LOS ANGELES — Game 7. You know what that means. It’s the final game of the season, the final game of a terrific, back-and-forth World Series, the final game to create one more hero.
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“I feel like I haven’t slept since the Cubs series,” Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger said after Game 6.
Nobody on the Dodgers or Astros may sleep before this one. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a great one. This is the 39th winner-take-all game in World Series history. The home team is 19-19 in the previous 38. These games have often been defined by great pitching: Eight pitchers have thrown complete-game shutouts, including Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Dizzy Dean. Two Game 7s have ended with walk-off hits.
In my humble opinion, there are seven Game 7s that rise above the others — and I say that with apologies to 2014 (Madison Bumgarner), 1997 (Marlins win in 11 innings), 1975 (Reds beat Red Sox in the ninth), 1965 (Koufax) and 1962 (Willie McCovey’s line drive).
Let’s look at those seven and how a similar scenario might apply to the Astros and Dodgers:
7. 1946: Cardinals beat Red Sox 4-3
Key highlights: The Red Sox scored twice in the eighth inning to tie the game, but the Cardinals plated the winning run in the bottom of the eighth on Enos Slaughter’s “mad dash,” when he scored from first base on Harry Walker’s two-out double as shortstop Johnny Pesky hesitated on the relay throw home.
How 2017 could follow that script: Home team wins? Mad dash? That would have to be Yasiel Puig, probably running through a stop sign at third base.
6. 1955: Dodgers beat Yankees 2-0
Key highlights: Brooklyn finally won its only World Series, beating the hated Yankees — at Yankee Stadium no less. Johnny Podres, a 23-year-old lefty, went the distance, throwing an eight-hit shutout. A big play came in the sixth inning when Yogi Berra lined a ball down the left-field line with two on and no outs. Sandy Amoros, just in the game as a defensive replacement, made a great catch, and the Dodgers doubled off Gil McDougald at first base.
2017: Young starter wins on the road? Lance McCullers fits that comparison perfectly, having just turned 24 years old. Get this: Podres missed some time with a sore back in 1955; McCullers missed time this year with back discomfort. Both of their fathers were also pitchers: McCullers’ dad played in the majors; Joe Podres played semi-pro baseball into his 40s. Johnny Podres was known as a bady kid; McCullers isn’t exactly lacking in confidence.
5. 1924: Senators beat Giants 4-3 in 12 innings
Key highlights: The Giants took a 3-1 lead with three runs in the sixth, but the Senators tied it in the bottom of the eighth on a bad-hop two-run single past third baseman Fred Lindstrom and then scored the winning in the 12th with help from two errors. But the big story: The great Walter Johnson, the greatest pitcher of his generation, came on in the ninth and threw four scoreless innings to finally win a World Series.
4. 2001: Diamondbacks beat Yankees 3-2
Key highlights: Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling were scoreless until the sixth inning, when Arizona took a 1-0 lead. The Yankees tied it in the seventh and grabbed the lead on Alfonso Soriano’s home run in the eighth. In the bottom of the ninth, the Diamondbacks improbably rallied off the great Mariano Rivera, with Luis Gonzalez’s blooper scoring the winning run.
2017: Improbably rallying in the bottom of the ninth off Ken Giles doesn’t seem like a likely scenario at this point. So maybe the more apt comparison would be the Astros rallying for two runs off Kenley Jansen in the top of the ninth, with Jose Altuve dropping in the winning hit.
3. 1991: Twins beat Braves 1-0 in 10 innings
Key highlights: Jack Morris went the distance to outduel John Smoltz, escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the eighth inning. Dan Gladden led off the bottom of the 10th with a hustle double and later scored on pinch-hitter Gene Larkin’s base hit. Manager Tom Kelly’s quote on leaving Morris in: “Ah, hell, it’s only a game.”
2017: Yu Darvish goes 10 innings? OK, not in this era. But here’s a similarity between the two: In 1991, Morris was essentially a hired gun for the Twins, signing a one-year contract with Minnesota. He left as a free agent after the season for Toronto, playing just the one year in Minnesota. Darvish is also a hired gun, acquired at the trade deadline, and potentially leaving after the season as a free agent.
2. 2016: Cubs beat Indians 8-7 in 10 innings
Key highlights: The Cubs took 5-1 and 6-3 leads, thanks in part to a home run from backup catcher David Ross, who didn’t even start the game. Rajai Davis tied the game with his dramatic three-run homer off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth. After a short rain delay, Kyle Schwarber started a two-run rally in the 10th with a base hit, and the Cubs held on the bottom of the inning as Mike Montgomery got Michael Martinez for the final out.
2017: That’s a lot going on. The Ross part sounds kind of like Yasmani Grandal coming off the bench to hit a home run for the Dodgers. The Davis part sounds like Josh Reddick hitting one off Kenley Jansen. Or maybe it’s Enrique Hernandez hitting one off Justin Verlander — yes, making a surprise relief appearance. The Schwarber part sounds maybe like Andre Ethier starting the winning rally. The final out? Maybe that’s Josh Fields getting Juan Centeno. Wait, except the 2016 game went extra innings and the visiting team won, so maybe it’s Francisco Liriano getting Charlie Culberson for the final out. I have a headache.
1. 1960: Pirates beat Yankees 10-9
Key highlights: The Pirates took an early 4-0 lead, but the Yankees scored four in the sixth for a 5-4 lead. The Yankees made it 7-4 in the top of the eighth, but the Pirates scored five runs … only to see the Yankees tie it in the ninth. Bill Mazeroski then led off the bottom of the ninth and hit his iconic walk-off home run.
2017: This one is easy. Mazeroski is in the Hall of Fame, a borderline candidate pbaded over by the BBWAA before finally being elected by the Veterans Committee. Without the Game 7 home run, he probably doesn’t make it. Which means Chase Utley will hit the second Game 7 walk-off home run in World Series history.