Since opening day, the Chicago Cubs were anointed the favorites to win the World Series for the first time since 1908. That is pressure that many Cubs teams before them haven’t been able to withstand.
Then it happened on Saturday night, October 22, 2016 at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. The pitch from closer Aroldis Chapman to Dodgers pinch hitter Yasiel Puig. Puig chopped a ball to shortstop Addison Russell who in turn quickly got the ball to second baseman Javy Baez who fired the ball to a waiting Anthony Rizzo who after he caught the ball, threw his hands in the air and rushed to the mound with the other Cubs players in jubilation for winning the pennant.
Let that sink in for a moment, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 National League Pennant and are going to the World Series to face the American League Champion Cleveland Indians. The series begins Tuesday night at Progressive Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.
This is how it all went down. The Los Angeles Dodgers trotted out three time Cy Young Award Winner Clayton Kershaw on five days rest. Kershaw’s mound opponent was the Cubs Cy Young contender and National League ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.
If I were to ask you which pitcher you thought would have been hitting on all cylinders and which pitcher would give up 5 runs in 5 innings of work and which pitcher would give up no runs with only 2 hits in 7 and 1/3 innings? You’d probably would say Kershaw but this night was not his night. Hendricks dominated the Dodgers lineup from the get go.
Hendricks did give up a leadoff hit to start the game to Andrew Toles but quickly got Corey Seager to ground into a double play and got Justin Turner to fly out in the first.
Kershaw then came to the bump looking to piggy back his game 2 gem but it didn’t work out the way he or the Dodgers had planned. Kershaw gave up a leadoff ground rule double to Dexter Fowler. Kris Bryant came up and knocked a single to right, scoring Fowler. Anthony Rizzo got on with an error by Toles in left as Bryant took third. Ben Zobrist then came up and hit a fly ball to center that was caught, scoring Bryant and moving Rizzo to third. Kershaw got the next two batters in Baez and Contreras to get out of the jam but with a 2-0 deficit.
The Cubs again got on Kershaw in the second as Russell doubled to lead off. Albert Almora Jr and Hendricks made outs until Fowler singled to left, scoring Russell but then Fowler got thrown out at second attempting to advance. The 3-0 lead at the time still seemed like not enough against one of the best pitchers in the league but it was all the Cubs needed on this night.
The Cubs hitters were aggressive against Kershaw and added solo home runs by Contreras in the 4th and Rizzo in the 5th for a 5-0 score.
That is all that Hendricks needed as he kept mowing down Dodger after Dodger that came to the plate. Hendricks faced the minimum and was replaced with 1 out in the 8th in favor of closer Chapman. Chapman recorded the final 5 outs of the game to advance the Cubs to the World Series and a date with those pesky Indians.
Those who saw this game witnessed baseball history, Cubs fans will always look back to tonight and say “Where were you when the Cubs clinched the Pennant”? I know where I was, standing in my living room behind my son Brandon holding back tears as the final out was recorded. Watching this 2016 team overcome years and years of old Cubs teams falter in the playoffs and breaking hearts and dashing hopes of millions of fans. Cubs fans for generations haven’t seen a World Series here and Wrigley Field has never seen a World Series Champion since the Cubs played at West Side Park in 1908.
The Cubs still have 4 more games to win before calling themselves Champions, but being in the World Series was the goal at the beginning of the year for manager Joe Maddon and his squad. It’s not going to be an easy task and there may be games that the Cubs will lose. The one thing you need to know is that this is NOT the Cubs teams of the past. Get over all the ‘Curses” and “Goats? and “Bartman” and whatever else you want to blame on the reason for the drought in Cubs history. The 2016 Chicago Cubs is a team of destiny and Tom Rickets, Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and staff have this team on the brink of something that hasn’t happened in 108 years. This year is here!