Entering Game 4, only one postseason game in the previous 15 days had experienced a lead change. And that was a paltry 1-0 early-inning lead. After the final inning of the Nats-Cards division series, nothing mind-searing has happened. Of fine games, there were plenty. But the kind of screaming hair-pulling madness that consumes many postseasons was absent. It wasn’t until this final game that we saw a game sway to and fro — the Giants leading 1-0, trailing 2-1, leading, 3-2, then being tied at 3 before finally winning. In doing so, they ended one of the most remarkable, and perhaps least appreciated, October title runs in baseball history. After escaping elimination six times, they swept the sweepers.
Case, and season closed.
Virtually every sports fan has a story of a Game 7 that broke their hearts.
At least, those sports fans who enjoy games incorporating a best-of-seven round somewhere — baseball, hockey, basketball … There’s Game 5 do-or-die contests in baseball too, in the Division Series, but “Game 5” doesn’t quite come with the same gravitas. Game 7 is the ultimate. Six games played, three up and three down, and two undoubtedly tired teams must then fight one last time, winner take all. They are sports all wrapped up in one defining game: the highest highs, the lowest lows, the nail-biting and teeth-gnashing and incoherent joyful shouting and some of the most heart-racing seconds you will ever experience.
I’ve got plenty of Game 7 stories, having grown up a hockey fan. It’s where the awe and terror of those words was instilled in me, bound into my instincts. Say “Game 7” to those of us in the know and our hearts begin to pound and our hands start to sweat. They’re the scariest words in sports. Those nights are the best day of someone’s sporting life, and the worst day of someone else’s.
Last season was my first MLB playoffs, and we all know well what Game 7 broke many hearts (and buoyed up many others) then. If we’re going to be perfectly accurate, though, it was Game 6 that did the breaking; the next was just the cherry on top. It ensured that I’ll never be able to confidently say “Down to their last strike” about the Cardinals again—a valuable lesson that no game is ever certain, no lead protected, until the game is over. The Rangers had so many chances, were so close every time, and could never quite make it.
It’s the bottom of the ninth at Great American Ball Park. With one out, Joey Votto is at second base, Ryan Ludwick at first. The score is 6-4 in favour of San Francisco, Zack Cozart having crossed the plate moments before to stoke the fires of Cincinnati’s last hopes.
Jay Bruce, representing the winning run, steps up to the plate.
This game shouldn’t be happening, really. The Giants were humbled in Games 1 and 2 at home, almost getting no-hit in the second, their two best pitching hopes barely making it through the fifth each time. Somehow they staved off elimination two nights in a row, erasing the Reds’ commanding lead and forcing a do-or-die game. And here they are—doing, they hope.
The tying run has come to the plate in the sixth inning, and again in the seventh, and the eighth, and the ninth. If they do it, it will not be without a battle.
Romo delivers. Fastball, fouled off—strike one.
The Yankees trail 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth. Alex Rodriguez gets pinch-hit for by Raul Ibanez.
I love baseball and I hate it. 2-2 heading to the tenth. Go Baltimore.
EDIT: Raul Ibanez II, Electric Boogaloo
Yankees 3 - Orioles 2 (12). Baseball, man.