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Everything to know about the greatness of Game 7 of the World Series

The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians have waited a combined 174 years to win another World Series, so another 24 hours should be nothing.

What will take place Wednesday is what some call the best thing in sports: Game 7 of the World Series.

The history

This will be the 38th winner-take-all World Series game, and history shows that home-field advantage does not necessarily apply. The home team has won 19, and the road team has won 18. The home team has won nine of the past 10 of these games, but the road team won the most recent Game 7, when the Giants defeated the Royals in the 2014 World Series in Kansas City.

Game 7s, at least recently, tend to be close. Four of the past six have been one-run games. They also tend to be low-scoring. In those six games, teams averaged a combined 4.8 runs per game.

Neither of these teams has won a winner-take-all World Series game. The Cubs lost their only one, falling to the Tigers in 1945 after Game 6 hero Hank Borowy could not get an out in the first inning, when the Tigers scored five runs. The Indians lost their only one in 1997, when they blew a ninth-inning lead to the Marlins and fell in 11 innings on Edgar Renteria’s bases-loaded single.

The starting pitchers

Great Game 7 matchups of the past have included John Smoltz versus Jack Morris in 1991 and Roger Clemens versus Curt Schilling in 2001. Both of those were epic games. Morris’ Twins won 1-0 in 10 innings. Schilling’s Diamondbacks scored twice in the ninth to beat Mariano Rivera and the three-time defending champion Yankees 3-2.

For this one, it’s Kyle Hendricks against Corey Kluber, each of whom has a case to be his league’s Cy Young Award winner.

Hendricks enters with a 15-inning scoreless streak, which the Elias Sports Bureau notes matches the longest by a pitcher entering a winner-take-all World Series game (Lew Burdette, 1957 Braves and Gibson in 1967; both won).

Kluber is trying to join Gibson too. If Kluber wins, he’d be the first pitcher to start and win Games 1, 4 and 7 of a World Series since Gibson in 1967. Elias notes that Kluber could also be the first pitcher to win three starts in a World Series, including a winner-take-all, since Mickey Lolich of the 1968 Tigers (coincidentally, Lolich beat Gibson in Game 7 to do it).

The superlatives

Only one player has hit multiple home runs in a winner-take-all World Series game: Yogi Berra in a 9-0 win for the 1956 Yankees over the Dodgers. Four players have recorded four hits: Max Carey (1925 Pirates), Ripper Collins (1934 Cardinals), Willie Stargell (1979 Pirates) and George Brett (1985 Royals). Stargell had the most impactful game of those, with a sixth-inning home run that gave the Pirates the lead for good over the Orioles. Those 1979 Pirates are the most recent team to win a World Series by taking Games 6 and 7 on the road.

Memories

Here’s a look back at some of the best Game 7s:

Oct. 29, 2014: Giants 3, Royals 2

Madison Bumgarner had already pitched a shutout in Game 5 and allowed one earned run in seven innings in Game 1. He loomed over Game 7 in the bullpen. Michael Morse’s RBI single broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning, and in the fifth, Bumgarner entered. He threw five innings without allowing a run to earn the save. The home team had won won consecutive World Series Game 7s, but Bumgarner’s all-time World Series arm was no match for that history. Jeremy Affeldt was the winning pitcher in his final postseason appearance, which was fitting, as he too is one of the top pitchers in postseason history (0.86 ERA in 31 1/3 innings).

Nov. 4, 2001: Diamondbacks 3, Yankees 2

The Diamondbacks ended the Yankees' run of three consecutive World Series titles by scoring two runs off Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning to win. Tony Womack tied the game with an RBI double. Luis Gonzalez won it with an RBI single. Randy Johnson won in relief.

Oct. 26, 1997: Marlins 3, Indians 2

The Marlins tied the game in the ninth on Craig Counsell's sacrifice fly and won in the 11th on a single by Renteria. The key play in the 11th was an error by Indians second baseman Tony Fernandez, which helped lead to the winning rally.

Oct. 27, 1991: Twins 1, Braves 0 (11)

Minnesota's Gene Larkin won an epic duel between the Twins and Braves with a walk-off single. This game was a great pitcher’s duel between Jack Morris and John Smoltz, with both teams missing chances to score early in the game.

Oct. 22, 1975: Reds 4, Red Sox 3

The Reds won on Joe Morgan's RBI single in the top of the ninth. The Reds rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win the game, with the key hit being Tony Perez's home run against Red Sox starter Bill Lee.

Oct. 16, 1962: Yankees 1, Giants 0

The Yankees won the Series by the slimmest of margins, surviving when Willie McCovey lined out to second base with runners on second and third to end the game. Ralph Terry pitched a shutout (he was the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, in which he allowed a home run to Bill Mazeroski).

Oct. 13, 1960: Pirates 10, Yankees 9

Bill Mazeroski won the Series for the Pirates with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. This was a crazy game in which the Pirates blew a 4-0 lead, then went ahead again on Hal Smith's eighth-inning home run. The Yankees rallied to tie the game in the top of ninth, but the Pirates managed to prevail. The Yankees won games 16-3, 12-0 and 10-0 but lost the Series.

1926- Cardinals 3, Yankees 2

Grover Cleveland Alexander comes out of the Cardinals' bullpen to strike out future Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded to protect a one-run lead in the seventh inning. The series ends with Babe Ruth getting caught trying to steal second base with two outs in the ninth.

Oct. 15, 1925: Pirates 9, Senators 7

The defending champion Senators took a 4-0 lead but couldn’t hold on. Leading 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, Hall of Famer Walter Johnson allowed three runs and lost 9-7.

Oct. 10, 1924: Senators 4, Giants 3 (12)

The Senators brought a championship to Washington D.C. by rallying from two runs down in the eighth to tie. They won in the 12th on a bad-hop double past the third baseman.

Oct. 16, 1912: Red Sox 3, Giants 2 (10)

The Giants led 1-0, but the Red Sox scored in the seventh inning to tie. The Giants took the lead again in the 10th inning but lost when the Red Sox scored twice against all-time great pitcher Christy Mathewson. An error by Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass opened the door for the Red Sox win.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story had an errant reference to Bob Gibson and Jim Lonborg each winning the Cy Young Award in 1967. Gibson did not win. The reference has been deleted.