By Andrew Kahn
The Chicago Cubs have won the World Series. They beat the Cleveland Indians in an unfathomably epic Game 7 that started last night and ended this morning. The final score was 8-7 with the Cubs scoring twice in the 10th.
1. A championship 108 years in the making
The Cubs last won the World Series in 1908. Since, their fans have endured a goat, Bartman, and a black cat. They have endured 1969 and 1984 and 2003. They have endured seven World Series losses, five fruitless divisional titles, and 59 losing seasons. All of it led to this—a World Series championship in 2016. Every Cubs fan has a brother, or a mom, or a grandpa that they wished were alive to celebrate with them.
Indians fans continue to wait their turn. They now own the longest active title drought in baseball, having last won in 1948. They won’t get over this game any time soon, just as they still think about Game 7 in 1997. This franchise has its own demons to deal with, even if they’re not as well publicized as the Cubs’.
2. “The best rain delay of all-time”
It was approaching midnight in Cleveland and nine innings were in the books. When the tarp came on the field before the start of the 10th, it seemed like the cruelest of paradoxes: Rain was prolonging two historic droughts. Play was suspended for 17 minutes. Having just blown a three-run lead, Jason Heyward made by far his biggest contribution of the season, gathering his teammates and giving them a pep talk. Anthony Rizzo called it “the best rain delay of all-time.” The Cubs rallied around Aroldis Chapman, who had tears in his eyes in the dugout during the delay. With Bryan Shaw pitching, Kyle Schwarber led off the 10th with a single and pinch runner Albert Almora, Jr. alertly took second on a fly to the warning track. The red-hot Rizzo was intentionally walked and Ben Zobrist, who’d be named MVP, gave the Cubs a lead with a double past the diving third baseman. Addison Russell was intentionally walked and Miguel Montero—see more on the bench contributions below—singled home Rizzo to make it 8-6. Heyward couldn’t deliver with his bat, striking out with the bases loaded, and Javier Baez flied out, but the Cubs had taken a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Turns out, for them, there was no paradox: Rain helped end their drought.
3. Cleveland battles
After tying the game at one in the third, Cleveland trailed 5-1 (in the middle of the fifth) and 6-3 when Chapman entered the game with two outs in the eighth. Brandon Guyer greeted him with a run-scoring double and Rajai Davis followed with a two-run line-drive homer that just left cleared the 19-foot wall in left. It was pandemonium at Progressive Field.
Guyer and Davis had some more magic them. With two outs and nobody on in the next inning, after the Cubs had reclaimed the lead, Carl Edwards, Jr. walked Guyer, who took second without resistance and scored on Davis’ single to center. Mike Montgomery came out of the Chicago bullpen to face Michael Martinez, who hit a weak grounder to third and was thrown out by a couple of steps. Only one franchise could break its curse last night, but it took the effort of both teams to make it a classic.
4. Maddoning moves
Joe Maddon managed Tuesday’s Game 6 as if it were a Game 7, and since the Cubs trailed the series 3-1, it sort of was. But his decisions to pull his starting pitcher early and have Chapman pitch as much as he did had a ripple effect. After all that work, Chapman was not himself, throwing first-pitch balls to the first four batters he faced. He’d lost a tick on his heater and turned to his slider more than usual. He blew the game but wound up the winning pitcher. Montgomery got the save, the first of his career. And while a game with this many twists and turns leaves fans forgetting all the finer points, Maddon yanked starter Kyle Hendricks after a two-out walk in the fifth in favor of Jon Lester, whose wild pitch let in two runs.
When you win the World Series, though, maybe you’re just a secret genius. Ross entered with Lester and hit a solo homer in the final at-bat of his career. Montero became the third Chicago catcher in the game to collect an RBI when he added the critical insurance run in the 10th. Lester pitched well and Chapman, after all, just needed to get four outs before allowing three runs. The rail-thin Edwards is a slim guy to carry 108 years of failure on his back, but he retired two out of three batters.
For Cleveland, Terry Francona’s unhittable arms—Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller—allowed Chicago’s first six runs. His decisions to start Davis and Coco Crisp (two hits each) in the outfield paid off. And add Brandon Guyer—two hits and a walk in his three critical plate appearances—to the list of back-ups who made an impact.
5. So much more
Remember when Dexter Fowler became the first player to lead off Game 7 of the World Series with a home run? Seems like last week, but it happened. It was the 22nd lead-off homer in Series history. Remember when Javier Baez, who as mesmerized with his defensive wizardry, committed two errors, one of which was somehow initially ruled an out? How about a microphone picking Rizzo telling Ross he was an emotional wreck before quoting Anchorman? Or Bryant smiling as he fielded the ball that would win the World Series and Rizzo immediately stuffing it in his back pocket, just as he’d done when the Cubs had won the pennant? What about Kluber picking a bad time to have the first strikeout-less outing of his career? Or the center fielder Davis hesitating for a fraction of a second while fielding a sacrifice fly that gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead? Perhaps that’s nitpicking, but this was Game 7 of the World Series, and it was decided by one run.
It was an all-time classic, perhaps the best Game 7 ever, given the context, and with all the young talent over the field, it’s not hard to envision these teams meeting again next year. Their fans know all too well such an assumption is foolish. At least for the Cubs, “wait ’til next year” finally refers not to another chance at redemption, but to a ceremony involving a banner and rings.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about baseball and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
Post Author: ryan.mayer.