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Time for Game Seven

October 18, 2020

Hugh Atkins

Game Seven of the National League Championship Series is set for tonight at 7:15. The Atlanta Braves are trying to hold off the Los Angeles Dodgers after failing to close out the Series on Friday and Saturday. I will be tuned in hoping for a competitive game that ends with a Braves victory.

In their history, the Braves have fared well in Game Seven, winning four and losing two. The Braves beat the New York Yankees in Game Seven of the 1957 World Series and then lost to the Bronx Bombers in Game Seven the following year. The Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game Seven of the NLCS in 1991 and 1992, while losing to the Minnesota Twins in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series. The last time the Braves appeared in a Game Seven was 1996 when they beat the St. Louis Cardinals 15-0 in the NLCS.

Of course, the 1958 Braves blowing a three-games-to-one lead to the Yankees has no bearing on the outcome of tonight’s game. In fact, only one player on the Braves’ postseason roster has ever appeared in a Game Seven. Pablo Sandoval played in Game Seven of the NLCS against the Cardinals in 2012 and in the 2014 World Series against the Kansas City Royals; Sandoval is 2-0 in Games Seven.

For fans, watching Game Seven can be a nerve-racking experience. I watched four of the six Games Seven the Braves have played. I prefer competitive contests, but I enjoy them more when my team is in control during the course of the game. For that reason I rank Game Seven of the 1991 NLCS as my favorite of the four I’ve seen. The Braves jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning behind a two-run homer from Brian Hunter. The Braves tacked on another run in the fifth inning and won the game 4-0 behind the shutout pitching of John Smoltz. The game was close enough to be competitive, but not so close that I had to worry about the game turning on a single play.

Game Seven of the 1991 World Series was a scoreless affair through the top of the 10th, and the Twins won it with a run in the bottom of the inning. This may be the best game in World Series history, but it was a difficult one for me to watch, and the ending was devastating.

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The most exciting Game Seven clearly was the 1992 Braves win over the Pirates in the NLCS. The Braves trailed 2-0 going into the bottom of the ninth and cut the lead to one on a sacrifice fly by Ron Gant. With two outs and the bases loaded, pinch hitter Francisco Cabrera lined a single to left, scoring David Justice, and Sid Bream to win the game. This remains the only winner-take-all game in postseason history where a team went from losing to winning with two outs in their final at bat.

The 15-0 rout of the Cardinals in Game Seven of the 1996 NLCS was gratifying, but since it was not competitive, it wasn’t that enjoyable to watch.

Tonight I’m hoping Ronald Acuña, Freddie Freeman, and Marcell Ozuna get the Braves off to a good start and then Ian Anderson settles in and holds the Dodgers at bay. I’ll take a good, comfortable 4-0 or 4-1 win. 

Whom am I kidding? I’ll take a win of any kind. And if the World Series goes the distance, this Braves team truly will be able to claim they are 1-0 in Game Seven.

But fate seldom picks the same hero twice, for what fun is that? When a man is a onetime hero, he can look back on it–the Lew Burdette can on 1957–and it will stand out.

–Dick Young, Daily News, October 10, 1958

Retrieved from Newspaper.com on October 18, 2020

(Game details are from Retrosheet.)

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