Wait till next year has been the mantra of Cubs fans for many years. Next year has come and gone many times since 1908, the year of the Cubs’ last championship—until this year. With their miraculous comeback from being down three games to one in the best-of-seven World Series, the Cubs have broken the curse, ended the drought and now reign supreme as baseball’s World Champions this year. Did anyone ever think they would live to say that?
Perhaps it makes sense that the Cubs would have to do it the hard way; putting themselves in a 3-1 hole only makes the comeback and eventual win that much more epic. The 2016 World Series was one for the ages, pushing the limits of both length and drama. The Cleveland Indians, with their own 68-year championship drought, won games one, three and four without much difficulty. It looked like the Indians’ drought would be broken in 2016, not the Cubs’—but the Cubs never gave up.
Game five, the Cubs’ first elimination game of the World Series, was played at Wrigley Field. The first Cubs home win in a World Series game since 1945 started the sequence of “three straight one-game winning streaks” for Chicago. Ace starter Jon Lester pitched six innings, allowing two runs, and then the bullpen took over. Carl Edwards Jr. had only recorded one out when closer Aroldis Chapman came in for an unheard-of eight-out save. Chapman struck out four and preserved the lead entrusted to him. Kris Bryant’s home run started a three-run rally in the bottom of the fourth inning, and the Cubs didn’t need anything more to win game five.
The Series shifted back to Cleveland for games six and seven. King James, hoping for another iteration of “Believeland,” was in the house for both games. Game six featured another three-run rally started by a Bryant solo home run, this time in the first inning. Chicago would never give up that lead, which was as large as 7-0 after Addison Russell’s third inning Grand Slam. One of the most curious and questionable calls of the game was Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s use of ace relieve Chapman when the Cubs had a five-run lead. Although the Cubs went on to win game six, Chapman’s heavy workload was readily apparent in game seven.
Game seven will go down in history as one of the most extraordinary games of baseball ever played. Although the Cubs had early success hitting against the normally-invincible Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller, they failed to keep the lead intact. Dexter Fowler led off the game with a home run, giving the Cubs the early lead. The Indians tied the game in the third inning on an RBI single by Carlos Santana. In the fourth and fifth innings, the Cubs added to their lead to make the score 5-1.
In a rare play during the bottom of the fifth inning, two runners scored on a wild pitch by substitute pitcher Lester, reducing the Cubs’ lead to two runs, 5-3. In the top of the sixth inning, in his last major league game, veteran catcher David Ross hit a solo home run to center field for the Cubs.
With two outs in the eighth and a three-run lead, Chapman came into the game. Under normal circumstances, a three-run lead and four outs for Chapman would be taken for granted as an easy win. Due to Chapman’s heavy usage during the series, however, the pitcher was not as sharp as usual, and the Cleveland batters capitalized. Chapman surrendered an RBI double to Brandon Guyer, and then the tying run, Rajai Davis, came to the plate.
The Indians’ center fielder saw seven fastballs from the hard-throwing Cubs closer. On the seventh pitch, clocked at 97 miles per hour, Davis hit the baseball into the left field seats. Cleveland was ecstatic, the Cubs were in disbelief and LeBron James, watching with teammates from a suite, let out a huge “YEAH!” and pumped his fist.
After giving up the home run, Chapman struck out Yan Gomes to end the eighth inning. In the ninth inning, the Cubs had a chance to score with Jason Heyward on third base and only one out. But Javier Baez struck out on an attempted squeeze play, and Dexter Fowler grounded out to end the threat. Chapman pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to send the game to extra innings. The game couldn’t be limited to nine innings; the series was too epic to end like anything normal.
Even extra innings in this game weren’t normal: a 17-minute rain delay preceded the top of the tenth. This extra time allowed the Cubs to conduct a team meeting, led by Heyward, to remember their goals and refocus for the final, extra inning push. When the Cubs finally came to bat, they began their Championship Rally.
Kyle Schwarber singled, pinch runner Albert Almora Jr. tagged up and went to second base on Bryant’s flyout, the Indians intentionally walked Anthony Rizzo, and then Ben Zobrist came through with an RBI double to put Chicago ahead. After another intentional walk, this time to Addison Russell, third-string catcher Miguel Montero added a valuable insurance run. The Cubs led, 8-6. Three outs away.
In the bottom of the tenth, Edwards Jr. recorded two quick outs before allowing a walk to Brandon Guyer. Rajai Davis, the eighth inning hero, brought Guyer home with an RBI single. Joe Maddon came out of the dugout and replaced Edwards with lefthander Mike Montgomery to face the Indians’ last hope, utility infielder Michael Martinez.
On Montgomery’s second pitch to Martinez, the batter hit a chopper towards third. Bryant couldn’t wait for the ball to get to him before he started smiling. Rizzo had to keep his focus enough to catch the ball, the final out—the out Cubs fans waited on for 108 years. Rizzo squeezed his glove. Martinez was out. Rizzo threw up his arms. Then, pandemonium.
Isaac Linton can be reached at HL820875@wcupa.edu.