It didn’t quite take as many playing hours as Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, but the Cubs’ 3-2 walkoff win over the Dodgers had quite a few memorable moments, none more so that Anthony Rizzo ’s line-drive single down the left-field line that scored Jon Jay with the winning run
Many hours before that, the team waited out an intense, but quick line of storms that rained hard on Wrigley Field for about 20 minutes. This happened about 20 minutes after the scheduled game time of 7:05 p.m., so the team wisely postponed their pregame festivities that had been slated to start at 6:15. This included the traditional introductions of both teams that always happens at a home opener as well as a stirring rendition of “God Bless America” from Julianna Zobrist and Wayne Messmer’s national anthem. For Messmer it was the 33rd consecutive home opener for which he’d sung the anthem.
During the delay the Cubs took the opportunity to show David Ross’ appearance on “Dancing With The Stars” on the left-field video board. Fans weren’t the only ones watching:
When Wrigley Field was checking up on David Ross on Dancing With The Stars: pic.twitter.com/nrJfW0ws06— Mark (@tole_cover) April 11, 2017
Then came the moment Cubs fans had been waiting for... for longer than the entire history of Wrigley Field. The last time the Cubs won a championship, Wrigley Field did not yet exist. So the banner-raising ceremony was a first, and I’m guessing there might have been a bit of dust in the air in the room where you were watching. There was definitely some at the ballpark. And fans weren’t the only ones feeling that way:
#Cubs Rizzo was surprised at his emotions during pre game ceremony. "I was fighting back tears a lot"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 11, 2017
I’ve said this before about Rizzo, the acknowledged team leader. This Florida-born man, who likely knew little or nothing about Cubs history or the fanbase before he was traded here in 2012, is one of us. In just his sixth year with the team, I think he’s already one of the most beloved figures in Cubs history. Here’s what the ceremony looked like from the bleachers:
Nearly two hours late, the Cubs and Dodgers took the field on a night where many fans did not dress for the change in weather. It was in the mid-60s most of the afternoon, but once the rain cleared the area the wind shifted sharply off Lake Michigan and the game-time temp was announced as 41 degrees. I went to buy scorecards and about half a dozen people were in line at the little concession stand at the seating level in the bleachers in right-center field. Everyone ahead of me in line was buying a sweatshirt.
Jon Lester started off this game very well. Through five innings he’d faced just one over the minimum. Two Dodgers had reached, one on a walk, the other on a single, but Franklin Gutierrez, who drew the walk, was thrown out trying to steal by Willson Contreras.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the third. Kyle Schwarber walked with two out (one of seven walks drawn by the Cubs on the night) and scored on Kris Bryant’s double. They added one in the third. Singles by Addison Russell and Contreras put runners on first and second. A throwing error on an attempted pickoff put the runners on second and third, whereupon Javier Baez was given a “Manfred” (the now-automatic intentional walk). Lester was next to the plate, and he hit a ground ball to third.
Baez was at first ruled safe at second, but the call was overturned on review [VIDEO]. The only thing I can think of is that angle from center field, in which it appeared Baez’s foot didn’t quite hit second base before Logan Forsythe’s. Meanwhile, Russell crossed the plate and the run counted regardless to make it 2-0.
Lester, clearly tiring, allowed a run in the sixth, so then it was up to the bullpen. Carl Edwards Jr. was not good on this night, issuing a pair of walks. Those were sandwiched around Adrian Gonzalez (who got loudly booed all night) reaching on catcher’s interference.
Justin Grimm came into a tough situation, then, bases loaded, nobody out, the Cubs up by one. He got Joc Pederson to fly to right and pinch-hitter Kiké Hernandez to hit into an inning-ending double play, nice work by Grimm.
But the Dodgers tied the game up in the eighth on a play that probably shouldn’t have been made. With one out and runners on first and second, pinch-hitter Chase Utley hit a bouncer to Rizzo, who threw to Russell for a force. Justin Turner made a hard -- but legal -- slide into Russell, who threw wildly, allowing Forsythe to score the tying run.
If you look at the video of that play, it appears that Russell had little or no chance to get Utley on the relay and probably should have just held the ball. The Cubs challenged Turner’s slide, but even though his leg stuck out and got in Russell’s way, it was ruled legal. (I agree with that ruling.)
Onward we went, to “weird baseball” time. That’s baseball after midnight, upon which you are supposed to eat ice cream. (Not on a night like this one at the ballpark!)
The Dodgers briefly threatened in the top of the ninth off Wade Davis, who allowed a one-out single. With two out a bouncer went off Bryant’s glove for an error, putting the tying run on second. But Davis struck out Forsythe to end the inning.
It’s past 12:30 a.m. now and maybe 5,000 people are still in the house at Wrigley. Jon Jay batted for Albert Almora Jr. (Joe Maddon wanting the platoon advantage against Sergio Romo) and singled. A slow-moving groundout moved Jay to second and he stole third uncontested as Bryant struck out.
That’s when Rizzo provided his heroics, a satisfying ending to a game that began on Monday and ended in the early hours Tuesday.
The 2017 season so far has been close-fought. Four of the Cubs’ seven games have been decided by one run (they’re 2-2 in those) and six of the seven have been decided by three runs or fewer. Still, this team looks resilient enough, finding ways to win, that it certainly looks like they’ve got a very good chance to have another banner-raising ceremony a year from now.
There is much work to be done before that, of course. Another ceremony will precede Wednesday’s game when 20 fans will present the Cubs with their World Series rings. After that ceremony, it’ll be John Lackey taking the mound for the Cubs and Brandon McCarthy for the Dodgers.