What else can really be said?
Game 7 of the 2016 Major League Baseball World Series might just have been the greatest of all time given what was at stake. A single game to decide it all, and between the two baseball franchises that had the longest championship droughts. The American League champion Cleveland Indians seeking their first since 1948, the National League winning Chicago Cubs their first since 1908.
In the end it was the Cubs, baseball’s “Loveable Losers”, and team that it was forever “Next Year”, and hexed by curses, goats, and ill-time fan moments, that emerged as the winners. Next season the current World Series pennant will fly for the first time at Wrigley Field, a ball park that opened in 1914.
Before we got to Game 7, there was the drama of the first six games of the series. Even though the Cubs had the better record, the American League’s win in July’s All-Star game meant the Indians had home field advantage and their Progressive Field would host Games 1, 2, 6, & 7.
The two respective aces, Corey Kluber and Jon Lester started Game 1, with the Indians drawing first blood scoring twice in the first en route to a 6-0 win, highlighted by a two home-run night for unheralded catcher Roberto Perez, who became the first person to ever homer twice in a WS game while batting ninth. The lone bright spot for the Cubs was the return of slugger Kyle Schwarber who tore ligaments in his left knee back in the first week of the season. His long double off the right field wall made him the firstperson ever to get his first hit of the season in the World Series.
The Cubs answered in Game 2 with a 5-1 win behind Jake Arrieta. After taking an early 2-0 lead off of Trevor Bauer they added three in the fifth with an RBI triple by Ben Zobrist, a single by Schwarber and a bases-loaded walk by shortstop Addison Russell. Cleveland’s only run would come on a wild pitch in the sixth.
Onto Chicago for the next three games, where the Wrigley faithful had been waiting to see a World Series game since the Cubs’ last appearance in 1945. The Indians Josh Tomlin and the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks matched zeroes until the bullpens took over, and ultimately a single run in the seventh would prove enough for the visitors when manager Terry Francona pulled the right strings as pinch-hitter Coco Crisp drove in pinch-runner Michael Martinez (the first time that had ever happened for the only run of the game in the World Series). The Cubs threatened late, but Indians closer Cody Allen shut the door by striking out Javier Baez with runners at second and third.
Kluber returned on short rest for Game 4, this time facing Cubs veteran John Lackey. Although the Cubs scored first, Cleveland would lead 3-1 by the end of three punctuated by Carlos Santana’s home run and some sloppy Cubs defence; and would stretch the lead with another run in the sixth before Jason Kipnis effectively ended matters with a 3-run homer in the seventh. The Cubs lone reply was a solo homer by Dexter Fowler, but that did come off the Indians dominant weapon Andrew Miller.
Down 3-1 and facing elimination, the Cubs turned back to Lester for Game 5. Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez put his side ahead with a homer in the second but the Cubs score three in the fifth including a homer from their nascent star (and NL MVP frontrunner) Kris Bryant. The Indians would close it to 3-2, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to his star reliever Aroldis Chapman for the last eight outs – the longest relief outing of the Cuban Missile’s career, and the series would head back to Cleveland.
There the Cubs would blow the game open early. Bryant homered in the first, followed by a two-run double by Russell. Russell would then hit a grand slam (bases-loaded home-run) in the third, becoming the second-youngest player (behind the great Mickey Mantle) to hit one in the World Series. Cleveland would get two runs back, but in an unusual move Maddon brought Chapman in in the 8th despite leading 7-2, and sent him back out for the ninth even after Anthony Rizzo hit a 2-run homer in the top of the inning, only removing him after he walked the first hitter.
So… onto Game 7. The drama started with the very first hitter as Fowler homered off Kluber on the game’s fourth pitch; the first time that had ever happened in a Game 7. Santana levelled the game when he drove in a run off of Hendricks in the third, before Chicago scored two runs in each of the fourth and fifth – the latter including a solo-homer by Baez – when the real fun started.
Maddon lifted Hendricks in the fifth despite the lead and the Cy Young frontrunner looking comfortable, bringing in Lester together with his personal catcher, veteran David Ross playing in his last MLB game. Ross couldn’t cleanly field a tapper in front of the plate by Kipnis and threw wide of first, putting runners at second and third. Next batter Lester bounced one short of the plate that ricocheted off Ross’ mask and away; Santana scored easily from third but behind him Kipnis never hesitated, beating the throw to the plate in a gutsy heads-up play reminiscent of the Royals’ Eric Hosmer’s last year. Ross would make amends in the next inning, homering off of Miller to restore the lead to three.
But the Indians weren’t done. With two out in the eighth Ramirez singled off of Lester, and Maddon went to Chapman. But the flamethrower was clearly out of gas, barely reaching the 100mph heat he’s renowned for. Brandon Guyer doubled home Ramirez before Rajai Davis unbelievably, dramatically scorched one over the wall in the left field corner to tie matters up at 6 each. The Cubs would have their chance in the ninth when Jason Heyward stole second and advanced to third, but Baez couldn’t get him home and Fowler was denied by a spectacular defensive play by Francisco Lindor. Chapman made it through the ninth and it was off to extra innings.
Or so we thought. The rain that had been steadily falling intensified and the tarps were brought out. Fortunately the delay lasted only 17 minutes and the action, and tension, returned. Schwarber singled off Bryan Shaw to open the 10th and Albert Almora Jr pinch-ran, making a heads-up play of his own to tag up and take second on Bryant’s deep flyball to centre. After Rizzo was walked Zobrist followed by doubling to left, scoring Almora, and after another intentional walk to Russell to load the bases Miguel Montero (whose last hit was a grand slam in the league series against Los Angeles) singled home Rizzo. Bauer relieved Shaw and got the last two outs.
Maddon turned to youngster Carl Edwards Jr to start the bottom of the 10th, and he got Mike Napoli and Ramirez. But down to their last out the Indians wouldn’t roll over as Guyer walked and Davis again came through, driving in the run with a base hit up the middle. Mike Montgomery, acquired midseason from Seattle and without a major league save to his name was summoned to face Martinez, the last position player on the Indians bench and on his fourth team this season. The utilitymans soft grounder was fielded by Bryant who fired across to Rizzo for the last out, ending the classic that had it all and then some.
Fly the ‘W’.
It. Finally. Happened.
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