What do you want from a baseball game? What's an ideal night at the ballpark? The easy answer is "I want my team to win," and that is of course true: If you are a devoted fan, you are there strictly to see your team win, and everything else is secondary and doesn't particularly matter. If you are a fan of the Houston Astros or the Los Angeles Dodgers, I suspect you have not, in fact, enjoyed this World Series much at all. Sure, there have been moments of rapturous, unforgettable joy, but those moments have been surrounded by terror, stress and pain. If you were to simply stare at a fan of the Dodgers or the Astros while they watch one of these games, you would not think, "This person is taking part in a pleasant recreational activity during their personal free time." You would either think the person was insane, having a seizure, or both. This series will only be "fun" for the winner, and then, only once it's over.
But most people watching this series are not Dodgers or Astros fans. Most people are like you and me: people who want to be thrilled and enraptured and mesmerized by taut, riveting baseball played at the highest level. We want to see homers. We want to see incredible defensive plays. We want to see brilliance. More than anything, though, we want to see close games. Close games are exciting. World Series games are exciting. But when you combine the two, there really is nothing like it in sports. One game, one at-bat, one pitch, changes the entire planet, changes the rest of everybody's lives. It wears you out just sitting and watching it. That's why we watch these games, at their core: Too see it all on the line, every second.
And you mostly want them to be close late. This, as we head into a Game 7 in a World Series that feels like it deserves one more than any other World Series ever has, has been the unique genius of this particularly World Series. Every single game has been close. Games 2 and 5 were the legendary ones. But all the games, the three in Los Angeles and the three in Houston, have been close, tense, one-pitch-means-everything affairs in front of wild crowds losing their minds. Every night.
You've seen this, obviously, with all the screaming and the sweating and the fans staring at every pitch like they're staring into the abyss. But you can prove it with numbers. Baseball is famously a sport in which the outcome of a single game is nearly impossible to predict: It's why the best teams in baseball still lose 60 times a year or more. The odds of a single team winning a game aren't exactly 50-50 … but they're close. Thus, any game that has, say, 60-40 percent odds for one team to win in the sixth inning or later is, for all intents and purposes, a tossup. It's a close game. It's exactly what you want from a World Series game. It's how you remain riveted: an uncertain outcome as late into the night as possible.
Here is how Win Probability has gone for every game of this series so far:
Game 1: The game was 53-47 in favor of the Dodgers in the top of the sixth, and 54-46 until Justin Turner hit his two-run homer off Dallas Keuchel in the bottom of the sixth. After that, it never dipped below 76 percent.
Game 2: Yeah, this one. The Dodgers were cruising, with an 84 percent win probability until Marwin Gonzalez's shocking homer off Kenley Jansen in the top of the ninth. It was immediately 50-50. It was 95 percent for the Astros in the top of the 10th, and back down to 50-50 at the bottom of the 10th. You don't need me giving you any math to explain this one.
Game 3: This was the only "blowout" of the series -- the Astros' Win Probability never went below 82 percent after the top of the sixth -- and this "blowout" was still only a two-run game.
Game 4: This one was tied after the seventh and the eighth before the Dodgers scored five runs in the top of the ninth off Ken Giles, who has not been heard from since.
Game 5: Yeah, the other "this one." I'll just let you look at the Win Probability charts for this one yourself, but make sure not stare at it too long without the proper eyewear or you will go blind.
Game 6, a 3-1 Dodgers victory, wasn't quite as crazy as Game 2 or 5, but it was nonetheless a nailbiter throughout. Justin Verlander was dominant (again), except for the sixth inning (again), and that was all the window the Dodgers needed (again). This time, LA's bullpen held up, a reminder that Dave Roberts is going to make the same moves for the same reasons no matter what you say about him and no matter what your thoughts on the changing nature of baseball and True Bullpenning are. The Dodgers -- and the Astros, for that matter -- have gotten where they are by trusting Process rather than Outcome. It didn't work in Game 2 for Roberts. It worked on Halloween night. He'll do it again, no matter how much Rich Hill frowns at him and John Smoltz scolds him.
That's what you want from this game, and this series, though, right? Verlander was brilliant but the Astros couldn't put the game away with an early lead -- Alex Bregman was this close in the sixth inning to turning into David Freese -- and the Dodgers finally broke through against him, because that's what the Dodgers do. They're deep, they're patient and they're relentless. Even Verlander, the great Verlander, couldn't be perfect against them. And that window was all LA needed. It was another close game that came down to one pitch here, one pitch there. It was surely excruciating for Dodgers and Astros fans. But it was perfect for the rest of us.
Which leads us, inevitably, to Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET on FOX, in case you've forgotten). It will be Yu Darvish vs. Lance McCullers, but it will really be Everything the Dodgers Can Throw at the Astros vs. Everything the Astros Can Throw Back at Them. It's the first time we've had back-to-back World Series Game 7s since the 2001-2002 Fall Classics. It's the first ever World Series Game 7 at Dodger Stadium, the third-oldest stadium in the game. It's two fantastic teams who won more than 100 games in the regular season and firmly believe, with good reason, that their fans have been waiting a large percentage of their lives to come around and justify all those years in the wilderness. It's all you could possibly want out of a baseball game, out of a World Series. It's a Game 7 for everything. I'm shaking just thinking about it. Aren't you?
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