For the love of the game . . .

Last night was proof positive why baseball is the greatest game in all of sport.  There is no clock ticking down.  There’s no wondering whether or not your team has enough time left to win.  In baseball, the team with the bat in their hands last always has a chance to win.  That can’t be said about football, basketball, hockey or any other sport (at least, no sport anyone pays attention to – I have no idea about games like cricket or polo or things like that).  Because in the other sports there actually is a point at which you can turn off the TV because there’s absolutely NO chance the losing team could come back and win.  Simply because there’s no way they can score the necessary number of points in the time left in the game.  That’s why in football, a team can just kneel down a few times at the end, or just run the ball six or seven times to insure victory.  That’s why in basketball, a team can just casually pass the ball around for a while to run out the clock.  Nothing like that exists in baseball, and that’s exactly what made last night one of the greatest World Series games in history.

The St. Louis Cardinals came back to tie the game twice with two outs in what would have been the final inning – both times with two strikes on the batter!  And, it wouldn’t just have been the final inning of the game – it would have been the final inning of the season.  Think about it . . . if either Lance Berkman or David Freese had missed the ball, the game, series, and season would have been over and the Rangers would have been celebrating their first championship in team history.  Thinking about this led me to wonder – how many teams have come that close to a world championship without capitalizing on it?

The 2001 Yankees took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th in game 7.  But, Rivera was only able to get one out before the Diamondbacks scored two runs to win the series.  The ’97 Indians also had a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the 9th in game 7, and the Marlins tied it with one out, and went on to win it in the 11th.  The ’85 Cardinals had a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th in game 6, and with a little help from a bad call at first base, the Royals scored 2 to win the game with one out.  Then the Royals proceeded to win game 7 for their only championship in history.  The 1911 (that’s right – I did my homework) Philadelphia Athletics had a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the 9th in game 5 (when they had a 3 games to 1 lead), but saw the New York Giants score twice with two outs to tie it, and then scored once in the bottom of the 10th to win it.  The A’s, however, would win decisively in game 6, 13-2.

But, the only thing in World Series history comparable to what happened last night, was game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets.  The Red Sox took a 5-3 lead in the top of the 10th inning, then got two quick outs in the bottom of the 10th.  Well, most everyone knows what happened after that – three singles, a wild pitch, and an error by Bill Buckner, and the Mets made an amazing comeback to win game six (the last two batters both had 2 strikes on them).  They followed that up with an 8-5 win in game 7, and the Red Sox had one of the most gut-wrenching losses in their history.

The question is, can the Rangers recover?  After being within one strike of a championship, only to see it slip away . . . can they regroup to win game 7?  Or has the momentum swung too far in the Cardinals’ direction?  One thing we’ll know for sure – the team with the bat in their hands last will have a chance to win the game.

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