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“Being on a team in St. Louis in 2004, which was a team pretty much wire to wire was a pretty dominant team, nobody felt sorry for us at any point when we didn’t pull it off in the World Series,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a catcher the `04 runner-ups. “But you take your chances, when a team rolls like that. Typically you have enough there to win it all. It’s just a matter of the timing and guys taking advantage of the opportunities.”

This is not a phenomenon exclusive to baseball. The NFL and NHL playoffs have often been about determining which team is hottest come playoff time. The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in June as an eight seed, the New York Giants were a No. 4 when they beat New England in the Super Bowl in February.

That wasn’t the case in baseball during the pre-playoff days. The winner of the National League faced off each fall against the winner of the American League in the World Series. The team with the best record went 38-27 in those Series from 1903 through 1968, according to STATS LLC.

The postseason turned into a bit of a crap shoot once the league broke into divisions, allowing four teams to make the playoffs. The best regular season team won in seven of those 25 seasons before wild-cards were added in 1995.

“If you’re asking me, even if it’s not us, I always hope that the team that’s had the best year, they end up battling to win the World Series,” Bochy said. “But it’s a great game how we have it set up.”


AP Sports Writers R.B. Fallstrom and Ronald Blum contributed to this story.