Looking at it from the outside, World Series Game 7 was an easy win for the Astros. If you match it up with almost any other game in the series, it was practically a cakewalk. Of course each player gave all of the effort they possessed to make sure they won, grinding out plays in the infield and running out every last inch.
But in the grand scheme of things, this was a relatively easy win for Houston. They were up 5-0 after the second inning, their lead was never threatened, and the Dodgers couldn’t even score their single run until the sixth, which came at the beginning of a very solid pitching performance from Charlie Morton.
They sailed to a championship, and then celebrated on the Dodgers’ field while their opponent slunk away to try and fight for the trophy another year.
It was also one of the most stressful 5-1 baseball games that I can remember watching. Which, when you consider the mania of this series, makes way more sense than it should.
That’s a beautiful contradiction, really, one most appropriate for a winner-take-all World Series show down. Even when it wasn’t exciting in the usual sense, it was stressful and tense as you waited for the other shoe to drop.
Because even though the only records set in this game were George Springer’s extra-base accomplishments and home run record, plus Cody Bellinger’s unfortunate strikeouts-in-a-series record, the threat of all the historic number of dingers and runs and lengths of games that came before this final matchup hung over the entire thing like a certain blade that once threatened Damocles.
Even when the Astros were up 2-0 or 3-0 or 5-1, who’s to say that the Dodgers wouldn’t snatch that lead back within the next 10 minutes. After all, if you got up to get a drink of water (or, as was needed by fans of both sides in any of the previous games…not water) there was a chance that by the time you got back the lead would have changed at least once.
So when that didn’t happen in Game 7, it didn’t just feel wrong, it felt like something was missing. And while the game happening on the field didn’t lack in entertainment value — there were still a dinger and beautiful plays in the field and some pitching surprises — the game happening out there in the realm of possibility was packed with way more twists and turns than actually went down on the field Wednesday night.
The specter of a Yasiel Puig home run, of a Charlie Morton collapse in the eighth inning that forced Justin Verlander to come in to pitch in relief, another Clayton Kershaw slip, a base running mistake by the Astros that cost them the game, an outfielder suddenly hallucinating Winnie Pooh and all his friends and therefore missing an easy pop fly, that all hung over the proceedings like a shadow universe.
That anything could happen in the game was a stress blanket over what was going on in front of our eyes because in this series when it seemed like anything could happen it then actually did.
Stress therefore pervaded everything. On the Dodgers side, they could have been down double the amount of runs before the fifth inning and that would have seemed normal. The Astros had a four-run lead that felt like the least safe four-run lead in the history of the game.
Every other minute, even if you’d forgotten about the possibilities swirling in the LA sky, it would all come rushing back and to remind you that nothing was over, nothing was decided, and just because it seemed normal didn’t mean that the Babadook wasn’t about to hop out of the dugout and pinch hit for the Dodgers.
That mixture of unease and unfulfilled expectations, that untempered chaos was waiting just around the corner but you couldn’t see it yet, bled through Game 7 from top to bottom.
It was a different kind of stress than a normal Game 7 even, because it never let up. This World Series taught baseball fans — especially those rooting their hearts out for Houston and LA — that everything you love will die. Just in case anybody forgot that sports do that to you anyway, this series reminded people over, and over, and over again.
So even when Astros fans should have felt even remotely in the clear their memories told them no, not today. No restful baseball watching today.
Yet besides Yu Darvish’s collapse (which itself was the Hangover 2 of the series since basically the same thing happened four games prior) and Springer’s dirt-on-the-grave home run (which was the Stranger Things 2 of the series because it had all happened before but not in quite the same way) there weren’t any events that baseball had never seen before to actually merit the anxiety that seeped from this game.
There were no surprising, first-time-in-baseball-history events for once.
Except, of course, the Astros taking home their first ever World Series.
Which they won after the most-stressful four-run game ever.