MLB: Top Seven Game 7's
What could possibly be more dramatic than a Game 7? Every pitch holds bigger weight, as one swing can change the fortunes of a franchise for years to come.
Tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants get together for the 51st Game 7 in MLB history and the 15th in League Championship history.
In honor of their bout, let's take a look back through the best Game 7's in baseball lore.
7. 2006 NLCS
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This game will always be remembered for two lasting images.
First, Endy Chavez's incredible catch, robbing Scott Rolen of a home run. Second, a motionless Carlos Beltran watching a 12-6 Adam Wainwright curveball loop by him for a called strike three, ending the Mets' season.
The unlikely hero of this game for St. Louis was a then 24-year-old catcher named Yadier Molina, who was hitting only .219 in 2005. His homerun over the left field wall with one out in the top of the 9th inning gave St. Louis a 3-1 lead, catapulting them to the World Series. They would go on to win their first World Series title since 1984.
6. 1975 World Series
Thanks to Carlton Fisk's iconic Game 6 home run, where he waved the ball fair, many don't remember that the home run only extended the series to a 7th game. Despite being lost in history, Game 7 was in no way anti-climactic.
Things looked good for Boston early, as they got to starter Don Gullet for three runs in the third inning. Bill Lee shut down the vaunted Big Red Machine, who won the National League West by 20 game, for five innings. In the sixth, however, he threw his famous Eephus pitch. Hall of Fame first baseman Tony Perez blasted the slow moving ball over the Green Monster for a two-run home run, cutting the Red Sox lead to 3-2.
The Reds were able to tie the game in the seventh on a Pete Rose single, setting up a 3-3 game heading into the 9th inning. In the 9th, Joe Morgan's bloop single to score Ken Griffey proved to be the winning run, solidifying the Big Red Machine's legacy.
5. 2003 ALCS
This game gave Bucky "Bleeping" Dent some company among most hated Yankees as Aaron "Bleeping" Boone hit a home run off of Tim Wakefield in the bottom of the 11th. The blast sent the Yankees to the World Series, and shot the relatively unknown Boone into the baseball storybooks.
For Red Sox fans, this game was another reminder of the Curse of the Bambino, as the Red Sox seemingly couldn't overcome the Evil Empire. The loss resulted in the firing of Grady Little, who was heavily criticized for leaving a weary Pedro Martinez in for the 8th inning with the Sox up 5-2.
Martinez had struggled all year when asked to pitch in the late innings of games in which he had thrown more than 100 pitches, and this game was no different. Martinez gave up a double to Jeter and a single to Bernie Williams, prompting a mound visit by Little. He shockingly left Pedro in the game, only to give up two consecutive doubles, to Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada, to tie the game at 5-5. In the 11th, Aaron Boone did the rest.
4. 1997 World Series
This World Series pitted the Indians from the championship-starved city of Cleveland against the Florida Marlins, making their first World Series appearance in only their fifth season in existence.
Game 7 pitted veteran lefty Al Leiter against Indians 21-year-old right-hander Jaret Wright. Both Leiter and Wright were effective and each pitched six innings. Wright held the Marlins to one earned run, while Leiter allowed two runs.
The Marlins tied the game at two in the bottom of the 9th, scoring on a Craig Counsell sacrifice fly off of Indians closer Jose Mesa. The blown save continues to haunt Indians fans to this day.
The game moved to the 11th, where Charles Nagy was given the ball for Cleveland. After Nagy loaded the bases with two outs, 22-year-old Renteria stepped to the plate. He singled on a ground ball up the middle that hit off Nagy's glove, scoring an exuberant Counsell, who jumped on home plate with his fists in the air in celebration, with the series-winning run.
3. 2001 World Series
In the first World Series ever played in November, New York seemed poised to continue their dynasty. With Mariano Rivera, widely regarded as the best closer of all time, on the mound with a 2-1 in the 9th, things looked bleak for the Diamondbacks.
Curt Schilling had given Arizona a masterful 7.1 innings with nine strikeouts and just two earned runs. Randy Johnson, a night after starting and throwing 104 pitches, came in to pitch an inning and a third of no hit relief; yet, the Diamondbacks appeared to be done for.
Rivera was brought on in the 8th for a two-inning save and struck out the side. In the ninth, Rivera made an errant throw on Jay Bell's bunt attempt, setting the stage for Tony Womack's game tying double down the right-field line. Rivera then hit Counsell to load the bases for Luis Gonzalez.
On an 0–1 pitch, Luis Gonzalez lofted a soft single over the drawn-in Derek Jeter that barely reached the outfield grass, plating Jay Bell with the winning run. This ended New York's bid for a fourth consecutive title and brought Arizona its first championship in just its fourth year of existence, making the Diamondbacks the fastest expansion team to win a World Series.
2. 1960 World Series
Not many of you out there were alive for this one. However, it continues to be regarded as one of the most exciting games of baseball ever played. Never before had a World Series been won in the final game with one swing of the bat.
In 1960, this is exactly what Bill Mazeroski did. In his career, Mazeroski was known more for his ability with his glove, not his bat. Nevertheless, the 5'11" 183 pound "Maz" won the Pirates their first World Series title since 1925 with one of his 138 career home runs. His long drive over the left field wall at Forbes Field has endured as the classic example of a clutch baseball moment, shaping Mazeroski's legacy over 50 years hence.
Years later, Mickey Mantle was quoted as saying that losing the 1960 series was the biggest disappointment of his career, the only loss, amateur or professional, he cried actual tears over.
1. 1991 World Seires
And here's No. 1! As in, the number of total runs scored in this duel between two of the most dominating pitchers of the decade. Game 7 was Jack Morris vs. John Smoltz. Morris played the role of wily veteran, while the young Smoltz relied on his arsenal of power pitching to get the job done.
John Smoltz threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings, however, the indomitable Morris topped his performance by throwing 126 pitches in a 10-inning shutout of the Braves. Smoltz did not lose the seventh game—he was lifted for a reliever, Mike Stanton, with two outs in the eighth inning. Disgusted, Smoltz flipped the ball to his manager, Bobby Cox, on the mound. A different reliever, Alejandro Pena, lost it in the 10th.
Morris, on the other hand, rebuffed several attempts by manager Tom Kelly to remove him during the game, remaining on the mound from the first pitch to the last.
This game was a purists delight, as each of the game's 275 pitches were bathed in drama. This Game 7 had no errors, two unintentional walks, four double plays and no runs until the very end. Morris' performance epitomized the tenacity with which we all hope to approach every endeavor in our lives; he just did it with millions watching in Game 7 of the World Series.