Not much compares to the drama and mystique of a Game 7 in the World Series -- but a Game 6 is as close as it gets.
One team enters with a chance to clinch a World Series title, while the other is battling to keep its season alive and force one of those winner-take-all Game 7s. Past Game 6 classics have etched into our collective memory the names of Hall of Famers who lived up to their superstar billing and role players who had career-defining moments.
While Game 6 of the 2021 World Series ended in a decisive, title-clinching 7-0 win for the Braves over the Astros, each of the two Game 6 showdowns before that were thrilling. In 2019, the Nationals got a terrific start from Stephen Strasburg, a big homer from Juan Soto and rallied against the Astros to force a Game 7 they also would go on to win. In 2020, the Dodgers clinched a long-awaited championship with a rally of their own, after Rays manager Kevin Cash's controversial decision to remove starter Blake Snell in the sixth.
Certainly, there is no definitive way to measure the "best" of the past Game 6s, and fans of different teams will have conflicting opinions on the matter. But in an attempt to come to an objective answer, we first narrowed the list down to a top 10 based on both teams' average leverage index, a stat that measures the magnitude of each plate appearance. We then ranked those 10 by awarding three points for each lead change, two points for each tie (not counting 0-0) and one point for each extra inning played.
The points have been tallied, and the results are in. Here is a countdown of the most exciting Game 6s in World Series history:
1. Oct. 27, 2011: Cardinals 10, Rangers 9
Texas took a 7-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth and had St. Louis down to its last strike before David Freese's game-tying triple over the head of right fielder Nelson Cruz. A Josh Hamilton two-run homer in the 10th put the Rangers back in front, but the Cardinals again survived being down to their last strike, as Lance Berkman knotted things up with an RBI single. Freese then played hero once more with his walk-off homer in the 11th, and St. Louis took Game 7 the next night.
2. Oct. 25, 1986: Mets 6, Red Sox 5
The Red Sox, trying to close out their first championship since 1918, lost a 3-2 lead when Gary Carter hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth. Boston scored twice in the 10th, including Dave Henderson's leadoff homer, but with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the frame, things unraveled. After three straight singles, a wild pitch and Mookie Wilson's grounder through the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner, the Mets walked off to set up their Game 7 triumph.
3-T. Oct. 21, 1975: Red Sox 7, Reds 6
Facing elimination, Boston rallied from a 6-3 deficit when Bernie Carbo launched a two-out, two-strike, three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth. The game then stretched to the 12th, when the Sox got out of a two-on, one-out jam before Carlton Fisk led off the bottom of the frame with a blast that just managed to stay fair as it cleared the Green Monster and ricocheted off the foul pole. Unfortunately for Boston, Cincinnati still took Game 7 and the Series.
3-T. Oct. 7, 1935: Tigers 4, Cubs 3
In a 3-3 game in the top of the ninth, Chicago got the potential winning run to third with a leadoff triple by Stan Hack. But Detroit starter Tommy Bridges wiggled out of the jam to keep things tied. Cubs starter Larry French had no such luck in the bottom of the ninth, surrendering a two-out, World Series-clinching walk-off single to Goose Goslin.
5-T. Oct. 26, 1991: Twins 4, Braves 3
The day before Minnesota's Jack Morris won his famous duel with John Smoltz to clinch the World Series, the Twins were just trying to survive. The game was knotted at 3-3 heading to the bottom of the 11th, when Atlanta put Game 1 starter Charlie Leibrandt on the mound in relief. Minnesota's Kirby Puckett greeted the left-hander with a drive over the left-center-field wall at the Metrodome, forcing a Game 7.
5-T. Oct. 24, 1992: Blue Jays 4, Braves 3
Though not as famous as Toronto's Game 6 win on Joe Carter's walk-off homer a year later, this Game 6 had a similar game-changing hit in the ninth inning of what proved to be an 11-inning battle. The Blue Jays led, 2-1, in the bottom of the ninth when the Braves' Otis Nixon hit a game-tying RBI single to send it to extras. Dave Winfield, playing at age 40, knocked a two-out double in the top of the 11th to bring home two runs for the Blue Jays.
Atlanta came oh-so-close to tying it up once again in in the bottom half, but pinch-runner Smoltz was left on third base as the potential tying run after Nixon was unable to execute a drag bunt attempt. The Blue Jays threw out Nixon at first to clinch the title, bringing the World Series trophy north of the border for the first time in history.
7. Oct. 8, 1945: Cubs 8, Tigers 7
The 1945 Cubs were on the brink of elimination when they welcomed the Tigers to Wrigley Field for Game 6, but Chicago jumped out to a 7-3 lead -- only to see it wiped away by a four-run rally by Detroit in the eighth. The game remained tied until the bottom of the 12th, when Stan Hack doubled home pinch-runner Bill Schuster to deliver a walk-off 8-7 win for the North Siders. It would all be for naught, however, as the Cubs went on to lose Game 7.
8. Oct. 16, 1971: Orioles 3, Pirates 2
Reliever Bob Moose got the start for Pittsburgh -- making him the sixth starter for the Pirates in the first six games of the series -- and held Baltimore scoreless for the first five innings. But the defending-champion Orioles showed their mettle, scoring a run in both the sixth and seventh innings to tie the game at 2-2. In the bottom of the 10th, Frank Robinson tagged up and dashed home to score the game-winning run on a sac fly by Brooks Robinson, sending the World Series to Game 7. The Bucs would prevail the next day, however, claiming the franchise's first title in 11 years.
9. Oct. 26, 1985: Royals 2, Cardinals 1
Otherwise known as the "Don Denkinger Game," this contest began with a terrific pitchers' duel, with Danny Cox of the Cardinals and Leibrandt of the Royals trading zeros for the first seven innings. St. Louis finally broke through against Leibrandt with an RBI single by Brian Harper to give the Cards a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth. Rookie Todd Worrell came on to try to close out a title for the Redbirds in the ninth, but Denkinger -- the first-base umpire -- called Kansas City's Jorge Orta safe at first on a ground ball, despite video replay clearly showing he was out. Pinch-hitter Dane Iorg would later deliver a bases-loaded single to score two runs and deliver a controversial walk-off win to the Royals, who would complete their comeback from a 3-1 series deficit with an 11-0 win the next evening.
10. Oct. 9, 1956: Dodgers 1, Yankees 0
One of only three contests in World Series history to remain scoreless through the first nine innings, this game between two fierce intracity rivals featured brilliant complete-game performances by Brooklyn's Clem Labine and New York's Bob Turley. The Dodgers' winning run in the bottom of the 10th was classic small ball -- a walk by Jim Gilliam, a sacrifice bunt by Pee Wee Reese and an intentional walk to Duke Snider before Jackie Robinson knocked the walk-off single to left. The Yankees' offense would get revenge the following day in a dominant 9-0 win in Game 7 at Ebbets Field.