It’s been an interesting World Series so far, something that hasn’t happened much in the last 10 years. Since 2002, only one World Series (2011) has gone seven games. Only two others (2003 and 2009) went six.
There was the obstruction call in Game 3, one of the crazier endings to a game we’ve ever seen. There was the walk-off pick-off to end Game 4, which was also one of the crazier endings to a game we’ve ever seen. I would call the pick-off inexcusable, but I was once picked off second base to end a little league game. I was also 11 and wasn’t being paid to run the bases.
There has been the otherworldly stats of David Ortiz – he’s 11-for-15 and has carried the Red Sox offense. There has been dominant pitching on both sides – Wainwright and Lester and Wacha and even John Lackey. The Red Sox and Cardinals are the two best teams in baseball, they are two teams that are evenly matched, and it has made for some compelling theater.
And now the series goes back to Fenway, where the Red Sox have a commanding 3-2 lead. Baseball has a clear home field advantage in the regular season, but the difference is even more stark in the playoffs. It is incredibly, impossibly hard to win a Game 6 and a Game 7 on the road, and the Cardinals have a difficult road ahead of them.
Game 6 is tomorrow night. Here is something I’ve noticed – Game 6 has historically had the best World Series games. Sure, Game 7 has that amazing do-or-die, win-or-go-home feel that is so unusual to baseball. It has made for some crazy moments. Everything is magnified – a sport built on 162 games comes down to nine innings.
But Game 6’s have had some strange, unusual moments – and there seems to be a pattern about them. Let’s take a look at some.
1985: The Royals trail 3-2 as the series shifts back to Kansas City. In Game 6, the Cardinals have a 1-0 lead and are on their way to winning a World Series before Don Denkinger blows a call at first base, keeping the Royals’ rally alive. The Royals, of course, go on to win on a Dane Iorg single. In Game 7, with Don Denkinger behind the plate, the Cardinals implode. Manager Whitey Herzog gets ejected, reliever Joaquin Andujar bumps Denkinger, and the Royals win 11-0.
1986: The Mets trail 3-2 as the series shifts back to New York City. In Game 6, the Red Sox have a two-out, two-run lead with no one on base. They are one out away from winning before the Mets start a rally and win the game on a Bill Buckner error. In Game 7, the Red Sox take a 3-0 lead before the Mets rally and win 8-5.
1987: The Twins trail 3-2 as the series shifts back to Minneapolis. The Cardinals have leads in both Game 6 and Game 7, but they don’t win either. The Twins win their first-ever World Series.
1991: The Twins trail 3-2 as the series shifts back to Minneapolis. In Game 6, Kirby Puckett hits a walk-off home run in the 11th inning. Jack Buck, the legendary announcer, has one of the most famous calls in baseball history. We’ll see you … tomorrow night! In Game 7, the Braves threaten numerous times, but Jack Morris somehow shuts them out through ten innings. John Smoltz pitched pretty well too. The game goes to extras and the Twins win 1-0 on a walk-off single.
2001: The Diamondbacks trail 3-2 as the series shifts back to Phoenix. The Diamondbacks destroy the Yankees in Game 6 – it was later found out that Andy Pettitte was tipping his pitches. In Game 7, Luis Gonzalez hits a walk-off single off Mariano Riv … you know what, I don’t need to re-hash this one, you all know what happened.
2002: The Angels trail 3-2 as the series shifts back to Anaheim. In Game 6, the Giants take a 5-0 lead into the 7th before Scott Spezio hits a three-run home run and the Angels rally to win 6-5. In Game 7, the Giants take a 1-0 lead, but the Angels score four unanswered runs to win 4-1.
2011: The Cardinals trail 3-2 as the series shifts back to St. Louis. In Game 6, the Cardinals are down to their last strike, twice, before David Freese and Lance Berkman have game-tying hits in the 9th and 11th innings. In the 12th, Freese hits a walk-off home run, 20 years after Kirby Puckett did the same in Game 6. Joe Buck, Jack’s son, repeats his father’s line. We’ll see you … tomorrow night! In Game 7, the Rangers take a 2-0 lead before the Cardinals score six unanswered runs to win 6-2.
The theme here is that Game 6’s seem to feature some epic walk-off hit or blunder or amazing comeback – like, every single time. And then that team rides the wave to win Game 7. Baseball is a rational sport – the numbers bear that out. Clutch doesn’t really exist. Players generally play the same in all situations. But home teams have an almost magical quality about them in Game 6 and Game 7 of the World Series. They are 22-4 in those games since 1979, which was the last time a team won a Game 7 on the road. Which means that the Red Sox will likely win the 2013 World Series, at Fenway Park, for the first time since 1918. For baseball, this is a good thing. For me, and other Yankee fans, it is a lonely, desolate feeling.