A Great Game 7

There have been many great World Series Game 7s in the 118 year history of the October Spectacle.

From Bill Mazeroski’s series winning homer in the bottom of the 9th to beat the Yankees in 1960, to Jack Morris’s 10 inning shutout victory in 1991 over the Atlanta Braves, there has never been a shortage of sudden death drama. With everything riding on a hot pitcher’s arm or a swift knock of the bat, and the prospect of heading home for the winter after nearly reaching the pinnacle of baseball, the champions (and losers as well) have distinguished (and sometimes tarnished) their baseball legacy for all-time.

A recent banger of a series was the 2014 edition between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants. The Royals had gone almost 30 years without a championship, while the Giants were trying to create a dynasty after winning in 2010 and 2012. The teams had traded blowout victories in the first 2 games in KC, then the Giants took 2 out of 3 at home to take a 3-2 series lead, before a 10-0 rout by the Royals set the stage for the ultimate showdown.

In the top of the 2nd, fan favorite “Panda” Pablo Sandoval was hit by a pitch leading off, then Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt hit consecutive singles, and the Giants had something going with no outs. The Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie would escape with minimal damage, only allowing 2 runs, both on sacrifice flies. The Royals would answer in the bottom of the inning, getting a single by Billy Butler and a double by Alex Gordon off of former Moneyball Oakland A’s great Tim Hudson, who had now crossed the bay after a stint with the Atlanta Braves, and was pitching for San Francisco. That made the score 2-1.  Catcher Salvador Perez was plunked to make it 1st and 2nd, a flyball off the bat of Moose Mike Moustakas chased Gordon to 3rd base, and then Omar Infante drove him home with a sacrifice fly to centerfield to tie the score.

In the top of the 4th, Sandoval would get it started for the Giants again, leading off with a single. Pence then singled as well, and then a flyball by 1st baseman Brandon Belt sent Pablo to 3rd. Mike Morse would then drive in the Panda to put the Giants up once again, 3-2.

Manager Bruce Bochy, who had already lead the Giants to 2 championships, was not wasting any time bringing in his star lefty, Madison Bumgarner, as he entered in the bottom of the 5th inning. “Madbum” had already won games 1 and 5, and some may have questioned Bochy’s decision to bring his hurler in on such short rest, as Omar Infante led off with a single. But the lanky lefty quickly reaffirmed his status as world beater,  this would be the only Royal that reached base against him until the bottom of the 9th. The Giants would mount minor offensive threats in the final innings, but the excellent Royal bullpen held the score at 3-2.

Bumgarner would then strike out Eric Hosmer swinging to start the final frame, and he made quick work of Billy Butler as well with a pop fly to the 1st baseman. Suddenly the Giants were 1 out away from an every-other-year three-peat. Not so fast, as Alex Gordon would step in to either be the hero or the goat for the Missouri faithful in attendance. On the 2nd pitch, he would knock the ball out to left centerfield, which was misplayed by the centerfielder Gregor Blanco and allowed Gordo to scamper all the way to 3rd, where he was held up by the 3rd base coach. Some may question this decision, as the throw was cutoff and came in to the middle of the infield. Some say that Gordon, who was reasonably fleet of foot,may have been able to make it completely around the bases to tie the game.Whatever the case, the Royals now had a runner at 3rd base with 2 outs, with the excellent hitting catcher Salvador Perez stepping in.

Salvy fouled off the 1st pitch, looked at the 2nd one for a ball, fouled off the 3rd to make the count 1 and 2, and then looked at the 4th pitch to make it 2 balls and 2 strikes. With the baseball world riding on every pitch, he fouled off the next one too. The next pitch came in high, and Perez lofted it softly into 3rd base foul territory, where it was swiftly caught by Sandoval, to make the Giants thrice champions, and the team of the 2010s. Bumgarner’s performance was nothing short of extraordinary considering he had already won 2 games in the series, and he had just saved another and put the Giants on top of the World once again, to make this one of the greatest finishes to a baseball season anyone had ever seen.

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