Series Status: 4-3
W: Aroldis Chapman
L: Bryan Shaw
S: Mike Montgomery
MVP: Ben Zobrist
I said I wasn’t going to cry. And then, with the Cubs up 6-3, the broadcast showed Theo Epstein embracing his son while celebrating the second out in the 8th inning and I lost it. With my two-year-old sleeping soundly in his bed (miraculously, despite my constant hooting and hollering), and another son on the way in less than three weeks, the weight of the moment hit me and I couldn’t control my emotions any longer.
The Cubs got three of their runs thanks to solo shots by Dexter Fowler, David “Grandpa” Rossy, and Javier Baez. The rest were hard-earned by Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist, and Willson Contreras as they smacked the ball all around Progressive Park.
The Indians weren’t out of it, but it didn’t feel like they stood a chance. Carlos Santana had singled in the bottom of the third to score Coco Crisp. Jon Lester, on in relief, was in some trouble in the bottom of the 5th and he threw a wild pitch that managed to score both Santana and Jason Kipnis with two outs in the eighth. That was all the Indians were able to manage at that point, and a Cubs World Series victory seemed inevitable when Aroldis Chapman came into the game to get the final four outs after a Jose Ramirez single ended Lester’s night.
And then the Cubs pulled the rug out from under me. It was stupid to let my guard down knowing Chapman’s workload over the past couple of games, but I couldn’t help myself. I was confident, and the shot of Theo and his family just got to me. But this was Game 7 of a do-or-die World Series game and the Indians weren’t going to just roll over and hand the Cubs the trophy themselves. Brandon Guyer knocked in Ramirez with a double into the right-center gap and then Rajai Davis silenced legions of Cubs fans with a line drive blast to tie the game at six.
I was despondent. What seemed inevitable had suddenly become impossible. The Cleveland Indians just managed one of the greatest comebacks in World Series history against the Cubs. All the buildup was torn down with one swing. For how I felt in that moment, the game was essentially over. The Indians had the most momentum a team could possibly have. Thankfully, there was still some ball to be played.
In the top of the 9th, Rossy walked and Jason Heyward grounded into a fielder’s choice to become the Cubs’ lone base runner. He stole second to get into scoring position and advanced to third on an errant throw, but he couldn’t score as Baez struck out on a failed bunt attempt and Fowler grounded out to end the inning. Chapman stayed in the game to face the top of the Indians’ lineup and he managed to go 1-2-3 after his disastrous 8th. The game was going to extra innings.
Despite neither team scoring, the Indians’ momentum didn’t appear to have dissipated. The crowd was raucous and it felt like the dagger to the heart was coming in extras, the most crushing way the Cubs could lose. Then the heavens opened up. Rain poured onto the field and it was disruptive enough that they had to stop play. The tarp was unfurled and we were officially in a delay before the top of the 10th inning could get underway. It was a quick break, but it was a chance to catch our breath, and I’m sure it was the same for both teams.
By the time they had readied the infield and got back into the action, it once again seemed like a level playing field instead of the ultimate home field advantage.
Kyle Schwarber singled to right to lead off the inning and was replaced by Albert Almora, Jr. as a pinch runner. After Bryant lined out to move Almora to second, the Indians huddled on the mound to talk strategy. They intentionally walked Anthony Rizzo, but the future World Series-MVP made them pay. Zobrist doubled down the line to make it 7-6, Cubs. With Miguel Montero on deck, the Tribe intentionally walked Addison Russell. Montero then became the fourth Cubs catcher (technically) in the game to get a big base hit and third with an RBI as he singled Rizzo home for the last run of the inning.
Ah, but the Indians weren’t done yet. Into the game came Carl Edwards, Jr., who was tasked with closing it out and delivering the Cubs’ first World Series championship in 108 years. The first two outs were easy as Mike Napoli struck out and Ramirez grounded out. Then Brandon Guyer walked and 8th-inning hero Davis stepped up to the plate where he delivered again, slapping a single to center to make it 8-7, Cubs.
Mike Montgomery came into the game for the final out. With an empty bench, Terry Francona had no more aces up his sleeve — it was Michael Martinez against Monty for the whole shebang. As time stretched gossamer-thin, Montgomery induced a ground out from Bryant to Rizzo and the Chicago Cubs were the undisputed champions of the baseball world. The happy tears began to flow yet again.
I said I wasn’t going to cry, but the moment was bigger than I could even possibly have imagined. A new experience for about 99% of every Cubs fan on this earth, Game 7 of the World Series was its own beast. It was baseball at its best. Big-time dingers, small-ball runs, incredible strikeouts, ace pitchers battling as hard as they possibly could, a rain delay, a comeback, another almost-comeback, and an historic championship.
What a night. What a moment. What a game and what a series.
The legacy of the 2016 Chicago Cubs will be that they never quit. Not in their home opener, when the crowd came to welcome the Cubs back into their lives after witnessing a sweep at the hands of the Mets in the 2015 NLCS. Not in the dog days of August, like the time they scored three runs in the final two innings against the Pirates to force extras before winning in 13 innings. Not in the NLDS when they scored four runs in the top of the 9th in Game 4 to beat the Giants by one run. Not against the Dodgers, when, despite being shut out in back-to-back games by Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, they rallied to win the next three to book a trip to the World Series. And not even after falling behind three games to one on baseball’s biggest stage and losing the lead late in a winner-take-all Game 7.
These Cubs never quit. And now they are baseball’s champions.
For my pushing-ninety die-hard-fan grandparents. For my family and friends and every fan out there. For Ron and Ernie, Rossy and Rizzo and Bryant and Schwarber and everyone else, the happy tears flowed. It wasn’t easy, but they won because they didn’t quit.
When my son woke up this morning, the first thing I told him was that the Cubs won the World Series. With the awe only a toddler can manage, his drawn-out “wow” said it all.
The Chicago Cubs will look to build off of their Game 7 championship victory and turn themselves into a dynasty starting in 2017.
“You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. Go.”