Past Game 7s packed with drama
Memorable moments highlight LCS winner-take-all finales
ST. PETERSBURG -- More than a few of the best moments in postseason history over the last 20 years have happened in Game 7 of the League Championship Series. The Red Sox are making a library of them.
Even after two world championships, Boston fans still insert a word in the middle of Aaron Boone's name after his walk-off home run for the Yankees ended the 2003 ALCS and sent the Red Sox to defeat. Johnny Damon's grand slam the following year helped heal some of the wounds, and the Red Sox have been rolling in elimination games ever since.
Sunday's Game 7 against the Rays will be nothing new for them, but it'll be another feat in the record books. While they'll be the fifth team to go to Game 7 in back-to-back LCS, they'll be the first to do it against two different opponents.
The Yankees were their opponents in both 2003 and '04. The Braves and Pirates went the distance against each other in the 1991 and '92 NLCS. This time, the Red Sox will try to hand Tampa Bay the same fate they gave Cleveland a year ago.
Given the history, there's a decent chance it'll come with drama, win or lose.
That incredible catch over the fence by the Mets a couple years ago? That was Game 7 of the NLCS against the Cardinals, and it was Endy Chavez. He couldn't catch Yadier Molina's go-ahead homer in the ninth, though.
Francisco Cabrera's single to left bringing home Sid Bream charging home ahead of Barry Bonds' throw? That was the 1991 NLCS, and Cabrera's name remains a bad term to use around Pittsburgh. John Smoltz's shutout of the Buccos in Game 7 a year earlier didn't have quite the drama, but it had the same effect.
Sometimes, the drama is all about a pitcher allowing no drama. Josh Beckett's four innings of relief for the Marlins on two days' rest in Game 7 of the NLCS helped continue the Cubs' curse, and it began to define Beckett's career as a clutch postseason pitcher. Three pitchers have tossed shutouts in Game 7 -- Smoltz, Orel Hershiser for the Dodgers over the Mets in 1988, and the Cardinals' Danny Cox against the Giants the previous October.
Sometimes Game 7 completes an incredible comeback journey, as the Red Sox are hoping Sunday's game does. Other times, that one last chance is the alarm bell that wakes up a favorite team to finally punch its ticket to the World Series. Either way, the situation creates the drama before a pitch is even thrown.
Been there, done that
|Six times a team rallying from 3-1 has taken the series in seven games, most recently the 2007 Red Sox. Boston is the only franchise to rally from multiple 3-1 deficits (1986, 2004, '07) to win an LCS.|
After Gm 4
|'85 ALCS||Tor., 3-1||K.C., 2-0||K.C., 5-3||K.C., 6-2|
|'86 ALCS||Cal., 3-1||Bos., 7-6||Bos., 10-4||Bos., 8-1|
|'96 NLCS||Stl., 3-1||Atl., 14-0||Atl., 3-1||Atl., 15-0|
|'03 NLCS||Chi., 3-1||Fla., 4-0||Fla., 8-3||Fla., 9-6|
|'04 ALCS||NYY, 3-1||Bos., 5-4||Bos., 4-2||Bos., 10-3|
|'07 ALCS||Cle., 3-1||Bos., 7-1||Bos., 12-2||Bos., 11-2|
2007 ALCS: Red Sox 11, Indians 2 at Fenway Park
Once Boston came back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona to even up the series, Game 7 felt like a mismatch at Fenway. As it turned out, Jake Westbrook recovered from a few early Red Sox runs to keep the game close against Daisuke Matsuzaka before a two-run seventh and six-run eighth -- most of it off Rafael Betancourt -- sealed it for Boston. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis combined for five runs, six hits and seven RBIs atop the Red Sox order.
2006 NLCS: Cardinals 3, Mets 1 at Shea Stadium
Jeff Suppan and Oliver Perez dueled for much of the evening with help from the aforementioned Chavez catch to rob Scott Rolen of a home run in the sixth. The score was still 1-1 in the ninth when Rolen got his revenge with a one-out single ahead of Molina's game-changing blast. The Mets had back-to-back singles to lead off the bottom of the inning and loaded the bases with two outs, but Adam Wainwright ended the threat with a called third strike to Carlos Beltran.
2004 ALCS: Red Sox 10, Yankees 3 at Yankee Stadium
The Red Sox had to win three straight elimination games after losing the first three contests just to get to this point. But with the deciding game in the Bronx, anything was possible. David Ortiz's two-run homer in the first inning and Damon's grand slam in the second silenced New York and sent the Sox on their way to breaking the curse.
2004 NLCS: Cardinals 5, Astros 2 at Busch Stadium
Every team won at home through the first six games of the series. But while the Cards had that edge, the Astros had Roger Clemens on the mound. He held St. Louis to a run on three hits through five innings before Albert Pujols' two-out RBI double and Rolen's two-run homer put the Cardinals up for good.
2003 ALCS: Yankees 6, Red Sox 5 (11 innings) at Yankee Stadium
A game that will forever be remembered for Boone's homer also had the infamous decision by Red Sox manager Grady Little to let Pedro Martinez try to work out of trouble in the eighth with a 5-2 lead. Four straight one-out hits, three of them doubles, led to three runs and a tie game heading into extra innings. One 11th-inning pitch from Tim Wakefield continued the Yankees' October heroics.
2003 NLCS: Marlins 9, Cubs 6 at Wrigley Field
One night after Steve Bartman fell into Cubs infamy, the Marlins completed their comeback from a 3-1 series deficit by quieting a slugfest that broke out in the early innings. The Cubs overcame Miguel Cabrera's three-run homer in the first inning to take a 5-3 lead after three, but Derrek Lee's go-ahead single capped a three-run fifth and gave Beckett a lead to protect in long relief.
1996 NLCS: Braves 15, Cardinals 0 at Fulton County Stadium
Atlanta's vaunted pitching staff held St. Louis to one run over the final three games to overcome a 3-1 series deficit. Tom Glavine not only continued the mastery in Game 7 with seven innings of three-hit ball, he took the drama out of the game with a bases-clearing triple as part of a six-run opening inning. Fred McGriff went 3-for-5 with a home run, four runs scored and four RBIs.
1992 NLCS: Braves 3, Pirates 2 at Fulton County Stadium
The Pirates stormed back from a 3-1 series deficit to force the deciding game and take a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning thanks to a masterful pitching performance from Doug Drabek. A double, a Jose Lind error and a walk loaded the bases with no one out in the ninth, setting up the Braves for a sacrifice fly and then Cabrera's pinch-hit, two-run single to win it. It's the only time that a team has come back from a 3-1 deficit to tie an LCS and not won Game 7.
1991 NLCS: Braves 4, Pirates 0 at Three Rivers Stadium
Compared to Game 7 in '92, the previous deciding game between the Braves and Pirates didn't have much drama, mainly because Smoltz took the drama out of it. Once Brian Hunter's two-run homer off John Smiley gave Atlanta a 3-0 lead in the first inning, Smoltz recovered from back-to-back singles to get into a groove. He threw 123 pitches to finish off his six-hitter with eight strikeouts.
1988 NLCS: Dodgers 6, Mets 0 at Dodger Stadium
Hershiser lived up to his "Bulldog" nickname with a five-hitter, dispensing of the Mets with just 94 pitches. Kirk Gibson's sacrifice fly and a five-run, two-error second inning off starter Ron Darling gave Hershiser all the support he needed. Steve Sax scored twice on his way to a three-hit game. Dwight Gooden pitched three scoreless innings of relief on two days' rest, but they came too late.
1987 NLCS: Cardinals 6, Giants 0 at Busch Stadium
St. Louis pitchers held San Francisco scoreless for the final 22 innings of this series after the Giants pulled ahead to take Game 5. The final nine innings came from young Cox, who came back on three days' rest to toss a eight-hitter with no walks, five strikeouts and 16 ground balls. Jose Oquendo, who hit only one home run in the regular season and was 1-for-10 through the first six games of the series, smacked a three-run shot in the second inning off Atlee Hammaker to put the game away.
1986 ALCS: Red Sox 8, Angels 1 at Fenway Park
Everyone has heard about Dave Henderson's series-saving homer with two outs in the ninth, but that was in Game 5. The Red Sox still had to take the final two games at Boston, which they ended up doing easily. While Clemens tossed seven innings of one-run ball in Game 7, Wade Boggs' two-run homer in the second inning and Jim Rice's three-run homer in the fourth sent the Sox on to the World Series.
1985 ALCS: Royals 6, Blue Jays 2 at Exhibition Stadium
The first year of the best-of-seven LCS saw the Royals need those extra games to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and upset the Blue Jays. Bret Saberhagen, who had been hit with a comebacker off his leg in Game 3, had another drive hit him in Game 7. He left after three scoreless innings, but Charlie Leibrandt tossed 5 1/3 innings with two runs allowed to salvage what could've been a disastrous situation for the Royals bullpen. A four-run sixth off Toronto starter Dave Stieb, keyed by Jim Sundberg's bases-clearing triple, put the Royals in command.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.