SAN FRANCISCO It's been a thrilling, passionate, never-say-die journey for the Giants to arrive today at Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.
What a ride. What a team. What a time this has been.
The Giants have so much going for them tonight their ace, Matt Cain, on the hill; their incredible fan base and a packed crowd sure to be hanging on every pitch; their five consecutive wins in do-or-die games; and their four straight postseason series victories dating to 2010, when the Giants won the World Series.
That's a lot in their favor, but the Giants have a heavy foe working against them history.
In 100 years of baseball, the Giants franchise has never won a Game 7 when it was a do-or-die game like the one today.
That's right. Before today, the Giants have reached a Game 7 five times between 1912 and 2002 and lost every time. That includes four World Series heartbreakers and one gut-wrenching Game 7 defeat in the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987.
This is a quirk of historical record that is not widely known but no less true: The New York Giants did win Game 7 of the 1921 World Series, but baseball was experimenting with a best-of-eight format in the Fall Classic that year, and Game 7 was not the series climax. It is in the NLCS today, and it should be noted that the Giants have broken every mold since 2010 and shattered decades of futility by prevailing in games the Giants always used to lose.
Just to get here today, the Giants have rallied from being down three games to one to a Cardinals team that was dominating this series.
People complained when general manager Brian Sabean acquired infielder Marco Scutaro because he wasn't a flashy name. They wouldn't be here without him.
They are a resilient, unbelievable Giants team that has grown stronger after losing a closer, veteran infielders and their best hitter, to a steroid scandal, and suffering numerous other calamities.
Winning a Game 7 is the last frontier for these men, and for this franchise.
By contrast, the Cardinals are the National League kings of World Series titles and Game 7 triumphs. While winning an N.L.-record 11 World Series trophies, the Cards won seven of them in Game 7. They did it just last year, rallying from being down three games to two and from one strike away from defeat to beat the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.
In three previous Game 7s of the NLCS, the Cardinals are 2-1.
Now we're here Judgment Day.
The winner goes to the World Series. The loser goes home to a winter of bitter recriminations.
It couldn't be any more compelling than the Cardinals and the Giants, the last two World Series champions and ancient rivals who have set the standard for excellence in the N.L. for a century.
If the Giants win today, it will be their 22nd National League pennant, breaking the record they share with the Dodgers. If the Cardinals win, it will be their 19th N.L. pennant.
Washington and Cincinnati had better records than these two this season but had their hearts broken by the Cardinals and Giants, respectively, in the division series.
The Cardinals and Giants are the most cold-blooded teams in the game. To beat the Reds, the Giants became the first team to win three straight on the road after going down 0-2 in a best-of-five divisional series. All the Cardinals have done is win six straight do-or-die games dating to last season. They staged the greatest comeback in postseason history just to get here by erasing a six-run lead by the Nationals in the climactic game of that divisional series.
What happens when two teams that refuse to die play a do-or die game? Everyone who loves baseball wins.