Who ya gonna call? GOATBUSTERS!
The curse of the billy goat is gone. Not that it ever existed in the first place, but that’s a story for another time. But for the first time since 1945, the Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series. Because tonight, the Cubs beat the Dodgers 5-0 to win the National League Championship Series 4 games to 2.
The Cubs are going to the World Series!
They did not do this because of magic talismans or exorcisms. They did it because for the first time since 1945, they built the best team in the National League. They did it because they had the best pitching, the best hitting and the best fielding. They also had the best manager. Sure, the playoffs are a crapshoot, but they weighted the dice in their favor as much as legally allowed. In the end, they won because they were the better team.
In the battle between The Greatest Pitcher of His Generation™ and the guy who won the ERA title this year with smarts and location, Kyle Hendricks came out on top. Hendricks was positively brilliant tonight. He gave up a leadoff single on the first pitch to Andrew Toles. Toles got erased in a double play. In the second inning, Javier Baez made an error that let Josh Reddick reach. Hendricks picked Reddick off of first. He wouldn’t allow another baserunner until Reddick singled in the eighth inning. That’s when Maddon went to the bullpen. The final line on Hendricks? 7.1 innings. Two hits. That’s it. Hendricks struck out six. After the game, he said it “might have been” the best game he threw all year. Kyle, that was the best game of your life.
The Cubs got two runs in the first inning when leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler, who is one of the few Cubs players who has hit well off of Clayton Kershaw over his career, hit a bloop down the opposite field line in right. The ball landed fair (and it looked like Fowler was surprised by that) and then bounced into the stands.
Next up was Kris Bryant, and he did something that he had never done all season before tonight: he singled down the right field line. He’s had a few hits to right field this year, but none that far to the opposite field. Fowler scored from second and the Cubs had the lead.
Anthony Rizzo also took Kershaw the other way, although in his case it was to left field. Whether the crowd, the lights or the moment got to rookie Andrew Toles, the ball clanked off his glove. Rizzo was on second with a two-base error and Bryant, who had to hold up, was on third. Ben Zobrist hit a sac fly to make it 2-0. That was all the Cubs would get that inning, but they had a lead.
After Hendricks picked off Reddick to end the top of the second, Addison Russell led off the bottom of the inning by pulling a double down the left field line. Two batters later, Fowler singled him home and it was 3-0 Cubs.
Willson Contreras became the third Cub catcher this postseason to hit a home run when he made it 4-0 with a line drive home run down the left field line. It landed not far from Al Yellon in left field.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Rizzo connected off of Kershaw for a solo HR to give the Cubs an insurance run to make it 5-0.
Aroldis Chapman relieved Hendricks after he gave up the single to Reddick. Howie Kendrick hit a screamer to Javier Baez at second base that he let bounce and it was an easy double play.
After striking out Kiké Hernandez to lead off the ninth, Chapman walked Carlos Ruiz. Before any thoughts of a collapse could come to mind, pinch-hitter Yasiel Puig hit a hard grounder to Russell at shortstop. Easy double play. Game over. The Cubs’ pitchers face the minimum 27 batters. The only other time that happened in a postseason game was Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956.
The Cubs are going to the World Series.
Just a few thoughts before I go. I assume Dexter Fowler will bat leadoff on Tuesday in Cleveland. When he does, he will be the first African-American to ever play in the World Series for the Cubs. Jackie Robinson was still two years in the future when the Cubs last played in the October classic.
Also, for at least a few moments, Fowler will be the only man alive to have ever played in the World Series for the Cubs. We miss you, Lenny Merullo.
In fact, there are a lot of people we wish could see this. Most of you have departed Cubs fans relatives whom you wish you could call up right now and celebrate with. Then there’s Phil Cavaretta. Hank Sauer. Rod Beck. Harry Caray. Jack Brickhouse. There are others. But most of all, there’s Ernie Banks and Ron Santo.
Now the title of “longest time since a World Series appearance” falls to the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, who have been in the league since 1969 and have yet to play the final game of the year. Or, if you want to know whose fans have suffered the most, the Seattle Mariners have been in the league since 1977 without a World Series appearance.
But that other streak is still there. The Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908. Teddy Roosevelt was president. Mark Twain and Leo Tolstoy were still alive. The team with the second-longest streak of not having won the World Series are our opponents: the Cleveland Indians. They haven’t won since Lou Boudreau took them to the title in 1948. One of those streaks are going to end in the the next few days. Don’t let it be Cleveland.
Celebrate tonight. A long drought is over. But there are still four more games to win.
Fly the W. The Cubs are going to the World Series!