By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
There’s little doubt that baseball has been faced with a litany of problems in the last decade or so, but the World Series certainly isn’t one of them.
It remains one of the best weeks on the sports calendar because it rarely disappoints.
Wednesday night’s impending Game 7 between the Astros and the Nationals will mark the fourth time in six years that the Fall Classic has gone the distance, and the fifth time this decade it’s taken a full seven games to crown a champion.
No other sport has consistently delivered more evenly-matched best-of-seven final rounds than baseball has in recent memory. The World Series is the most competitive championship series in American sports.
Many fans will argue that hockey has the best postseason in sports, but the Stanley Cup Final has only gone to seven games twice in the last decade (2011 and some other season that I have permanently erased from my memories). The NBA Finals, meanwhile, have gone the distance just five times in the last 30 years.
If "game" and "seven" are the best two words in sports, then baseball has proven the best at providing them.
Of the last six World Series Game 7's, three have been instant classics. 2001 (Diamondbacks-Yankees) and 2016 (Cubs-Indians) are arguably two of the top five Game 7's in World Series history, and Madison Bumgarner's five innings of relief in the deciding game of the Giants-Royals series in 2014 will go down as one of the great individual performances ever in October.
Simply put: Game 7 of the World Series usually delivers. We should expect tonight to be no different.
Two Cy Young award winners on the mound with a title on the line. Could you ask for anything more?
Max Scherzer, already en route to Cooperstown, is set up for his Willis Reed or Pedro Martinez 1999 moment. He couldn't pitch in Game 5 due to a neck injury, but he'll take the ball with everything on the line in Game 7.
Zach Greinke has built close to a Hall of Fame resume, too. A strong start on the biggest stage the sport can offer would go a long way in getting him to Cooperstown alongside Scherzer. Tonight could be the career-defining moment for one of the most consistently excellent pitchers in baseball for the last 10-plus years.
Gerrit Cole, the best pitcher in baseball, is available out of the bullpen for Houston. It's nearly a guarantee he'll take the ball at some point and it will be must-watch television when he does.
For a sport that lacks urgency from April to September, baseball has found a way to provide more do-or-die moments in recent years than any other sport with a series-based playoff format. These games rarely disappoint and tonight should be no different.