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.
Yesterday was a fun one to be watching baseball.
I tuned in for the San Francisco Giants at Philadelphia Phillies because of the pitching matchup - Matt Cain versus Cole Hamels, two of the best in the game this season. It didn’t go quite according to plan, with both starters giving up a combined total of six home runs - but the best part was this:
In the top of the third inning, with the Giants down 1-0 on Chase Utley’s home run, Matt Cain stepped up to the plate and crushed a fastball to left for his first home run of the season. It was pretty cool - helping one’s own cause, etc. The game was tied.
Then in the bottom half of the frame (with the Giants now up 3-1), Cole Hamels stepped up and, well, smashed a fastball to right field. No one could quite believe it, but there it was: the first home run of Hamels’ career.
Two of the best pitchers in baseball gave up home runs to pitchers - each other - in the same inning!
Elsewhere in the National League, the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals were rolling merrily along in a scoreless game through six and a half (Matt Garza having been pulled after three with an injury scare) when the Cardinals, in the bottom of the seventh, sent 17 batters to the plate. Seventeen. That’s almost batting around twice. In the process, they scored 12 runs on 10 hits, three walks, and seven doubles; even stranger was that not a single one of those hits was a home run.
They won 12-0. I can hear the Cubs fans: “Just one bad inning …”
And of course, the Blue Jays pulled out a nice 7-3 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway, made sweeter by the fact that they had been down 3-0 after a rough second inning for Villanueva, and then stormed right back. Edwin Encarnacion joined the “denting cars at Fenway Park” club with this rocket and Carlos Villanueva ended up looking pretty solid out there, going 6.1 innings and giving up 3 earned runs on 4 hits while walking 2 and striking out 5. In the wake of continued pitching tragedies, that is a pretty bright spot.
And of course, there was this (via bluejaysgifs):