Day after day, from the inaugural Wild Card Friday through a Division Series that batted 4-for-4 in going the distance and into the League Championship Series, baseball's postseason has delivered thrillers that have uplifted spirits and broken hearts, showing the best the sport has to offer on a nonstop highlight reel.
Cue up yet another elimination game, this one Monday between the Cardinals and Giants to determine which of them will join the Tigers in the World Series, starting Wednesday at the NLCS winner's ballpark. It'll be Matt Cain for the Giants and Kyle Lohse for the Cardinals in an 8 p.m. ET first pitch Monday night for all the National League marbles.
In an October in which being in trouble and having no room for error has produced some of the most inspiring comebacks in recent postseason memory, two teams that have defined that never-say-die attitude have one more game on the brink.
"We've had our backs to the wall, both teams have, and you're seeing a great series here," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's good for baseball, a seventh game. You look at the first series, all the games went five games. This is what makes this game even more exciting."
Really, this has become just about as exciting as it could get.
Since the Division Series era began in 1995, this marks the first time that five of the six series leading up to the World Series went the distance. The most prior to this October was four in 2003, when two Division Series went to five and both LCS matchups went to seven.
The only outlier this year, of course, is the Detroit Tigers, who are still licking their chops after their convincing sweep of the Yankees. They spent Sunday working out at Comerica Park, even putting together a seven-inning scrimmage that included some of their Minor Leaguers from instructional league.
"This is huge," Tigers outfielder Quintin Berry said. "I think this is a very smart thing to do, get out here and get work in, not just sit around here and wait."
Now, a team that swept and a team that went all seven games will meet in the World Series for just the fourth time since the LCS expanded to a seven-game format in 1985. Each time, the team going the distance won the World Series -- the Red Sox in 2007, the Cardinals in 2006 and the Dodgers in 1988. Among those, 2007 was a sweep and the other two were won in five games.
The Tigers are obviously doing what they can to avoid that 2006 fate, which explains the scrimmage in front of zero fans Sunday.
More than an NL team lying in wait would, the Tigers do have a few things to iron out before beginning the World Series, be it in St. Louis or San Francisco.
There is the matter of getting pitchers some work in the batting cage, because they'll be getting their first hitting assignments since the Tigers' last venture into Interleague Play on June 22 at Pittsburgh. There's also the need for a little more PFP -- pitchers' fielding practice -- because bunts are more likely to come into play in the NL park as well. The Tigers will get in another workout Monday.
In San Francisco, it'll be the real deal, and the Cardinals now find themselves on the defensive a bit, having lost two straight and now facing a Game 7 on the road.
"It's one game, winner take all. Whatever happened today is going to have no effect on what happens tomorrow," Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso said after Game 6. "We won a one-game playoff in Atlanta. We won a big Game 5 in Washington. And now before we move on, we have to win a Game 7 here."
That the 2012 postseason has one of the sport's ultimate showdowns makes perfect sense. That it's the Giants and Cardinals in it makes even more sense, since they're to blame for much of the chaos that has become the trademark of this October.
For more than two weeks now, the 2012 postseason has tirelessly put fans and teams through the wringer. Two consecutive days of Game 5 doubleheaders in the Division Series, teams facing elimination, momentum switching by the inning. Through 32 postseason contests, there have been 17 outcomes of two runs or fewer, nine won by a single run.
A Game 7? But of course.
These two teams have led the parade of remarkable comebacks this postseason, so one more elimination game fits the October 2012 script perfectly.
"I think everyone knows what's at stake," said Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay. "We want to keep playing. We want to get to the next level, the World Series. We've got to win one game. And I'm sure they feel the same way, so we've got to show up to play tomorrow. It's going to be exciting."