After 108 years, Cubs fans can rejoice. The Chicago Cubs are the 2016 World Series Champions after defeating the Cleveland Indians, 8-7, on Nov. 1. The Cubs won the series, 4-3.
The Cubs were down 3-1 at one point in the series, a familiar sight to Cleveland fans (2016 NBA Finals). However, after a win in game five and a dominant win in game six. The Cubs had all the momentum going into game seven, and it clearly carried over. On the fourth pitch of the game, Cubs leadoff hitter and center fielder Dexter Fowler homered to center field to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. It was the first time in World Series history that a leadoff home run was hit in an elimination game.
From there, the rollercoaster ride got even more intense. Cleveland came back to tie it in the third, but the Cubs jumped to a 5-1 lead in the fifth. However, in the bottom of the fifth, the Indians got two back on a wild pitch by Cubs left-hander Jon Lester. In the top of the sixth, in what would be the last game of his career, Cubs catcher David Ross hit a home run to extend the Cubs’ lead to 6-3.
Lester gave way to left-handed reliever Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning. Chapman, who can throw a fastball as hard as 105 mph, came in with a runner on second. However, he would give up a double to Indians outfielder Brandon Guyer, and that would narrow the Cubs’ lead to 6-4.
Indians outfielder Rajai Davis came up with Guyer on second, and with two balls and two strikes, Davis lined a home run just inside the foul pole to make it a 6-6 game. It was the first home run Chapman gave up since June of this year. The score remained tied through nine innings, 6-6.
With runners on first and second in the top of the 10th, Cubs left fielder Ben Zobrist doubled down the left field line to take a 7-6 lead. Miguel Montero, pinch-hitting for David Ross, singled home another run to make it an 8-6 lead. The Cubs would take their two-run lead into the bottom of the 10th.
Cubs reliever Carl Edwards, Jr. came on in relief of Chapman in the 10th. After allowing a base runner and a defensive indifference (stolen base without a throw by the catcher), Rajai Davis delivered an RBI single to make it an 8-7 game. However, that would be all the Indians got — left-handed reliever Mike Montgomery came in for Edwards and recorded the final out to win the 2016 World Series, 8-7.
Zobrist, who had the game-winning RBI in the 10th inning, took home the World Series MVP honors. He also collected 10 total hits in the World Series.
In my mind, two things separated the teams in game seven — depth and execution. Both teams went through 13 position players and five pitchers in the game, but it just seemed like the Cubs simply had better players at that moment in time. In the 10th inning, Cubs designated hitter Kyle Schwarber singled to start off the inning, and Roberto Almora, Jr., a threat on the base paths, pinch ran for Schwarber. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant flew out to deep center field, and Almora, Jr., tagged up from first to get to second. Schwarber is not as fast as Almora, Jr., and he would not have been able to tag up from first. This forced the Indians to walk Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and they had to pitch to Zobrist who delivered in the clutch.
Something the Indians needed in game seven was a strong outing from starting pitcher Corey Kluber, but he was not as dominant as he was in previous starts. In four innings, Kluber gave up four runs and did not record a strikeout for the first time in his career. On the flipside, Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks gave up two runs (one earned) in four and two-thirds innings and recorded two strikeouts. Kluber is known as a strikeout pitcher and Hendricks is not, but simply put, Hendricks was better than Kluber when it mattered most.
Even though Chapman blew a save in game seven; if it weren’t for him, the Cubs probably wouldn’t have forced a game seven. Over the course of four days (including one day off), Chapman threw 97 pitches, an incredible amount for a pitcher who’s conditioned to only throw about 20 pitches each appearance. He threw a combined 137 pitches in five World Series games, which included an eight-out save in game five.
In the bullpen, it was all-hands-on-deck. The Cubs went right from Hendricks in the fourth inning to Lester, who started game five for the Cubs. They also had starting pitcher Jake Arrieta in the bullpen, who threw 102 pitches the day before. Although they didn’t need Arrieta, he was an option for the Cubs.
For the Indians, once Kluber gave way to left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, they had two other relievers, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, follow Miller. Starting pitcher Trevor Bauer got the last two outs in the 10th, but the Cubs were much deeper in terms of pitching. The Indians lost two of their top pitchers, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, to injury, and that was a tough blow for the Tribe. Had they been healthy, I think the Indians would’ve had a much better chance.
So, Cubs fans, the 2016-17 offseason is yours to brag about. For the first time in 108 years, your team is at the top of the mountain looking down on the rest of the baseball world. “Fly the W” with pride.