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Final Game of 2011

First of all, wow, game six was a game for the ages. 'Nuff said. The momentum swings, comebacks, and puzzling/dubious decisions made in the late innings (particularly by the Rangers) made for incredible theater. That would have been one of the most amazing games of the regular season, and for such a gem to take place on such a pressure-packed stage is a treasure to celebrate (except for Rangers fans, of course).

Now, I have to admit, I come in with a significant bias to this post. I have to work through the entirety of game seven, including at least the first 6 or 7 innings of extra innings if it were to go that long. I'm missing the whole game, and that's a tough pill to swallow. So, on some level it is therapeutic to say, quite simply, tonight's game between the Rangers and Cardinals will likely be a letdown.

From a practical standpoint, it makes sense. Kyle Lohse pinch hit last night because the Cardinals were out of bench players (at least it was only to bunt). C.J. Wilson was rather literally the last pitcher the Rangers could call on, and he was up in their bullpen as David Freese fashioned his own version of the Gateway Arch from home plate to the center field berm. These are a couple spent teams heading into the final and deciding game (which is one reason game six was so epic). Fatigued teams aren't the most likely to produce memorable moments.

History suggests an anticlimactic game seven as well. Consider some other seven-game World Series:
  • 2002, Angels/Giants - The Giants were up 5-0 late in game six, seemingly about ready to count the outs until their first World Championship since moving to San Francisco. A three-run home run in the seventh from Scott Spiezio got the Angels on the board, and the rally continued into the eighth. 6-5, Angels, in a remarkable comeback. Game 7 ended up 4-1, Angels, and might be best remembered for who started and won it: John Lackey, a rookie at the time, starting the type of massive game that rookies just don't ever start. Game seven wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't incredible.
  • 2001, D'Backs/Yankees - Certainly, Luis Gonzalez's jam shot up the middle off Mariano Rivera to win game seven is one of the better World Series memories in recent history. While game seven gave us a memorable moment, game six gave us none. Arizona won, 15-2. Doesn't compare at all to 2011 Cardinals/Rangers.
  • 1997, Marlins/Indians - Edgar Renteria's single up the middle to bring home Craig Counsell with the pennant-winning run is another good memory from somewhat contemporary history, but game six was simply nice. 4-1 Indians, final. Again, no comparison to the game six we just saw last night.
  • 1991, Twins/Braves - This is a fly in the ointment for my argument. Game six was epic, highlighted by Kirby Puckett's game-saving grab in center field, followed later by his walk-off home run. Then, in game seven, Jack Morris pitched a 10-inning shutout to give the Twins enough time to bring home the lone run scored in game seven. Both games six and seven were incredible. Not coincidentally, this is one of a handful of series in the conversation for greatest of all-time.
  • 1987, Twins/Cardinals - This series went seven games, but didn't really have any memorable games.
  • 1986, Mets/Red Sox - The series forever known thanks to Bill Buckner's error wasn't won on Buckner's fateful night. That moment came in game six. While game seven was good in its own right, a back-and-forth affair ultimately won by the Mets 8-5, it still is overshadowed by game six.
  • 1985, Royals/Cardinals - The line score for this one is as awkward as you'll ever find, thanks to Don Denkinger's famed blown call at first base (ever seen a team win by losing 1-0?). It will always stand as one of the worst blown calls in baseball history. Maybe the game was artificially memorable, but it undoubtedly led to an anticlimactic game 7: 11-0, Royals.
  • 1982, Cardinals/Brewers - Another seven-game series without any really memorable games.
  • 1979, Pirates/Orioles - This series was definitely before my time. A quick glance at the box scores reveals some close contests early on, but a run of nice-but-not-memorable games near the end. Probably why this seven-game series tends to fade into the woodwork.
  • 1975, Reds/Red Sox - Carlton Fisk's iconic waving the ball fair as he hopped down the first base line took place in game six. It kept the Red Sox alive against "The Big Red Machine," and hopes of breaking Babe Ruth's curse alive. It wasn't meant to be though, as the Reds won in game seven, driving in the winning run in the top of the ninth. While Fisk's home run stole the show in this series, it's littered with quality games. This is another series that often gets mentioned among the greatest of all time.
There are many other, older, seven-game World Series, but 1975 is a nice stopping point. Truly, the 2011 World Series is already destined to be remembered as a great one. It has the three-home-run game from Albert Pujols, and now game six. It is those types of moments that propel World Series to legendary levels.

The reality is that tonight's game seven will likely feel like a flop, given the high expectations that this series has set. With that said, anything short of a flop should propel this World Series into the discussion for greatest of all-time.