In a game for the ages, the Chicago Cubs ended their World Championship drought in dramatic fashion. It was a game like you’d expect for a team, an organization, that has a cult-like following spanning generations. The Chicago Cubs are World Champions. Soak that in, take a nap, wake up and soak it in some more. This feeling isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
The first inning started out perfectly for the Cubs. Dexter Fowler crushed the fourth pitch of the game from Corey Kluber deep over the center field wall and the stadium, filled about a quarter of the way with Cubs fans, exploded in cheers while Indians fans were dazed and confused. It was the first time in World Series history that a lead-off batter hit a home run in a game 7.
The Cleveland Indians bats would respond, and quickly. In the bottom of the second inning Jose Ramirez led off the inning with a single and it looked like the Cubs might be at risk of losing their slim one run lead. With Lonnie Chisenhall at the plate and Ramirez taking an agressive lead at first base, Hendricks quickly spun and threw a dart to Anthony Rizzo to pick off Ramirez and erase the momentum that Cleveland was building.
The pick-off turned out to be even bigger after Chisenhall singled off Hendricks. What would’ve likely been runners at first and second turned out to be a runner at first base with one out. That was a huge play early in the game. The next batter up, Rajai Davis, would ground into a Bryant-to-Baez-to-Rizzo double play and, just like that, the Cubs were out of a precarious inning unscathed, still clinging to the lead.
The Cubs went down in order in the top of the third inning but only after Kyle Schwarber sliced a ball down the right field line and into the corner. Schwarber tried to push what would’ve otherwise been a long single into a double and he just didn’t have the wheels to get in to second ahead of the throw. The Indians would capitalize in the bottom of the third inning.
Coco Crisp would lead off the inning for the Indians with a double down the left field line. He would advance to third on a sacrifice bunt by Roberto Perez. Carlos Santana then singled to right field and Crisp came in to score, tying the game at 1-1.
In the top of the fourth, as the game started to get the feel of a championship boxing match, the Cubs would again land a solid, staggering blow. Kris Bryant led off the inning with a single, followed by Anthony Rizzo being hit by a pitch and the Cubs were bobbing and weaving like Rocky. Ben Zobrist reached first on a fielder’s choice, moving Bryant to third with Rizzo being called out at second base. That’s when the Cubs scored their first stiff jab as Addison Russell hit a sacrifice fly ball to score Kris Bryant and take a 2-1 lead.
Willson Contreras, who entered the game batting 1-for-17 in the World Series, came up next and pounded a 2-2 pitch deep to center field, over the head of Rajai Davis and off the wall for a two-out double that scored Ben Zobrist and gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
After a 10-pitch inning for Kyle Hendricks in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Cubs came out swinging the lumber again in the top of the fifth inning – bob, weave. Javier Baez provided a huge uppercut when he launched a 402-foot home run to right center field giving the Cubs two home runs in the game off Indians ace, Corey Kluber.
The Cubs weren’t done yet. They’d score one more run in the inning – stretching their lead to 5-1 – after Kris Bryant, who had started to run from first on the a hit-and-run, scored when Anthony Rizzo laced a long single into right field. It was at this point in the game that it felt like the Cubs could, and should, really win this game.
True to form, showing they would not go down without getting in a few good punches themselves, the Indians bounced right back in the bottom of the fifth inning. They’d score two runs after Joe Maddon decided to pull Kyle Hendricks, who had only allowed four hits and two runs off 68 pitches, after he issued a two-out walk to Carlos Santana. Into the game came Jon Lester and David Ross, a move that was expected but at a time that made it seem a little like over-managing by Maddon.
Jason Kipnis hit a swinging bunt in the Indians first at-bat against Lester, which ended up as a hit. As Ross desperately attempted to field the ball, he threw it into the seats allowing Santana and Kipnis to advance to second and third base. Francisco Lindor would come up next and, on an 0-1 count, Jon Lester threw a pitch that landed five feet in front of home plate, bounced violently off the mask of David Ross and allowed both Santana and Kipnis to score.
Out of nowhere, the Indians had just thrown a right hook that buckled the Cubs knees, making the score a more uncomfortable 5-3, still in favor of Chicago. Lindor would strike out swinging but the damage was done.
And then, a magical moment occurred that made you believe ‘it’ could happen, regardless of the fight, of the will the Indians were displaying. With one out in the top of the sixth inning, David Ross stepped to the plate against the vaunted Andrew Miller in the final game of Ross’ illustrious career. With one swing of the bat, Ross sent a 95 mile-per-hour fastball soaring into the Ohio night sky, deep over the center field wall for a home run.
Surely, that would be all the magic the Cubs would need to finally put the Indians away. David Ross, back-breaking home run in the World Series. Sounds like the stuff of story-books, right?
Not tonight. For the Cubs to win the World Series it would take more, much, much more to end that story.
The Ross home run certainly calmed my nerves, and those of the Cubs fans who surrounded me near my seats, and boy oh boy, were there a lot of Cubs fans at this game. I’d estimate a quarter of the entire stadium was Cubs fans. An incredible representation by one of the most dedicated fan bases in the world.
All would remain relatively calm until the bottom of the eighth inning. Lester managed to retire the first two batters before giving up a single to Jose Ramirez. Joe Maddon calmly approached the mound and, with the look of a man who’d just realized there was a simple way to end this game, he took the ball from Lester and called on Aroldis Chapman.
Joe had gone to Chapman quite often in the postseason but none more than he had going into game 7 of the World Series. Chapman had pitched 62 total pitches in games 5 and 6, with one day of rest in between the two.
The first batter Chapman faced, right-handed batter Brandon Guyer, worked the count full and then doubled on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, driving in Ramirez and closing the gap just enough to give the Indians life, once again. Rajai Davis then stepped to the plate as the potential game-tying run and he made Chapman work, fouling off four pitches before reaching for a low, 98 mile-per-hour fastball and golfing a line drive shot over the left field wall. The crowd erupted while Cubs fans stood in disbelief with the game now tied.
I’ll admit this much to you, I never thought this World Series would come easy to either team. You don’t go 108 years and 68 years without a title only to cruise to an easy win in this situation. Even when the Cubs were down three games to one, I believed, deep in my heart, that there was no way THAT was how things would end. I fully expected the Cubs to push the series to seven games.
If someone asked me, ever, if I’d take the Cubs being 3 wins from a World Championship with 3 games left, I’d take that every time. #Believe
— Cubs Kingdom (@CubsKingdom) October 30, 2016
For those of you counting the Cubs out, don’t. Glory beckons.
For those of you that believe, I’ll see you in Cleveland.
— Cubs Kingdom (@CubsKingdom) October 30, 2016
— Cubs Kingdom (@CubsKingdom) October 30, 2016
Entering game 7 I truly believed there was a high possibility the game would be tied in the bottom of the ninth inning and would head into extras and, with heavy rain forecasted, possibly get postponed until the next day. I mean, that would’ve made sense, right? I joked with my buddies, Cary and Dave, about it before the game, and even mentioned it to some Indians fans we met in the bar. Of course, I didn’t really know that but surely the storyline would’ve fit.
Sure enough, as Arolids Chapman got that last out in the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied 6-6, the ground crew rolled out the tarp as the rain started falling harder and harder. Fortunately, that rain would end quickly and the delay would last only 17 minutes before play resumed.
The Cubs came out in the top of the tenth inning with a focused determination that you could see from the first at-bat by Kyle Schwarber. He singled on the first pitch he saw, was replaced by Albert Almora and, before the Indians realized what happened, the Cubs had a runner on with no outs.
Kris Bryant was next up to bat. He drove a ball deep, deep enough that it looked like it could get out of the park. As Indians center fielder Rajai Davis drifted towards the wall, Albert Almora alertly stayed at first base. As soon as Davis made the catch Almora took off. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and, evidently neither could Davis, because he took one step back before throwing the ball towards second base on a looping throw. Almora was easily safe at second with only one out, a huge play.
Up next stepped Anthony Rizzo with a big chance to change this game and give the Cubs the lead one more time. Well, not so fast. The Indians decided to walk Rizzo and pitch to Ben Zobrist. I can’t tell you how many times teams have pitched around Rizzo this year, only to get burned by Zobrist. It was as if the Indians were unaware of how clutch Zobrist can be and is.
After the intentional walk to Rizzo, Ben stepped into the batter’s box and, quite frankly, he did exactly what he’s been doing all postseason – he came through with a clutch at-bat. With two strikes and one ball, he laced a double down the left field line, scoring Albert Almora for the go-ahead run and the Cubs were up, once again.
The Indians would, again, issue an intentional walk, this time to Addison Russell, to get to Miguel Montero. And once again, the Cubs made them pay as Montero roped a hit to left field to score Anthony Rizzo and put the score at 8-6 in favor of the Cubs. That’s how the Cubs’ half of the inning would end and the game headed into the bottom of the tenth inning with the Cubs clinging to a delicate 2-run lead.
In the bottom of the tenth, Joe Maddon would call on rookie pitcher Carl Edwards to finish the job and bring home the World Championship. All went according to plan against the Indians’ first two batters and the Cubs found themselves one out away from glory. Edwards would then issue a walk to Brandon Guyer, who then advanced to second base on defensive indifference. Rajai Davis singled to score Guyer and there the Indians were, after being knocked down on the canvas again, getting right back up and throwing a stinging jab right to the chin of the Cubs.
Maddon had seen enough. With the bullpen depleted, all the pitchers used that Maddon had thought he’d need, he turned to Mike Montgomery to try and secure the last out. On the second pitch thrown by Montgomery, Michael Martinez hit a soft dribbler that bounced to a charging Kris Bryant who, without hesitation, threw the ball to Anthony Rizzo to record the final out that would secure the Chicago Cubs the World Championship that had proven so elusive over the years.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 3, 2016
The Chicago Cubs are the 2016 World Champions (one big, beautiful Box Score).
Stats that matter
- Kyle Hendricks came up huge on the biggest stage – 4.2IP, 4R, 2H, 1BB, 2Ks, 63 pitches
- Jon Lester was shaky early but bounced back solidly – 3.0IP, 2R, 3H, 1BB, 4Ks, 55 pitches
- Aroldis Chapman didn’t have anything close to his best stuff and fortunately it didn’t end up costing the Cubs the Win – 1.1IP, 2R, 3H, 2Ks, HR allowed, 35 pitches
- Mike Montgomery and Carl Edwards combined to shut down the Indians last chance – 1.0IP, 1R, 1H, 1BB, 1K, 19 pitches
- Dexter Fowler set the tone in his first at-bat in classic ‘You go, We go’ style – 3-for-5, 1R, 1RBI, HR
- Kyle Schwarber had three hits but none as big as his last – 3-for-5
- Kris Bryant is an on-base machine – 1-for-4, 2R, 1BB
- David Ross with a huge home run in his final game was so poetic – 1-for-1, 1R, 1RBI, HR
- Ben Zobrist. The man, the myth, the legend – 1-for-5, 1R, 1RBI, 2B
- Javy Baez broke out big with his fifth inning home run – 1-for-5, 1R, 1RBI, HR
- Eight different Cubs’ players each had one RBI. How’s that for teamwork?
A simply incredible end to one hell of a season. Sometimes when you write, things happen that seem bigger than words, things that you nearly have to see to really understand. This was certainly one of those games, those moments in life, where seeing is believing. I hope you enjoyed reading this post and I hope it helped you to relive what was the most incredible baseball game I’ve ever witnessed and one that will live on in the hearts and minds of Cubs fans forever.
Spring training in sunny Arizona. See you there!