You didn’t think it was going to be an easy and smooth process, did you? The Chicago Cubs, after 108 years of futility, reached the pinnacle of the sports world by beating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in Game 7 of the World Series, a game that will go down as one of the greatest ever played.
Even after Anthony Rizzo singled home Kris Bryant in the top of the fifth inning to extend the Cubs’ lead to 5-1, the Cubs weren’t just going to glide through the rest of the game, that’s not now how this stuff works.
The two prime examples that come to mind right away are the 2004 Boston Red Sox (we all know what they had to go through to snap an 86-year drought), and the 2015-2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, who had to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to win the city’s first championship since 1964.
Then after the top of the fifth inning, it was like the wheels were slowly, methodically coming off. Cleveland responded immediately in the bottom of the inning tacking on not one, but two runs to cut the Cubs’ lead to 5-3 thanks to a Jon Lester wild pitch.
Cubs catcher David Ross, playing in his final career game, provided some temporary relief with a solo shot off the previously unflappable Andrew Miller, but all was certainly not all well, at least not yet.
Lester came back out for the bottom of the eighth inning, appearing to be cruising along, until Jose Ramirez reached on a dreaded infield single resulting in Joe Maddon calling for Aroldis Chapman, whom he used the night before for 1.1 innings and 20 pitches with a comfortable five-run lead. Still, asking Chapman to close out a 6-3 advantage with two outs in the bottom of the eighth… what would possibly go wrong?
As it turned out, a lot. Brandon Guyer would be Chapman’s first hitter, with Guyer coming through with an RBI double to make the score 6-4, bringing the tying run to the plate in Rajai Davis.
The count was 2-2, and Chapman attempted to blow a 98 MPH fastball past Davis, a far cry from the 101-103 MPH we previously saw from him earlier in the series, and Davis did not miss it, sending a game-tying, two-run home run just over the left field wall. Bedlam in Cleveland.
Coming into Game 7, the No. 1 question for the Cubs was how effective Chapman would be after being laughably used for four outs the night prior. Maddon’s highly debatable move backfired. Chapman proved to be ineffective, and a once ironclad 6-3 lead was now a 6-6 tie, with thoughts of 1908 permeating throughout ever single Cubs’ fans mind.
Chapman was able to settle down and get through the bottom of the ninth unscathed. And then like a scene out of a movie, the rains came down, allowing the Cubs to regroup for 17 minutes. When the game resumed, the Cubs came out swinging.
With runners on first and second and one-out, Ben Zobrist doubled down the left field line to score Albert Almora Jr. to give the Cubs a 7-6 lead, and Miguel Montero padded the lead to 8-6 with an RBI single of his own.
That set the stage for the bottom of the 10th inning and Carl Edwards Jr. on the mound to close the deal. After getting the first two outs of the inning, Brandon Guyer worked a walk, and after taking second on defensive indifference, was singled home by Rajai Davis to make the score 8-7. It appeared Maddon was panicking again just like he did in Game 6, removing Edwards Jr. from the game in favor of Mike Montgomery with the go-ahead run at the plate. Montgomery got Michael Martinez to ground out weakly to third base, with Kris Bryant, smiling the whole time, throwing to Anthony Rizzo for the final out.
First, the Cubs fell behind in the series 3-1, then after storming back in Games 5 and 6, were able to tie the series at 3-3. Things appeared to be going according to plan in Game 7, but Chicago couldn’t protect a 5-1 advantage in the fifth, and a 6-3 lead with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the eighth.
The night was just going to be another page in the dreaded story of the “Curse of the Billy Goat.” Why did Joe Maddon waste Aroldis Chapman in Game 6? It was the move destined to haunt Cubs fans everywhere, just like Steve Bartman interfering with Moises Alou in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, for the test of time.
That is until Ben Zobrist, the only player on the winning World Series team each of the past two seasons, broke through with a supremely clutch RBI double to put the Cubs back on top.
You should have known it wasn’t going to be easy, and now after 108 years Cubs fans can finally say they are champions of baseball.