LOS ANGELES -- You knew this World Series would give us a Game 7, didn't you? Sure, you did. How perfect. How appropriate. This is the only way a World Series this good, a World Series this close and this tense and this utterly captivating should end.Besides that, there has
LOS ANGELES -- You knew this World Series would give us a Game 7, didn't you? Sure, you did. How perfect. How appropriate. This is the only way a World Series this good, a World Series this close and this tense and this utterly captivating should end.
Besides that, there has never been a World Series Game 7 at Dodger Stadium, and isn't that the proper finishing touch for the first matchup of 100-win teams in 47 years?
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If you thought Los Angeles sports fans were too cool, too removed, Game 6 should have changed your mind. Dodger Stadium has never been louder than it was on Tuesday, when the Dodgers beat the Astros, 3-1, to force Game 7.
There were 54,128 fans packed into the place, and they showed up roaring with every pitch and ready to do their part. The Dodgers said they were energized and inspired by the environment.
Now they'll get a Game 7 at home as the reward for having baseball's best record during the 2017 regular season. If you're emotionally invested in either of these teams, good luck. You're in for a long, fretful Wednesday leading up to the first pitch. On the other hand, that's why we love this stuff.
"Never been a part of a [World Series] Game 7," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. "So this is when you're a young kid and you're kind of trying to play through all the heroes and heroics and talking about a Game 7 in the World Series, and here we are."
These are the moments we, as fans, roll around in our hearts and minds forever. That's the thing Benjamin Zobrist learned in 2016 after helping the Cubs win for the first time in 108 years.
"It's how you play in the backyard of your house as a kid -- imagine you're in Game 7 of the World Series," Houston shortstop Carlos Correa said. "It's a dream come true to be part of it."
If you're a baseball fan, you're allowed to kick back and enjoy the show, with all its expectations and nerves. Prepare to see Clayton Kershaw pitching in relief with a chance to redeem his tough start in Game 5.
Prepare to see Dallas Keuchel as well, or maybe even Justin Verlander, who threw 93 pitches on Tuesday. Everything is on the table in a Game 7. There aren't many of them.
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"How often do you get to play in Game 7 of a World Series?" Kershaw asked. "Can't even fathom winning it. It's going to be a fun nine innings tomorrow."
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Not including Game 8 of the 1912 World Series (which was played because of a tie in Game 2), this is the 38th winner-take-all World Series Game 7, and here's how unpredictable these things are. In the previous 37 contests, visiting teams hold a 19-18 advantage. Home teams won nine straight World Series Game 7s from 1982-2011 before the 2014 Royals lost to the Giants in Kansas City, and last year's Indians lost to the Cubs in Cleveland.
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"You've got the two best teams in baseball going head to head," Roberts said. "Like we've talked about from the beginning, these two teams mirror one another. And the compete and fight in both teams is the most important thing I see as similarities. But again, we worked all year long to have home-field advantage, and here we are."
Lance McCullers will start for the Astros, Yu Darvish for the Dodgers. But neither will be have much margin for error. In a postseason when managers have had quick hooks for starting pitchers, the hook will be quicker than ever in a game that they can't allow to get out of hand, especially with virtually their entire staffs available for relief duty.
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"Come ready to play," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "This is the biggest stage, the best stage, the opportunity to win the World Series in Game 7. That was immediately the message when the last out was made."
The Dodgers have not won a World Series in 29 years, but the Astros have never won one in their 56 seasons of existence. Houston showed up at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday hoping to change that, leading the World Series, 3-2, with its ace, Verlander, on the mound. He did his job, striking out nine and allowing just two runs in six innings.
But L.A. got a blueprint kind of game from its pitching staff, beginning with 4 2/3 innings from starter Rich Hill and a six-out save from closer Kenley Jansen.
In between, Roberts played the matchups perfectly, as Brandon Morrow, Tony Watson and Kenta Maeda combined for 2 1/3 shutout innings. The Dodgers pieced together a two-run rally in the bottom of the sixth, and that would be all they needed.
When Hinch was asked if there would be any carryover after the Astros missed a chance to close it out, he had a quick answer.
"If you carry any baggage into Game 7 of the World Series, then you're certainly misguided with your attention," Hinch said. "We will come as positive as ever, ready to play. It is what looks to be one of the most exhilarating games that we're ever going to be a part of. Who can guarantee that you're going to be in Game 7 ever again? Come ready to play. Have your best attitude, have your best opportunity."
Opportunity? That's the best part.
"If you would have told me in Spring Training I would get a chance to play Game 7 of the World Series on Nov. 1, I would say 'I'm in,'" Houston outfielder George Springer said. "Obviously, the goal is to win. I don't care how we do it. This is awesome."
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.