The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs will face off in Game 7 of the NBA Finals tonight, which got me thinking about Game 7s in the World Series. The Fall Classic has gone to a decisive Game 7 36 times, the first in 1909 and the most recent in 2011. Here's a look back at some of the more recent and notable World Series Game 7s, starting with that 2011 clash.
2011 World Series - Game 7: St. Louis Cardinals 6, Texas Rangers 2
An 11-inning classic in Game 6 set the stage for the first World Series Game 7 in nine years. The Rangers struck first against Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter, scoring a pair of runs in the first on back-to-back doubles from Josh Hamilton and Michael Young that followed Ian Kinsler's lead-off single. The Cardinals answered back in the bottom of the inning with series MVP David Freese's two-run double.
With Carpenter settling in after the rough first, the Cardinals took the lead in the third on Allen Craig's solo home run off Texas starter Matt Harrison. Rangers reliever Scott Feldman loaded the bases in the fifth with a pair of walks (one intentional) and a hit by pitch before walking Yadier Molina, forcing in a run and pushing St. Louis' lead to 4-2. C.J. Wilson relieved Feldman and hit Rafael Furcal, forcing in a second run and increasing Texas' deficit to 5-2.
2001 World Series - Game 7: Arizona Diamondbacks 3, New York Yankees 2
Coming into Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, it looked to be a pitchers' duel between the Yankees' Roger Clemens and Arizona's Curt Schilling. It lived up to the billing, with Clemens and Schilling shutting the opposing offenses out through five innings, combining to allow just five hits and strike out 14 in the first five frames. Only one of them would make it through the sixth unscathed.
Schilling struck out Alfonso Soriano and Scott Brosius to start the top of the sixth, before getting Clemens to fly out to end the inning. Clemens did not fare as well, allowing a lead-off single to Steve Finley followed by a Danny Bautista double that gave Arizona a 1-0 lead. The Yankees finally got to Schlling in the seventh, with singles from Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill and Tino Martinez combining to produce a run, tying the game at a run apiece. Soriano's home run to lead off the eighth gave New York a 2-1 lead.
The Yankees took that 2-1 lead to the ninth, where they handed the ball to Mariano Rivera for a second inning of work to face the bottom of the Diamondbacks' order, Mark Grace, Damian Miller and the pitcher's spot. Grace led off the inning with a single before Rivera threw wildly to second on Miller's bunt attempt, putting two men on with nobody out.
With one out (a force at third), Tony Womack doubled down the right-field line, tying the game at two. Rivera then hit Craig Counsell with a pitch, loading the bases for Luis Gonzalez, who slapped a single to center, scoring pinch hitter Jay Bell and winning the World Series for the Diamondbacks.
1997 World Series - Game 7: Florida Marlins 3, Cleveland Indians 2 (11 innings)
Much like the Heat and Spurs in this year's NBA Finals, the Marlins and Indians traded wins through the first six games of the 1997 World Series, with Florida winning Games 1, 3 and 5 and Cleveland taking Games 2, 4 and 6. Indians manager went with rookie Jaret Wright against Florida's Al Leiter, who had won the World Series in 1992 and 1993 with Toronto.
Cleveland got on the board first against Leiter when Tony Fernandez's two-out single in the top of the third brought home Jim Thome and Marquis Grissom, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead. The 21-year-old Wright shut down the Marlins' offense, allowing just one hit through six innings, a first inning double by Edgar Renteria. Florida's second hit of the game was a solo home run from Bobby Bonilla leading off the seventh against Wright, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
Like in 2001, Game 7 in 1997 featured a blown save, this time by Jose Mesa. With the Indians up 2-1 and the Marlins still with just two hits, Mesa gave up singles to Moises Alou and Charles Johnson in the bottom of the ninth. With men on the corners and one out, Craig Counsell hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Alou and sending the game to extra innings.
Robb Nen got Florida through the 10th and Mesa and Charles Nagy combined to do the same for Cleveland, sending the game to the 11th. Jay Powell threw a clean 11th for the Marlins, but Nagy could not do the same for the Indians. A single, error and walk loaded the bases for the Marlins with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, and Renteria came through with a single through the middle, giving the Marlins their first World Series title.
1991 World Series - Game 7: Minnesota Twins 1, Atlanta Braves 0 (10 innings)
One of the most famous Game 7s in World Series history only happened because of Kirby Puckett's walk-off home run in the 11th inning of Game 6 that inspired Jack Buck's famous call of "We'll see you tomorrow night!" that his son Joe used as a tribute to his father on David Freese's Game 6 walk-off 20 years later. Like in 1997, the pitching matchup was one of youth vs. experience, with Atlanta turning to 24-year-old John Smoltz to face Minnesota's Jack Morris, a 36-year-old who won two games in the 1984 Fall Classic with Detroit.
Smoltz and Morris engaged in an epic pitchers' duel, matching each other pitch for pitch. The Twins had the first serious threat in the third, when Dan Gladden doubled with one out and advanced to third on Chuck Knoblauch's fly out. However, Smoltz struck out Puckett to end the inning.
The Braves mounted their first serious challenge in the fifth, when Mark Lemke led off with a single, advanced to second on Rafael Belliard's sacrifice bunt and to third on Lonnie Smith's bunt single. Morris shut down the threat by inducing a pop up from Terry Pendleton and striking out Ron Gant.
Both teams threatened to score in the eighth, the Braves starting the top of the inning with a single by Smith and a double from Pendleton, but Morris got Gant to ground out to first with the infield in and induced a double play grounder from Sid Bream to end the inning. Knoblauch's one-out single in the bottom of the inning moved Randy Bush to third and chased Smoltz from the game, but Kent Hrbek lined into an inning-ending double play against reliever Mike Stanton and the score remained 0-0.
Stanton gave up a pair of singles to begin the bottom of the ninth before being relieved by Alejandro Pena, who got a double play and a strikeout to send a World Series Game 7 to extra innings for the first time since 1924. Despite having thrown 118 pitches, Morris returned to the mound for the 10th, retiring Jeff Blauser, Smith and Pendleton in order.
Gladden hit his second double of the game to lead off the 10th against Pena, and was sacrificed to third by Knoblauch. Bobby Cox then decided to walk both Puckett and Hrbek and face Gene Larkin with the bases loaded.. Larkin singled to left, scoring Gladden, winning Minnesota's second championship in five years and giving Jack Morris an inexplicable case to make the Hall of Fame.
1960 World Series - Game 7: Pittsburgh Pirates 10, New York Yankees 9
What would an article about World Series Game 7s be without the only walk-off home run in a World Series Game 7? If Game 7 of the '91 Series gave Jack Morris a case for the Hall of Fame, Game 7 in 1960 put Bill Mazeroski there.
The Pirates jumped all over the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 Series, with Rocky Nelson hitting a two-run home run off of Yankees starter Bob Turley, who was pulled without recording an out in the second. Reliever Bill Stafford gave up a two-run single to Bill Virdon in the second, extending the Pirates lead to 4-0 after two innings. Moose Skowron got the Yankees on the board in the fifth with a solo home run against Pittsburgh starter Vern Law.
The Yankees took the lead in the sixth against Pirates reliever Roy Face as Mickey Mantle's RBI single and Yogi Berra's three-run home run gave the Bronx Bombers a 5-4 lead through six innings. The New York lead was extended to 7-4 in the eighth against Face thanks to Johnny Blanchard's run-scoring single and Clete Boyer's RBI double.
The Pirates mounted a furious rally in the bottom of the eighth, getting RBI singles from Dick Groat and Roberto Clemente that were followed by a three-run home run Hal Smith that gave Pittsburgh a 9-7 lead. However, Harvey Haddix could not close out the title for Pittsburgh, allowing three singles, the last of them an RBI hit from Mantle, and a run-scoring ground out from Berra that tied the game at nine going to the bottom of the ninth.
Ralph Terry had retired Don Hoak to finish the eighth, but could not get Mazeroski to lead off the 10th. The Pirates' second baseman lifted a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence, giving Pittsburgh the 10-9 win and the world championship.