Last night’s epic game six was so compelling, that tonight’s game seven almost seems anti-climatic. As is sometimes the case when the World Series goes the distance, it is the sixth game that proves to be the most memorable (see 1975, 1985, 1986, and 2002 for a handful of examples). So, before settling in to see if baseball can serve up a suitable encore for its season finale, it seems appropriate that we take one last look back at what was truly one of the most remarkable games in World Series history. For Cardinals’ fans it will be a raucous stroll down memory lane, while the Rangers’ faithful might want to cover to their eyes, but for those who love the game of baseball, game six will take a lofty place in World Series lore.
So Close, Yet So Far…
After 50 seasons without a championship, the fourth longest streak for any team since its inception, the Texas Rangers were tantalizingly close to finally tasting World Series champagne. On not one, but two occasions, the Rangers came within one strike of tossing their gloves up in the air and piling on top of each other somewhere around the pitcher’s mound. Instead, they were forced to watch the Cardinals celebrate on the field.
Will the Rangers be able to recover? Only twice before had a team come within one strike of winning the World Series only to see the lead slip away. Most famously, the Red Sox suffered that cruel fate on Bob Stanley’s wild pitch in game six of the 1986 World Series, and it took them another 18 years to finally get the last out. The 1992 Blue Jays rebounded much more quickly, however. After Tom Henke surrendered a game tying single to Otis Nixon on an 0-2 count, his teammates picked him up by rallying to win the game, and the World Series, in the 11th inning.
Saving The Best For Last?
In addition to the two leads squandered by Neftali Feliz and Scott Feldman in the ninth and tenth, respectively, Alexi Ogando was also tagged with a blown save in the sixth inning. As a result, the Rangers became only the second team in World Series history to suffer three blown saves in the same game. If Texas’ fans are looking for a good omen, the only other team to “accomplish” that feat was the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates, who actually won the very same deciding game seven in which they continued to let the lead slip away.
Of course, the Rangers would not have had the opportunity to keep blowing saves if the Cardinals’ bullpen hadn’t been just as bad. In fact, poor pitching out of the bullpen has been a theme of the entire series, which is a little bit ironic when you consider both teams advanced to the World Series on the strength of their relief pitching. In the series, the Cardinals’ and Rangers’ relievers have posted ERAs of 5.16 and 7.58, respectively, so perhaps both teams would be better off if the bullpen phone stopped working?
I Don’t Believe What I Just Saw
Before last night, Kirk Gibson’s walk-off homer against Dennis Eckersley in the opening game of the 1988 World Series was not only the most clutch hit in the history of the post season, as defined by Win Probability Added (WPA), but it also ranked as the top game. Although Gibson retains that title for one at bat, David Freese’s combined performance in last night’s game vaulted him into the top spot. Freese’s game tying triple in the ninth (WPA of 54%) and game winning home run in the eleventh (38%) helped give the third baseman a cumulative score of .969, which easily surpassed Gibson’s .870. It’s also worth noting that overshadowed by Freese’s wild night was the almost as historic clutch performance of teammate Lance Berkman, whose first inning home run and game tying single with two outs in the tenth helped the right fielder compile a WPA of .832, the fourth highest total in postseason play.
Top-10 Highest WPA in a Post Season Game
|David Freese||10/27/2011||WS||6||STL||TEX||W 10-9||0.969|
|Kirk Gibson||10/15/1988||WS||1||LAD||OAK||W 5-4||0.870|
|Steve Garvey||10/6/1984||NLCS||4||SDP||CHC||W 7-5||0.854|
|Lance Berkman||10/27/2011||WS||6||STL||TEX||W 10-9||0.832|
|Charlie Keller||10/5/1941||WS||4||NYY||BRO||W 7-4||0.826|
|Cookie Lavagetto||10/3/1947||WS||4||BRO||NYY||W 3-2||0.822|
|Michael Tucker||10/12/1998||NLCS||5||ATL||SDP||W 7-6||0.812|
|Brian Jordan||10/8/1999||NLDS||3||ATL||HOU||W 5-3||0.806|
|Stan Hack||10/8/1945||WS||6||CHC||DET||W 8-7||0.806|
|Jimmy Rollins||10/19/2009||NLCS||4||PHI||LAD||W 5-4||0.754|
We’ll See You Tomorrow Night
As David Freese’s home run sailed over the centerfield fence, FOX broadcaster Joe Buck punctuated the drama with an ode to his late, great father, who first uttered the phrase “We’ll See You Tomorrow Night” after Kirby Puckett’s walk-off homer won game six of the 1991 World Series. In addition to be a touching tribute, Buck’s call was also a little bit eerie because he and Tim McCarver had discussed the phrase earlier in the game while recalling memorable World Series walk-offs. Just innings later, Freese would add his name to that list, which only includes 14 other players.
Walk-Off Home Runs in World Series History
|10/27/2011||6||David Freese||STL||Mark Lowe||TEX||tied 9-9||b11|
|10/23/2005||2||Scott Podsednik||CHW||Brad Lidge||HOU||tied 6-6||b9|
|10/22/2003||4||Alex Gonzalez||FLA||Jeff Weaver||NYY||tied 3-3||b12|
|10/31/2001||4||Derek Jeter||NYY||Byung-Hyun Kim||ARI||tied 3-3||b10|
|10/26/1999||3||Chad Curtis||NYY||Mike Remlinger||ATL||tied 5-5||b10|
|10/23/1993||6||Joe Carter||TOR||Mitch Williams||PHI||dwn 6-5||b9|
|10/26/1991||6||Kirby Puckett||MIN||Charlie Leibrandt||ATL||tied 3-3||b11|
|10/18/1988||3||Mark McGwire||OAK||Jay Howell||LAD||tied 1-1||b9|
|10/15/1988||1||Kirk Gibson||LAD||Dennis Eckersley||OAK||dwn 4-3||b9|
|10/21/1975||6||Carlton Fisk||BOS||Pat Darcy||CIN||tied 6-6||b12|
|10/10/1964||3||Mickey Mantle||NYY||Barney Schultz||STL||tied 1-1||b9|
|10/13/1960||7||Bill Mazeroski||PIT||Ralph Terry||NYY||tied 9-9||b9|
|10/6/1957||4||Eddie Mathews||MLN||Bob Grim||NYY||tied 5-5||b10|
|9/29/1954||1||Dusty Rhodes||NYG||Bob Lemon||CLE||tied 2-2||b10|
|10/5/1949||1||Tommy Henrich||NYY||Don Newcombe||BRO||tied 0-0||b9|
If we’re lucky, this year’s World Series will take its queue from 1991, the year in which Puckett’s game winner segued into a classic pitcher’s duel between John Smoltz and Jack Morris that many believe is the greatest game ever played in the Fall Classic. However, even if game seven follows the less memorable path of other finales overshadowed by their predecessor, the 2011 World Series will still go down as one of the most dramatic. Unfortunately, only one team can claim victory tonight, but thanks to the amazing moments produced by both clubs, the game of baseball is the real winner.