“I am a glass case of emotions right now.”
No, this is not a story about Anchorman. But you gotta love that Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was no doubt feeling all the pressure one would expect in Game Seven of the World Series, while playing for a team that had not won in 108 years, picked that quote to describe his mental state of affairs last night. And that David Ross, the veteran catcher who was playing his last game in the majors, had just previously told him “Well, it’s only going to get worse. Just continue to breathe. That’s all you can do, buddy. It’s only gonna get worse.” Wiser words…
Game Seven in the World Series. By default this is a situation that comes with some pressure, right? Each team has won 3 games. Whoever wins this one gets champagne showers, so you know there’s pressure. This is the situation that every kid playing baseball dreams about, being at the plate or on the mound at the end of Game Seven, winning the game for your team and your town and your fans. Joe Biden would probably think of it as a pretty big deal.
But this was no ordinary Game Seven, last night in Cleveland. No, this was Game Seven featuring the two teams in baseball with the longest Series droughts – the Cubs’ infamous 108 years, Billy Goat Curse and all, but the Indians sporting a not-too-shabby 78 years of their own. For perspective, the last time the Cubs had won the World Series, American women did not have the right to vote, Jim Crow was still the law of the land, and there was no major league baseball on the West Coast. It was an awfully long time ago. And even the Indians’ last win came as African-Americans were finally in the Majors – Larry Doby and Satchel Paige both played for the 1948 Indians – and Harry Truman was President. Generations of Cubs and Indians fans have never seen their team win the Series.
The Cubs dominated the regular season but had gone down 3-1 in the Series, then come back to make it 3-3. For the deciding game, the Cubs started Kyle Hendricks, he of the best ERA in the regular season, while the Indians countered with Corey Kluber, who had already won two Series games and was pitching on short rest.
The Cubs started it early with a solo home run from Dexter Fowler (the first-ever leadoff homer in a World Series Game Seven, by the by), and the Indians scratched back a run in the 3rd. Cubs got two more in the 4th, and two more in the 5th, and another in the 6th, and I’m sure the spirits were flowing in Chicagoland. Fast forward to the bottom of the 8th, with Aroldis Chapman on the mound for the Cubs and the Indians down 6-3.
Chapman, with his 100+ MPH fastball, had saved Chicago’s season in Game 5, with an 8-out, 42-pitch performance that was the longest appearance of his career. Cubs manager Joe Maddon had gone to the well again in Game 6, and Chapman had delivered again. So Game 7, your star relief pitcher on the mound, up 6-3, things are looking good, right?
Except they weren’t. Chapman reminded everyone who follows the game that (a) he’s human and (b) the law of averages is a real pain in the neck. Chapman gave up a 2-run homer to Rajai Davis and suddenly the game was tied at six. I’m sure you could have heard a pin drop in Wrigleyville.
So here we are in the 9th. Cubs can’t score, so we’re still tied 6-6, and Chapman, who had coughed up all three runs to allow the Indians to tie it up, gets back on the mound for the Cubs. What was that about, you ask? Only that, despite having watched Chapman implode, Cubs manager Joe Maddon still had faith in his guy. And Chapman repaid it, with the Cubs’ season on the line, by getting Carlos Santana to fly out, ending a long at-bat by Cleveland star Jason Kipnis with a 97 MPH fastball, and then getting Francisco Lindor to fly out to right.
So at the end of the 9th innning, the game was still tied at 6. And then, a rain delay. More than 17 minutes of wondering what happens next. Because it’s November and it’s Cleveland and it’s the Cubs and it’s Game Seven. Hell, you’ve got extras… so why wouldn’t you have a rain delay?
So Jason Heyward, the Cubs’ outfielder who frankly did not have a tremendous regular season, pulled the team into a weight room and told them he loved them, was proud of the way they overcame everything together, and to go out and try to get a W. Would it work?
Then the rain delay ended and the teams went back on the field.
To recap, it’s Game Seven of the World Series, top of the tenth, tied 6-6. The Cubs are in their 178th game of the season, the Indians their 177th. Both teams’ starters are long gone. Both teams’ clutch relievers (Chapman, and Miller for the Tribe) have imploded. You just finished a 17-minute rain delay, giving you plenty of time to understand that this is the freaking WORLD SERIES GAME SEVEN for all the marbles. So that tension thing we talked about earlier? That pressure? Yeah. And for the fans? In Indiana, Wayne Williams is at his father’s grave with the radio on, listening to the Cubs. Social media across the country is talking about seemingly nothing else.
So what happens next? Everything.
The Cubs come to bat in the top of the 10th, in only the fourth extra-inning Game Seven in World Series history. Indians have gone to Bryan Shaw, after the Cubs had made Cleveland relief ace Andrew Miller finally look hittable. Shaw gets an out and walks Anthony Rizzo, with a runner already on second, and up comes Ben Zobrist. Zobrist is a World Series veteran with the Rays and then again just last year with the Royals, and an Illinois native. Zobrist’s wife was feeding their infant daughter in the clubhouse when a friend told her her husband was at the plate. She handed off the baby and raced upstairs, barefoot, to be able to watch him lace a line drive down the third base line for a double that scored a run. 7-6 Cubs.
Next, reliever Shaw walks Addison Russell to get to veteran catcher Miguel Montero, whose single scored another run. 8-6 Cubs. Indians put in Trevor Bauer, who gets two more outs to retire the side.
Ball’s in the Indians’ court. The Cubs, having finally burned out Chapman, call in Carl Edwards Jr., who promptly gets two Indians out, only to walk Brandon Guyer. Then Rajai Davis, whose 2-run homer back in the 8th had helped tie the game, scores Guyer with a single.
So now it’s 8-7 Cubs, 2 outs, 1 on, 10th inning of Game Seven of the World Series. And up steps former Mariner Michael Montgomery, to take over in relief for the Cubs. Montgomery has no saves to his credit, and here he is, trying to salvage the Cubs’ season. Montgomery faces Michael Martinez, and gets him to ground out to end the inning. And the game. And 39,466 days since the last time it had happened, the Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series.
The moral of our story? If anyone ever tries to tell you baseball is boring, have them look up this game. Have them talk to a lifelong Indians or Cubs fan. Boring? This may well have been the best Game Seven in the history of the World Series (which goes back to 1903). It really doesn’t get any better than this.
And in just over 100 days, pitchers and catchers report to spring training, and we start it all over again.