History of Game 7: Everything you need to know

October 25th, 2023

Does it get any better than Game 7? Whether it's the World Series or the League Championship Series, a winner-take-all postseason showdown is always must-watch baseball.

In 2023, two teams won one to reach the World Series. The Rangers became the first on Monday night, taking a big step toward the first championship in franchise history with an 11-4 blowout of the Astros in ALCS Game 7 at Houston's Minute Maid Park. The D-backs became the second on Tuesday night in Philadelphia when they beat the Phillies, 4-2, in Game 7 to send Arizona to the World Series for the first time since 2001. 

With both of those matchups complete, let's take a look back at MLB Game 7 history and break down what happens when a playoff series reaches that all-important game. Here are all the Game 7 facts, figures and highlights you need to know.

• There have been 61 winner-take-all Game 7s, between the World Series and LCS, counting the 1912 World Series, which required an eighth game but only due to an earlier tie. Leaving out 2020 games played at neutral sites, home teams have gone 30-29, including the Astros and Phillies losses in the LCS.

• In Game 7 of the World Series (plus the 1912 Game 8), the home team is actually just 19-21. The visiting team has won four straight World Series Game 7s -- the Nationals over the Astros in 2019, the Astros over the Dodgers in '17, the Cubs over Cleveland in '16 and the Giants over the Royals in '14. Before that, home teams won nine in a row, going back to 1982.

• Since the LCS expanded to a best-of-seven format in 1985, true home teams (excluding neutral-site games) are 11-8 in ALCS and NLCS Game 7s.

• The Cardinals have played in the most winner-take-all Game 7s, going 11-5, including their most recent World Series championship in 2011. The Yankees (14, with a 6-8 record) are next on the list, but lost their most recent to the Astros in the 2017 ALCS. The Red Sox have also played in 10 winner-take-all Game 7s, going 4-6 but with some memorable wins, topped off by their victory over the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.

As for this year's LCS competitors, the Rangers grabbed their first victory in two tries in a Game 7, dropping the Astros to 2-4. The D-backs won their only previous chance -- beating the Yankees in a memorable Game 7 of the 2001 World Series -- prior to winning Game 7 of the '23 NLCS vs. the Phillies. 

• Only five Game 7s, and the 1912 Game 8, have gone into extra innings -- five times in the World Series and once in the ALCS (the Aaron Boone game in 2003). The home team has won five out of six times when Game 7 goes beyond the requisite nine innings. The lone road victory came in the finale to the 2016 World Series, when the Cubs beat Cleveland, 8-7, to clinch the title. The home-team wins have provided some memorable Game 7 walk-offs.

• Seven Game 7s and, again, 1912 Game 8, have ended in walk-off fashion. Two of them came in an LCS and the other six decided a World Series champion on the final play. All of the walk-offs were on hits except the Game 8 (a sacrifice fly surrendered by Christy Mathewson), but only two ended on home runs: Bill Mazeroski's game-winner for the Pirates off Yanks pitcher Ralph Terry in 1960, and Boone's dramatic solo shot off Red Sox reliever Tim Wakefield in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

• The largest margin of victory in a Game 7 is the Braves' 15-0 rout of the Cardinals to end the 1996 NLCS. St. Louis at one point held a 3-1 advantage in that series.

• Meanwhile, 18 other Game 7s have been one-run affairs -- most recently the Dodgers' 4-3 win over the Braves in the finale of the 2020 NLCS.

• For a long time, Hall of Famer Bob Gibson was the only pitcher in history to win multiple Game 7s. Gibson conquered the Yankees by winning his third start of the 1964 World Series on just two days' rest, and then he defeated the Red Sox with 10 strikeouts and two runs allowed in the final game of the 1967 Fall Classic.

But now he's been passed by Charlie Morton, who won Game 7 of both the 2017 ALCS and World Series for the Astros -- the ALCS as a starter, the World Series in relief. In 2020, he started Game 7 of the ALCS against the Astros, leading the Rays to a pennant.

• A total of 21 pitchers have gone the distance with complete-game efforts in a winner-take-all Game 7. Gibson is the only pitcher with multiple complete Game 7 efforts, having done so three times to end the 1964, '67 and '68 World Series. Thirteen pitchers have thrown a Game 7 shutout, but no one has done so since Jack Morris' legendary 10-inning scoreless start in the Twins' 1-0 win over the Braves to clinch the 1991 World Series.

• Only four pitchers have turned in a double-digit strikeout performance in a Game 7. Roger Clemens (2001 World Series), Gibson (1967 World Series), Sandy Koufax ('65 World Series) and Hal Newhouser ('45 World Series) share the record with 10.

• Clemens is the only pitcher to have started a Game 7 four times in his career. Amazingly, The Rocket did that for three teams and over a span of 19 seasons. Clemens was just 24 when he tossed seven strong innings to lead the Red Sox over the Angels in Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS at Fenway Park, but he was 42 when he was charged with the loss as the Astros dropped Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS to the Cardinals. In between, Clemens took the ball for the Yanks in the final games of the '01 World Series and '03 ALCS.

• No pitcher has saved more than one Game 7 in his career. The most innings pitched to save a Game 7 were the five scoreless frames hurled by Madison Bumgarner in his instant-classic performance to close out the Giants' 2014 World Series victory over the Royals.

• On Monday, the Rangers' Adolis García became only the fourth player to hit multiple home runs in a winner-take-all Game 7. He joined Yogi Berra for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jason Giambi for the Yanks in the 2003 ALCS against the Red Sox and Johnny Damon for the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees.

• García also became just the sixth player to notch as many as four base hits in a winner-take-all Game 7. Before him, the most recent was Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in St. Louis' 9-0 loss to the Giants in the 2012 NLCS. In fact, Molina is still the only player to go at least 4-for-4 in a Game 7.

• Hall of Famers Willie Stargell (1979 World Series) and Max Carey (1925 World Series) are the only players to club at least three extra-base hits in a winner-take-all Game 7. Both did so to help deliver the Pirates a world championship.

• No player has appeared in more Game 7s than Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle. The Yanks great played in eight winner-take-all World Series finales throughout his 18-year career -- one more than fellow Yankees Yogi Berra and Elston Howard -- and New York won four of them. Mantle hit a combined .300, slugged .533 and tallied two home runs and seven RBIs in those eight pressure-cooker games.