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very essence of the term is synonymous with winner-take-all, pressure-packed thrills:
A 2012 postseason that has seen more than its share of elimination games will include one more before the World Series begins, with the Giants and Cardinals stretching their best-of-seven National League Championship Series to the limit.
The Giants, who have won five consecutive games under the threat of elimination this October, will host the Cardinals for Game 7 of the NLCS on Monday (8 p.m. ET on FOX), with Giants ace Matt Cain facing the Cardinals' Kyle Lohse. It's the ninth time the NLCS has gone the distance in the 27 years it has been contested since 1985, when it expanded to a seven-game format.
"There's only one better Game 7 than that, and that's Game 7 of the World Series," Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt pointed out after the Giants' 6-1 victory Sunday night.
Yes, this is Game 7, the game everyone wants to play in -- unless, of course, they can avoid it, a la the Tigers, who swept their way into the World Series. They get to wait out the winner of Monday's game, which will be the 51st Game 7 in postseason history, the 15th in LCS annals.
This is the territory of Aaron Boone, whose walk-off homer in 2003 for the Yankees beat the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. This is where Johnny Damon's grand slam led to a Game 7 victory as the Red Sox finished off the biggest comeback in postseason history in 2004.
Game 7 is where a Luis Gonzalez blooper, an Edgar Renteria single up the middle or a Sid Bream slide can set off the type of celebration only a do-or-die game can spark.
Oh, and this is where the Cardinals went last year after their amazing comeback in Game 6 of the World Series, finishing the job against the Rangers.
Game 7 says it all, and both teams are ready for the task ahead. The Giants, who weren't pushed to the brink in any of their 2010 postseason series leading up to a World Series title, have won those five straight facing elimination this October. The Cardinals have faced six such situations since the start of the 2011 postseason, winning all six, including three this month.
"We've played a bunch of elimination games the last few years," said Lohse. "We have pretty much the same crew of guys, and we know it's time to get it done. We've got to go in there, wipe the slate clean. We've got one game to play."
LCS Game 7s
Certainly, the Cardinals would have preferred this series ending in six, but now they're headed for their seventh Game 7 since 1985. They've won four of the first six, including three in the NLCS and one in the World Series.
The position they find themselves in this time, however, is not ideal. Going back to 1976, a home team has won Game 6 of a best-of-seven series, forcing a Game 7, on 12 occasions. The home team has then gone on to win Game 7 as well in 11 of those instances.
The only exception? The Cardinals in the 2006 NLCS, when they lost Game 6 at Shea Stadium and then won Game 7 against the Mets.
Actually, it was in the 2011 World Series that the Cardinals had their last and best experience with Game 7. Following their remarkable comeback from being one strike away from elimination in Game 6, the Cardinals closed out the series with a victory the next day.
As for the Giants, Game 7 has not been kind over the years. They lost the finale of the 2002 World Series to the Angels, following a heartbreaking loss in Game 6, and the Cardinals knocked them off in the 1987 NLCS.
Going back even further into the history books, the Giants have yet to close out a seven-game series of any kind. They lost in a Game 7 in the World Series in 1962 -- a painful ending with Willie McCovey lining out to the Yankees' Bobby Richardson with the winning run in scoring position -- and before that in 1924 and 1912.
The 1987 NLCS between these two clubs wound up sticking in the craw of the Giants and their fans for years, because they got within a victory of their first World Series appearance in 25 years but then lost the final two games of the series in St. Louis, Danny Cox going the distance in a 6-0 Game 7 victory.
The Cardinals have a sad Game 7 story of their own, dating back to 1996 -- Tony La Russa's first of his 16 years managing the club -- when they took a 3-1 series lead before losing Game 5 at home and then twice in Atlanta, going down hard in Game 7, 15-0.
You don't have to look back too far to find positive examples of playing with their backs against the wall for both teams, however. The Giants won an unprecedented three straight road games to overtake the Reds in the NL Division Series, and the Cardinals were down to their last strike before staging a comeback victory in Game 5 against the Nationals.
Cardinals veteran Lance Berkman looks at this Game 7 and sees two teams that are prepared for this kind of showdown.
"I don't think you're going to see a choke factor," Berkman said. "I think you'll see two teams competing at a high level."
Indeed, both teams have shown that in staging remarkable comebacks already this postseason. After forcing a Game 7, Giants have company on the ledge of elimination.
Said Affeldt: "Now we've got two teams in the same boat."
Game 7 will do that, and only one team will sail on to the World Series after this one.