Dave McCullough presents our World Series Game Seven recap in which MLB crowns the Chicago Cubs world champs for the first time in 108 years.
Someone had to win. Baseball – more than any other sport – is about the story. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end and it goes on – both chapter and verse – until there’s a resolution. In this contest between two history-rich franchises, someone was going to win and snap a streak that was old enough to collect Social Security benefits; either the Cleveland Indians would win their first World Series in 68 years or the Chicago Cubs would win their first in 108. A fanbase that has built its legends and lore upon their team’s futility was forever going to leave behind the “losers” label – will they still be lovable in the morning? Both sets of fans would happily find out, if it meant winning a World Series title after a lifetime of fandom without.
Dexter Fowler led off the game for the Cubs with a homer:
Cleveland starter Corey Kluber was back on the hill for the third time this series, looking for his third win. He also yielded an first-inning run in his last start, so while the home crowd was rocked on its heels, there was no panic. Kluber had displayed throughout the postseason that he was Cleveland’s best starter and was capable of shutting down this Cubs offense. But jitters could be heard after designated hitter Kyle Schwarber reached on an infield single. However, the Indians righty forced Kris Bryant into a flyout to left and Anthony Rizzo to do the same to center for two outs. With Ben Zobrist at the plate, Schwarber stunned everyone in attendance – including some of his teammates – by taking off for second. This steal attempt was by a player not medically cleared to stand in left field. He made it safely, but Zobrist could not deliver him home, lining out to right.
Meanwhile, Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks went to the mound for Chicago. A Cy Young candidate, the 26-year old was overlooked often this season: he shared the rotation with the reigning Cy Young winner and two expensive free agent acquisitions, John Lackey and Jon Lester – the latter of whom also performed like a Cy Young candidate. Hendricks won Game 6 of the NLCS with a terrific performance: 7 ⅓ innings, 2 hits, no runs, six strikeouts. He logged 4 ⅓ innings in Cleveland’s 1-0 victory in Game Four – the losing run coming after he had departed. He began the first inning in Game Seven by retiring Carlos Santana on a lineout and Jason Kipnis on a strikeout. With two down, Francisco Lindor reached on an error by Javier Baez, but Hendricks induced a groundout from Mike Napoli to end the frame.
Kluber set down the Cubs 1-2-3 in the top half of the second. Hendricks was greeted in the home half by a Jose Ramirez single back up the box that deflected off the pitcher’s glove. However, Hendricks displayed a great pickoff move and nabbed Ramirez leaning away from the bag for out number one. Lonnie Chisenhall then singled, but it was one on and one out instead of runners at first and second with nobody retired. Hendricks then induced the speedy Rajai Davis into the 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
In the top of the third, Kluber retired Javier Baez on a flyout to left and got Fowler to line out also to left before Schwarber swatted a 1-0 pitch into right field. The lumbering DH got on his horse and tried to ride it to second base, but whatever speed he might have had before his knee injury has not yet returned, and he was thrown out at second.
Coco Crisp lashed a double down the left field line and easily cruised into second. Tribe skipper Terry Francona then signalled for the sac bunt and catcher Roberto Perez laid it down, moving Crisp to third with one out. Santana then scorched a single to right, scoring Crisp to tie the game at one. The next batter, Kipnis, hit a groundball to shortstop Addison Russell who fielded it on an odd hop. He flipped the ball to second baseman Javier Baez to begin a double play, however, Baez – who’s only play was to barehand the ball – could not handle the flip and dropped the ball:
With two on and one out Hendricks bore down and got Lindor and Napoli to end the inning with the score still tied at one run apiece.
Bryant led off the fourth against Kluber with a single to left on a full count, and then Rizzo followed with a walk. The Indians ace had six strikeouts in Game Four and nine in Game One – but did not record one in Game Seven. He did get Zobrist to ground into a force out, eliminating Rizzo at second but allowing Bryant to advance to third (Zobrist ended up at first). After a visit to the mound, Addison Russell lofted a shallow fly to center field. Davis settled under it, took a hop step as he secured the ball, and uncorked a throw to the plate. Bryant scampered for home and barely beat the tag, scoring the second run on a sacrifice fly. Catcher Willson Contreras then doubled, which chased Zobrist home and extended the lead to 3-1. Kluber enticed Jason Heyward into popping up to end the inning, but the damage was done. And Hendricks knew just what to do with such good fortune: He set down the Tribe 1-2-3 to end the third inning.
The Cubs scored two more runs in the top of the fifth: Baez crushed the first pitch he saw from Kluber into the right centerfield bleachers and, after Andrew Miller replaced the starter, Fowler singled to left. The Indians relief ace seemingly put the kibosh on another Cubs rally by getting Schwarber to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. However, Bryant walked with two down and then Rizzo stroked a single to right and Bryant rounded the bases, dashing home with the fourth run of the evening for the Cubs. Zobrist lined out to end the frame, but the Cubs led 5-1 through four and a half.
In the home half of the inning, Hendricks began by getting Crisp to ground out and Perez to strikeout before Santana walked. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon then did what he vowed not to do before the game – he brought in starter Jon Lester as a reliever with a runner on first base. All season long – and going back several years – Lester has had a problem fielding his position, and throwing to first base. Would-be base stealers take big leads and Lester relies upon his personal catcher – The Blue Wolf, David Ross – to control the running game. Of course this immediately came into play, as Jason Kipnis dribbled a ball in front of the plate that any other pitcher would have made a play on. Instead, Ross was forced to pounce on it, and then this happened:
Ross launched the ball into foul territory, and Kipnis ended up at second and Santana at third with two down. Then Lester – making just his third career relief appearance – let fly a wild pitch that caromed off Ross and allowed both Indians to score. Lester retired Lindor to end the inning, but the lead had been cut to 5-3.
After a Russell fly out to open the sixth, Ross crushed a solo homer, atoning for his error in the previous frame. The lead was now 6-3 Cubs. Miller retired Baez and Heyward to end the inning, but the momentum had shifted back in favor of Chicago.
Lester sat Napoli and Ramirez down to start the bottom of the frame but pinch hitter Brandon Guyer singled, putting a runner on before Davis grounded out to end the inning.
Fowler led off the top of the seventh with a single but Miller got Schwarber to lineout. The lanky lefty then departed in favor of Cody Allen, who struck out Bryant as Fowler was caught stealing to end the inning.
Lester forced Crisp to line out to start the inning, but Perez walked. The Cubs lefty then got Santana to meekly ground the ball back him on the mound – and Lester ran it halfway to first before underhanding it for the out. With a runner at second and two down, Lester got Kipnis to strike out and end the inning with the lead intact.
Allen returned to the mound in the top of the eighth, and struck out Rizzo for the first out. Zobrist then grounded out for the second out, and Russell popped out to end the inning. Lester came out again for the bottom half of the inning and induced a Lindor grounder to his counterpart. Napoli was caught looking at strike three for out number two, but Jose Ramirez hit an infield single to short and Maddon summoned his closer, Aroldis Chapman. Lester went three innings, allowing just three hits and a run.
The flamethrowing lefty had to get Brandon Guyer to end the inning but the Indians outfielder had other plans. He doubled into the right-center field gap. Ramirez was off on contact and scored easily, with Guyer at second with two down and Rajai Davis coming to the plate. Chapman had been overpowering this postseason, but he threw 20 (meaningless) pitches in Game Six the night before – would fatigue become an issue?
Davis lined a 2-2 meatball over the fence in left to tie the game at 6-6. This is why we love baseball:
Crisp kept the pressure on, singling into left. But catcher Yan Gomes (who replaced Perez earlier) struck out to end the threat. However, the Indians eighth-inning rally netted them three runs and a tie game, 6-6 headed to the ninth.
At this point, it started to rain. I swear. This game – which has had everything, and has been the highest of high drama – now had a literal cold rain falling on both star-crossed franchises. You can’t make up stuff like that. Thank you, baseball gods. Thank you.
Cody Allen returned to the mound, and promptly walked Ross to open the top of the ninth. Maddon sent Chris Coghlan in to pinch run. Jason Heyward then strode to the plate, and hit a potential double play ball to second base. However, the throw from Kipnis pulled Lindor into the basepath and Coghlan legally took out the shortstop:
Francona went to his bullpen once again with a man on first, summoning Bryan Shaw. Heyward took off for second and Gomes heaved the ball into center field, sending Heyward – the winning run – to third base with one out and Javier Baez at the plate. The Cubs second baseman then fouled a bunt attempt away with two strikes, and struck out. Fowler followed that by scorching a ball up the middle but Lindor ranged far to his left on the grass, gobbled up the ball, and threw him out for the third out of the top of the ninth.
Chapman went back to the hill for the bottom of the ninth. The leadoff man, Carlos Santana, flied out to start things. Kipnis then battled with the Cubs closer, hitting a dangerous foul ball before succumbing and striking out. Lindor then hacked a soft fly into right, and Game Seven was headed for extra innings.
Following a short rain delay, Shaw came back out to pitch the tenth inning for the home team. Kyle Schwarber stroked the second pitch he saw into right field and was replaced by Albert Almora at first base. Kris Bryant followed with a long fly ball that had some Cleveland fans holding their breaths, but Almora was standing on first base. As soon as Davis secured the catch the wise baserunner was off, tagging up and moving the go ahead run just 180 feet away from home. Shaw then intentionally walked Rizzo, making the double play a possibility and bringing right-handed Ben Zobrist to the plate. The left fielder stung a 1-2 cutter down the left field line to score the go-ahead run:
With men on first and second and one out, Shaw intentionally walked Willson Contreras, and Miguel Montero followed that up with an RBI single, increasing the Cubs lead to 8-6. Francona came out to rescue Shaw and replace him with Trevor Bauer. The starting pitcher struck out Jason Heyward and retired Javier Baez with a fly to center, giving the Indians offense a chance.
Joe Maddon sent out the 25-year-old Carl Edwards to close out the World Series for the Cubs. Things started off well for the righty as he struck out Napoli and induced a grounder by Ramirez. However, a Guyer walk resulted in a visit from pitching coach Chris Bosio. Eighth-inning hero Rajai Davis strode to the plate and smacked a single that scored Guyer who was going on contact. Maddon then called for lefty Mike Montgomery to face Michael Martinez. After Martinez watched a curveball pass, he swung at the next curve he saw and this happened:
Hopefully, this magical postseason has provided Indians fans with a new cadre of real-life heroes (Rajai Davis, anyone?) and they can stop repping the jerseys of a fictional winner. And hopefully Cubs fans will retain the passion and loyalty that had them filling Wrigleyville and singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” as loudly, and badly, as possible. But for sure things will be different for Cubs – that’s what winning will do to a fanbase. When your streak begins to collect Social Security, your fans can’t help but be scarred by the near-misses. For sure, the Indians will be back next spring, thinking 2017 is their year.
Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs, 2016 World Series Champions!