This won’t be your normal recap. Why? Because this wasn’t your normal World Series. It was a series of numbers. A series of clutch hits. Clutch pitching performances. Unsung heroes. Unlikely heroes. A manager who’s been there twice before and one who finally got there with a couple of old friends along for the ride. The Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs would give us seven games to remember. Seven games for the history books.
No more goats. No more decades upon decades of letdowns. No more “lovable losers.”
No more curse.
The Chicago Cubs are champions of the world.
This was the 2016 World Series. And for the next 365 days – the Cubs can fly that “W” higher than 29 other teams and proudly say for the first time in 108 years – they’re champions.
It began on Tuesday, October 25 in Cleveland. The man of the hour was former Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber, who stifled the vaunted Cubs offense to the tune of six-plus shutout innings of baseball where he struck out nine Cubs hitters. Indians catcher, Roberto Perez, who’d only hit three home runs in the regular season hit two and drove in four runs to lead the Tribe’s offense in their 6-0 victory in Game 1. Andrew Miller, who’s name would be called on quite often in the seven game series, would continue his post-season dominance pitching two shut out innings of relief. For the Cubs, former Tampa Bay Ray Ben Zobrist went 3-for-4 providing the only bright spot for the NL Champs. Jon Lester would have a rough start to the Series going 5.2 innings giving up three runs on six hits, walking three, and striking out seven.
The Cubs would storm right back in Game 2 and lean on their own former Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta, to lead the way. Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber would lead the offense going a combined 4-for-8 and driving in three of the five runs, scoring a run a piece, in the 5-1 victory to even up the series at 1-1 heading to Chicago. Trevor Bauer would struggle and not make it out of the fourth inning for the Indians forcing their bullpen into a heavy load of relief work with Terry Francona using six arms to get through the rest of the ballgame.
Back in Chicago where the first World Series since 1945 would finally be played – the Indians ruined the homecoming for the Cubbies with their second shutout of the Series. A classic pitchers duel would ensue in the oddest of fashions. Neither starter, despite dominating the opposing lineup, made it out of the fifth inning of a scoreless ballgame. Josh Tomlin went 4.2 for the Indians before Francona pulled him for Andrew Miller who’d dominate for 1.1 innings, himself, striking out three Cubs hitters. Kyle Hendricks would only go 4.1 before Joe Maddon wanted Justin Grimm and four other arms to take it the rest of the way. It would wind up being Carl Edwards Jr who’d give up the lone run of the ballgame on an RBI, pinch-hit single from Coco Crisp in the seventh inning that would determine the outcome.
With the Indians up 2-1 in the Series, the Cubs turned to veteran Jon Lackey to try and right the ship and keep them from the brink of elimination. That, unfortunately, would not be the case as once again Corey Kluber dominated giving up a single run early in the first inning only to lock down the Cubs for five innings after. Despite Andrew Miller giving up his first run of the Series in the eighth inning, the Indians offense would do more than enough to back the stellar pitching performances by Kluber and the bullpen. Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis would provide the lethal blows off Chicago pitching, including the seventh inning, three-run blast from Kipnis off Travis Wood.
The Series was on the brink in the final game in Chicago. Indians had a 3-1 lead and were feeling very confident they could close it out on Sunday afternoon sending Trevor Bauer to the hill. The Cubs countered with post-season veteran Jon Lester, again. This time, however – it would be Lester who would keep his team in the ballgame and allow the offense to do just enough to fight another day. Kris Bryant would hit his first long ball of the Series in the fourth inning and David Ross and Addison Russell would provide the other runs to back up Lester and a 42-pitch, 2.2 inning save for Aroldis Chapman. The Cubs were still alive, but the Series would head back to Cleveland for the final two games.
Once more, it was Jake Arrieta’s turn to play the hero. This time it was Game 6 and still an elimination game for the Cubs. The Indians sent Josh Tomlin back to the hill to try and close out the Series and get the Tribe their first World Championship in 68 years in front of their home crowd. The Cubs bats came ready to swing and swing hard at Progressive Field to the tune of three home runs from Bryant, Rizzo, and Russell. Bryant would finish 4-for-5 on the night and three other Chicago hitters would have multi-hit games including a 3-for-5 night from Anthony Rizzo who also scored three of the nine runs. Jason Kipnis would continue his hot Series with his second home run and a 3-for-5 game, himself. But it wasn’t enough to close out the Cubs as Tomlin would struggle mightily and give up six of the nine runs in just 2.1 innings.
The best two words in all of sports, undoubtedly, is “Game Seven.”
This Game 7, however, was especially historic. One of these two teams was going to take home a World Championship for the first time in nearly 70 years or over 100 years. Not mother nature nor God himself was going to stop that from happening. The Cubs took a 5-1 lead into the fifth inning and looked to be cruising to their own piece of history before 36-year old Rajai Davis lined a three-run home run into the left field seats to tie the game up at six in the eighth inning off Aroldis Chapman. Into extra innings they’d go before a 17-minute rain delay forced fans to wait even longer for the conclusion of this one. Then, the Cubs eventual championship rally was on.
Ben Zobrist, who’d finished up his ninth season playing under Joe Maddon (eight with the Rays from ’07-’14), drove in the go-ahead run in the tenth with a one-out double down the left field line off Bryan Shaw and Miguel Montero would add what would become the game-winning run. Cleveland wasn’t ready to concede just yet. In the bottom of the 10th inning, it was Rajai Davis, again, who singled home Brandon Guyer who’d drawn a walk to pull the game to within a run off Carl Edwards, Jr. Enter Mike Montgomery to get what would be the final out as Michael Martinez grounded out to Kris Bryant at third to clinch the championship for the Cubs.
Emotional wouldn’t begin to describe the scene on the field when the ball hit the back of Anthony Rizzo’s glove at first base for that final out. Yes, there were tears. Yes, there were hugs and the typical range of emotions from utter euphoria to absolute exhaustion. The Chicago Cubs had done it. They’d broken that God-forsaken curse that had haunted them and their fans for over a century.
Ben Zobrist, who hit .357 in the Series including the key go-ahead double in the 10th inning of Game 7, was named MVP. One year ago he was winning his first championship with the Kansas City Royals. Now he was MVP with the Chicago Cubs.
No more goats. Bartman was officially off the hook.
The Chicago Cubs are champions of the baseball world.
No reason to pinch yourselves, sports fans. You aren’t dreaming.
Ain’t baseball great?
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