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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Glory, heartbreak to be had in Game 7

American League's World Series berth to be decided at Fenway
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

BOSTON -- This is what this postseason was waiting for.
After five series that went a combined one game over the minimum, the Indians and Red Sox are going the distance.

"When you're in a fist fight and your back is to the wall, that's a pretty good position to be in," said Indians outfielder Trot Nixon, who experienced an American League Championship Series Game 7 in back-to-back seasons with Boston in 2003 and '04. "The Red Sox were there the past few days, and now both teams are."

Either Beantown or Cleveland is going to have a glorious chapter added to its sports history. The other is going to have a heavy helping of heartbreak. Both cities have no shortage of material on either side.

For every key LeBron James bucket that sent Cleveland to the NBA Finals last summer, there's the image of Edgar Renteria's walk-off single in Florida, or Michael Jordan's winning shot, or Earnest Byner fumbling near the goal line in the final minutes.

Cleveland has Tony Pena and Tony Fernandez, both of whom hit clutch LCS home runs, but the city also has The Drive.

Boston has Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone. But Beantown also has David Ortiz's two-run homer in Game 7 of the '04 ALCS, Adam Vinatieri's Super Bowl-winning field goals, and that Larry Bird steal and pass to beat the Pistons in the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals 20 years ago.

On one side or the other, this game is going to join those ranks. The momentum swings that shaped the last six games of the ALCS have all led to this.

"Hey, it's going to come down to Game 7 against the two teams that won more baseball games than anybody in the regular season, two teams that have beat up on each other a little bit over the course of the past week," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "And that's the way it should be. It's something everyone should look forward to."

The Red Sox certainly do. As manager Terry Francona reasoned, they're just glad to still be playing.

After standing on the brink of elimination the last two games, the Red Sox forced the first Game 7 at Fenway Park since the 1986 ALCS, when they finished off a comeback of three straight victories to beat the Angels. However, that's the only Game 7 the Red Sox have won at home; they dropped the deciding games of the 1975 and 1967 World Series here.

The only Game 7 Cleveland has faced in modern history, of course, came in the '97 World Series, when Renteria's single completed a late-inning Marlins comeback to win the game in extra innings. The only Game 7 the Indians have won in their history came in 1920, when Tris Speaker's club won five games over Brooklyn back when the World Series was a best-of-nine showdown.

If the Indians win Sunday, they'll become just the fifth team in LCS history to recover from a Game 6 loss to take Game 7. On the other hand, the Cardinals pulled off the feat last year when they fended off the Mets in the NLCS.

For teams that lose Games 5 and 6, winning Game 7 in the LCS is even rarer. Neither those '96 Cardinals nor the 2003 Cubs could do it, leaving the '92 Braves as the last to pull it off when Francisco Cabrera drove in Sid Bream to complete a ninth-inning rally.

As for home-field advantage, there is none. The home team is 7-5 in Game 7 of the LCS since it became a best-of-seven format in 1985.


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