The big question for any long-time baseball fan coming both in and out of Game Six on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium was this: Will history repeat itself... again?
The World Series is nothing if not historic: The game's very fabric relies on its threads from the last 111 seasons of professional baseball in the United States, since the first World Series in 1903. And Game Six's outcome has now given us all a Game Seven to savor — probably forever, as these ultimate contests tend to be memorable ones.
The Kansas City Royals evened up the 2014 Fall Classic at three games apiece by beating the visiting San Francisco Giants, 10-0. This reversed the trend of the last two games, where the Giants — playing at home — beat the Royals by a combined 16-4 score.
Now, it's one final matchup for all the marbles, and that gets us back to the history part: In this case, history is good for the Royals and for the Giants, although truthfully, none of that matters on Wednesday night in Game Seven.
It's simply one game for the World Series and the championship of Major League Baseball.
What Game Seven Means to the Giants
San Francisco knows it missed a golden opportunity to step on the neck of a wilting opponent. After the royal beat-downs at AT&T Park on Saturday and Sunday nights, respectively, Kansas City could have been running on fumes.
But instead, the Giants and their patchwork rotation collapsed early, giving up seven runs in the second inning to make Game Six a relative snoozer. Now, it's San Francisco that needs to regroup — and fast — for a seventh game the team really didn't want to play.
The Giants won a Game Seven in the 2012 National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, but that was at home — when they were the underdogs charging back into a series. Now, the San Francisco roster has to muster up on the road to beat a very confident and very young team that truly believes in itself.
Not that Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval — and all their friends — don't have confidence; they have a nucleus together that has won World Series titles in 2010 and 2012. But those teams waltzed through the Fall Classic both times.
Even though this team has nothing to do with the Barry Bonds-led 2002 Giants team, that's the history San Francisco doesn't want to see repeat: They went to Anaheim for Game Six leading the Series three games to two — and lost a heartbreaker in Game Six before folding hard in Game Seven.
Don't expect these Giants to fold. That old expression — "I'm going to manage this game like it's Game Seven of the World Series" — becomes reality on Wednesday night, and San Francisco will probably try to use Madison Bumgarner one last time in any capacity they can to try to win the Series.
What Game Seven Means to the Royals
This goes beyond mere championships for Kansas City. This is now a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the Royals and their fans to experience something amazing. You know, like that 1985 team did when they come back from the 3-1 deficit in the World Series, winning Games Six and Seven at home, to win the club's only MLB title.
The Royals, as we all know, hadn't been back to the postseason at all since that season. A generation of baseball fans in Kansas City has suffered plenty, and to them — and by extension, to the players — this Game Seven means everything.
San Francisco experienced this sort of "revival" in 2010, of course, when the Giants won their first World Series since moving to California in the 1950s. It just might be Kansas City's turn to have that same kind of moment.
Kansas City is a great baseball town with a great baseball tradition: Remember the Kansas City Monarchs? Well, there's a reason the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is in this city. Most major-league cities have a rich tradition of some sort, even if it's not a major-league tradition. But baseball is part of the fabric of Kansas City's identity.
That's what this game means to the Royals and their fans.
Game Seven Outlook and Prediction
Historically, there haven't been too many teams that have lost Game Seven on their home field: The last time it happened was in 1979, when the Baltimore Orioles dropped both Games Six and Seven at home to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 1991, the Minnesota Twins needed extra innings to beat the Atlanta Braves in Game Seven at home, in that famous 1-0 game pitched by Jack Morris.
The pitching matchup is an interesting one: San Francisco sends the aging Tim Hudson to the mound against Kansas City's Jeremy Guthrie. It's a rematch of Game Three, where neither starter made it out of the sixth inning. Not exactly the stuff of legends, but it'll have to do.
Remember, though — all pitchers are available for Game Seven, period. Even the Game Six starters could be ready to throw if necessary. Remember how the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in 2001? The superhuman Randy Johnson won Game Six as a starter, and then he won Game Seven in relief.
(The two losing Yankees pitchers for those games? Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.)
This Fall Classic lacks that kind of "Hall of Famer" cachet, but it's been a thriller nonetheless.
And it's hard to ignore history: Look for the Royals and their very strong pitching to emerge victorious in the end of this one — although it won't be as easy as it was for Kansas City in Game Six.
After all, you don't win the World Series, right? It wins you.
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