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With World Series Game 6 out of hand quickly, all eyes turn to Game 7

KANSAS CITY — Eric Hosmer was asked how it feels to force Game 7 of the World Series, and what that feels like, and could he describe how it feels and explain his feelings, and nobody seemed to notice the bucket. It was at the Royals’ first baseman’s feet. It is silver. It sits between Hosmer’s locker and Terrance Gore’s. It holds three bottles of champagne and a bottle of Johnnie Walker. People have been sending liquor throughout this postseason. Hosmer has been saving it for the end.

The end is hours away.

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The anticipation began earlier than usual; in a sense, Game 7 of the 2014 World Series started before Game 6 could find the door. This is what happens when the home team, trailing the series 3-2, puts up seven runs in the second inning, as the Royals did. Everybody starts thinking about tomorrow night. Royals fans celebrated without worry. Giants fans threw out Game 6 like a piece of damaged fruit, knowing they could immediately reach for the next one.

Mostly, the managers knew they wouldn’t have to use their best relievers in Game 6, and that is one of many reasons this Game 7 is shaping up to be an epic. The Royals have a rested Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland lurking in the bullpen. The Giants have starter Madison Bumgarner, who could finish one of the best postseasons ever with some relief dominance on two days rest. Bumgarner doesn’t just have the Royals’ number. He has their bank accounts and e-mail passwords, and he changes the code on their garage-door openers because it amuses him.

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With every Game 7 strike, each team will get a little closer to a seemingly unsolvable pitching force. When Hosmer was asked about the possibility of facing the new Mr. Octob(umgarn)er, he said, “Hopefully we have a lead before we get to him. That’s all I can say.” You can be sure the Giants are thinking the same thoughts about Herrera, Davis and Holland.

It should come down to those pitchers, throwing noise and fury, and that would be a nice change. What is worth saying about Game 6? Giants starter Jake Peavy had a rough go, which is not surprising because he has quietly been one of the worst postseason performers in all of sports. (Peavy now has a 7.98 playoff ERA, astounding for a guy who won a Cy Young award.) The Royals are resilient, but we knew that, too. They were assumed dead in their Wild-Card game against the A’s until they get up and punched the coroner in the face.

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Hosmer said he was hanging on every pitch, regardless of the score, because of the stakes. He even hit one after calling timeout (the Kauffman Stadium crowd was so loud, he didn’t realize the TO was granted), then hit one that counted, giving him the rare at-bat when he was 2-for-1, for a perfect 2.000 batting average.

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That was a fitting moment in an unusual series. This has been a sequence of lopsided games between evenly matched teams. The winning margin was at least five runs in five of the six games, yet the Giants have scored 27 runs in this Series and the Royals have scored 25, and those numbers would be probably be dead-even if the Giants had let Hunter Strickland pitch to two more batters. Each team has scored in double-digits once and been shut out once. 

Hosmer said he “wouldn’t mind a lopsided one,” but this World Series deserves better than that, and it sure feels like we’re going to get it.

World Series Games 7 are rare treats. Baseball has only had one since 2002: the Cardinals-Rangers tilt in 2011, which had a Cardinals-have-got-this feel the whole way because St. Louis had won Game 6 in preposterous, dramatic fashion, and teams that lose games like that rarely recover. (The Rangers actually took a 2-0 lead to start Game 7, but it evaporated by the end of the first inning.) Game 7 in 2002 had the same feel to it — the Giants blew a 5-0 lead in Game 6 and seemed destined to lose Game 7 in Anaheim, and they did.

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But the three World Series Games 7 before that were among the most famous games in baseball history. There was Luis Gonzalez’s broken-bat Series-winning single against Mariano Rivera in 2001. There was Edgar Renteria’s walk-off single for the Marlins against Cleveland in 1997, which Hosmer watched from the stands in Miami. And there was Jack Morris’ 10-inning shutout against John Smoltz and the Braves in 1991.

Home teams usually win, but that’s not guaranteed. Game 6 losers usually lose Game 7, but that probably doesn’t apply here, because it’s not like the Giants lost in excruciating fashion, and with titles in 2010 and 2012, they don’t carry a huge burden for their city.

Nobody knows who the hero will be this time. Nobody knows who will have a bat in his hand with runners on-base and the championship at stake, or who will be on the mound. That’s the beauty of baseball. We just know that Hosmer will either open that alcohol and enjoy it forever, or stand and answer questions next to the saddest little bucket in America.