2008 was the best season most of us had ever seen (well, at least everything before October 1), and I don't say that lightly, as it was the Cubs' best all-around year since the 1930s.
There are so many games I could have chosen for this installment; there were blowouts and extra-inning thrillers and Lance Berkman getting scared by thunder and lightning, but this one, I think, epitomizes that Cubs team's ability to win no matter what, to come back from seemingly impossible odds, and to win and win and win (they won 55 times at Wrigley Field in 2008).
Again, I turn to my own recap of this game from BCB:
I don't think I have ever seen, ever, in all the years I've watched baseball, a last-of-the-ninth comeback that good -- two out, nobody on base, down four runs, and having it capped by a three-run, no-doubt-about-it, first-pitch homer by Geovany Soto. He was the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year anyway; I suspect that clinches it, and it might get him some MVP votes, too. But as Lou said in his postgame press conference, "Let's knock two more numbers down, then we can talk about awards." (And let's stop talking about when we 'want' the Cubs to clinch, too -- just do it!)
Really, when you think about it, how many teams have ever done that in such a situation? It came so quickly, too: first-pitch double by Aramis Ramirez, followed by a run-scoing single on a 2-1 pitch by Jim Edmonds, making it 6-3. Mark DeRosa singled on the second pitch he saw, and then Soto crushed a first-pitch fastball off Salomon Torres for the game-tying homer.
Seven pitches. Four runs. That team did things I had never seen any team do before.
In the 12th inning, Daryle Ward -- don't forget what a solid bench player he was! -- led off with a pinch-walk. Jason Marquis -- I liked the fact that he was useful off the bench like this -- ran for him and was sacrificed to second. Following an intentional walk and a fly out, Derrek Lee came to bat:
And that set up D-Lee's heroics, following a leadoff walk to Daryle Ward (it almost didn't seem as if he knew he had walked, with no signal from plate umpire Ed Rapuano. This crew did a horrendous job the entire series -- to assign a crew with two umpires as bad as Joe West and C. B. Bucknor to a series like this was a real, real bad decision by MLB schedulers), and Jason Marquis, pinch-running, scoring the winning run on Lee's single. Before that, D-Lee had gone 0-for-5 and hit into his 26th DP of the year, one short of Ron Santo's dubious 1973 team record. It's nice to see him get a huge hit like that and it just shows, once again, how much of a team this is, with every single member contributing to victories.
The Cubs won 7-6, their fifth win in six games after an early-September slide that reduced the division lead to four games made some of us a bit nervous. Of all the 2008 wins, this one is one that sticks in my mind to this day.
Do you remember how this felt? It's only a little over five years ago, but it feels like decades. We can only hope that the rebuilding process will provide us with a team that does things like this, sooner rather than later.