failed to homer in a four-game series since doing so at Texas in July 2013.

“I’m concerned with the way we’ve played recently,” outfielder Brett Gardner said. “Any time you’re not playing your best baseball and the postseason is right around the corner, something needs to be corrected rather quickly.”

New York loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez flied out to deep center, where Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch at the wall.

“It’s good to see him get a really good swing off in a big spot,” Boone said of Sanchez. “Just unfortunately, that short.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto, his eighth.

Ryu (5-2) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Luke Voit and Hicks hit back-to-back singles to begin the sixth but Ryu struck out Giancarlo Stanton, got Gleyber Torres to fly out, and retired Gio Urshela on a groundball.

“He’s an ace and he did what an ace does,” Montoyo said.

The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

Dolis got four outs for his fifth save in six chances.

Guerrero opened the scoring with a solo homer off left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-3) in the second.

The Blue Jays extended their lead when Biggio and Bo Bichette hit back-to-back, two-out doubles in the third.

Toronto made it 4-0 in the sixth. Grichuk chased Montgomery with a single and Guerrero singled off Adam Ottavino before rookie Alejandro Kirk hit a two-out, two-run double.

Montgomery lost for the first time in four starts. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays finished 5-5 in their 10-game regular season series against the Yankees.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (elbow) was activated off the injured list and RHP Wilmer Font was designated for assignment. . RHP Jordan Romano (strained right middle finger) will throw a second bullpen session Friday.

Yankees: Aaron Judge came on as a pinch-hitter but is expected to start all three remaining regular season games, Boone said.

SHARED DUTY

Boone said he expects to use both Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka at catcher in the postseason. Higashioka has hit well while working with ace Gerrit Cole, while Sanchez has struggled with both offense and his defense down the stretch.

SEVEN UP

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh. It had been an MLB-record 88 games since RHP Jacob Waguespack pitched into the seventh at Dodger Stadium last year.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25) starts Friday as New York returns home to begin a three-game series against Miami. RHP Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.12) starts for the Marlins.

Blue Jays: RHP Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.86) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore. The Orioles have not named a starter.