Giants on the Brink of Another World Championship

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As the sun rises on October 28th, 2014, the San Francisco Giants find themselves one win away from their third World Championship in five years. From 1958 to 2009, there were no rings by the Bay. Zero. Zip. Nada. Only a line drive dying in Bobby Richardson’s glove, Dusty Baker’s premature surrender of a game ball to Russ Ortiz, and a whole lot of heartbreak.

Those days are long gone. With the chance for a third title, Giants fans have forgotten those decades of postseason ineptitude and are now just plain greedy. Giants fans are quickly usurping the legions of drunk Yankees followers and Red Sox Nation in the quest to become the fan base with the largest and most obnoxious sense of entitlement. And that’s perfectly fine by me.

Coming off of an utterly dominating Game Five start by Madison Bumgarner, the Giants are poised to close out the World Series in Kansas City in Game Six. They’ve got two shots to do it, starting with veteran Jake Peavy going up against rookie Yordano Ventura in a game that the Royals will be playing with all hands on deck.

Before all of you Giants fans start coming down with fake food poisoning symptoms right in time to miss work for the parade in San Francisco, just remember that Game Six is, historically, the game where shit goes down. Many of the most famous World Series games ever were Game Sixes, and many of those games were punctuated by utterly tragic turns of the screw that devastated entire fan bases. Giants fans themselves know all about the psychological damage that a Game Six can bring about.

Coming off of Bumgarner’s instantly-legendary performance in Game Five, the Giants have all of the momentum. However, if you think they’re going to just waltz their way to a celebration on the Kauffman Stadium field, think again. Here is a list of memorable (and crazy) Game Sixes, just from the past 30 years (beginning with the last time the Royals were in the Series, of course).

1985: The Cardinals had a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game Six, and three outs would mean a World Championship, their second in four seasons. However, a blown call on a ground ball (thank you, Don Denkinger), a dropped pop up, a single, a wild pitch, and another single gave the Royals a shocking win. They then drubbed the Cardinals 11-0 in Game Seven.

1986: The Red Sox had a two-run lead in the bottom of the tenth inning with two out and nobody on. They were one measly out and, at several points, one measly strike away from their first championship since 1918. Then the baseball gods decided to stick it to the Sawx for yet again. The Mets lined three straight singles to plate a run, then a wild pitch by Bob Stanley tied it, then Mookie Wilson chopped his fateful ground ball toward Bill Buckner and…well, the rest is history.

1987: The Cardinals, yet again, went into Game Six with a 3-2 series lead, this time against the Twins. Once again, they blew it. St. Louis got out to an early 5-2 lead, but with the Metrodome rafters quaking with ear-shattering crowd noise, the Twins came storming back with the help of home runs from Don Baylor and Kent Hrbek. Minnesota then won Game Seven behind the pitching of Frank “Sweet Music” Viola.

1991: This World Series between the Twins and Braves ranks as one of the greatest of all-time, and Game Six ranks as one of the classic games of all-time. With the Twins down in the series and on the brink of elimination at home, Kirby Puckett’s tenth inning home run (highlighted by Jack Buck’s all-time great home run call) capped a see-saw battle and evened the series. It set the stage for the now-legendary Game Seven, in which the Twins prevailed 1-0 behind an iconic ten-inning shutout from Jack Morris.

1993: Mitch Williams, meet Joe Carter. The Phillies looked like they were going to force a winner-take-all game, but Carter sent a fastball into orbit in the bottom of the ninth with two on to end the Series. The home run propelled Williams into a fine career screaming obscenities at Little Leaguers.

2002: The Game We Shall Not Speak Of. Team X held a 5-0 lead over Team Y in the seventh inning of this Game Six. Nine more outs would give Team X their first championship since 1954. Instead, Team Y came storming back to win 6-5, and then went on to win Game Seven, saddling Team X with one of the most embarrassing in-game collapses in World Series history. The following season, the Game Seven losing pitcher for Team X went upside some old man’s head with a golf club, further cementing his eternal exile from the good graces of Gia…I mean, Team X fans forever. Now excuse me, I’m going to go cry into my pillow for two hours.

2011: The Rangers came within one strike of a Game Six victory that would have given them the World Series, but David Freese smacked a double just over Nelson Cruz’s outstretched glove to tie the game for the Cardinals in the bottom of the tenth inning. Freese later homered to win one of the most insane Game Sixes in postseason history. The Cardinals won Game Seven and the series; the Rangers are still waiting for their first championship.

That list doesn’t even include 1975, when Carlton Fisk famously sent one deep into the night to force a Game Seven against the Reds. The point is, weird stuff happens in Game Six. Weird, wild, eerie stuff. If the Giants are going to add trophy number three to the display, they’re going to have to earn it. The Kansas City crowd will be rocking, the game will be crazy, and history tells us that if something odd and potentially devastating happens, it’s going to be in Game Six.

–The Giants will roll tonight with Jake Peavy, who has a bit of a checkered postseason history. Peavy started Game Two and was spotty but mostly effective, eventually taking the loss when Jean Machi and Hunter Strickland allowed his inherited runners to score in an ugly sixth inning. Peavy was lights out after coming over to the Giants at the July trade deadline, but he’s been shaky this October. He hasn’t lasted past the sixth inning in any of his three postseason starts. With a rested Yusmeiro Petit and, potentially, Ryan Vogelsong, that might not be the end of the world. Bruce Bochy will have a quick hook with Peavy tonight if it’s clear early on that he’s not on his game.

The Royals will counter with Yordano Ventura. Ventura allowed a leadoff home run to Gregor Blanco in Game Two but settled down after that, for the most part. He’s got grade-A stuff and has the potential to dominate, but rookies are rookies. He could just as easily flame out and lose control, and you can be sure Ned Yost will have his bullpen on red alert at the slightest sign of distress. The last time the Giants faced a rookie starter in a World Series game was 2002, when John Lackey shut them down in Game Seven. Shudder.

The Giants will get a big boost by being able to put Mike Morse back in the lineup at designated hitter. Kansas City will likewise get added thump to their lineup with Billy Butler slotting back into their DH spot. Butler had one at-bat in the three games in San Francisco (a fact that Yost is getting raked over the coals for), and it was a meek strikeout against Madison Bumgarner. The Royals will also put Nori Aoki back in the lineup, giving them an offensive upgrade at the expense of outfield defense, but right field in Kauffman Stadium isn’t nearly as tricky as at AT&T Park, so it may not make a whole lot of difference.

The Giants have two chances to win this, but they should (and will) be playing this like it’s Game Seven. If the Royals win tonight, they would have all the momentum going into Game Seven at home, and the history of teams playing in Game Seven after losing Game Six on the road is a dark one.

When the Giants beat the Phillies in the 2010 NLCS in six games, Bochy managed the sixth game like he was going to be facing a firing squad if he had lost. After the game, he told the press that he had absolutely no interest in playing in a Game Seven. That probably goes for tonight, too. The prospect of playing a Game Seven with the momentum back on the Royals’ side is a nightmarish one. Expect the unexpected tonight, and expect both teams to play this game like there is no tomorrow.

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