Some may disagree with me, but I will stand by my contention that Wrigley Field was never louder than it was three years ago today, when Miguel Montero hit a grand slam off Joe Blanton of the Dodgers to break a 3-3 tie in Game 1 of the NLCS.
Javier Baez’ steal of home energized the crowd. The Dodgers scored a single run in the fifth off Jon Lester, a solo homer by Andre Ethier.
The Cubs took that 3-1 lead into the eighth. Uh-oh...
Andrew Toles singled off Mike Montgomery. Pedro Strop relieved MiMo and issued a walk and gave up an infield hit, loading the bases.
Joe Maddon called on Aroldis Chapman, who struck out the next two hitters.
The two-run single by Adrian Gonzalez tied the game and as you can tell toward the end of that clip, stunned the crowd into (mostly) silence.
The Dodgers called on Joe Blanton to throw the bottom of the eighth. Blanton had been a very good reliever for the Dodgers throughout the 2016 season as well as in their division series win over the Nationals.
Ben Zobrist led off the inning with a double. After a groundout, Jason Heyward was intentionally walked and Baez flied to right. Chris Coghlan batted for David Ross and he, too, was intentionally walked.
Montero was the next hitter. Blanton threw him two sliders and Montero fouled off the first one and swung and missed at the second one. This situation greatly favored Blanton:
Blanton had not allowed an extra-base hit in 39 AB ending on an 0-2 count this season, and Montero was 1-for-22 w/ no XBH's on 0-2. #NLCS— Inside Edge (@InsideEdgeScout) October 16, 2016
Sixty feet and six inches away, Montero hoped Blanton would make the same mistake.
“In the back of my head, I’m like ‘I want that slider back,’ because it was such a good pitch to hit,” Montero said. “I guess he heard me because he threw it back.”
Said Blanton: “If it happens on 0-1, it happens. It can’t happen 0-2. I don’t hang a lot of sliders, but I hung one there.”
Look where that pitch was (and try to ignore the Nationals cap on Montero):
Talk about “right in the wheelhouse.” Let’s watch it again! [VIDEO]
Miguel Montero’s career as a Cub didn’t end well, as you know. But he had two of the biggest hits in the Cubs’ run to the World Series title in 2016 — that one, and his RBI single in the 10th inning of WS Game 7, the one that brought Anthony Rizzo in with the insurance run the Cubs turned out to need. Those hits were, in fact, the only ones Montero had in the 2016 postseason.
Dave Roberts left Blanton in after the slam and on the very next pitch, Dexter Fowler sent another ball out of the yard:
Speaking of Fowler, check out his reaction to Montero’s slam in the photo at the top of this post, while he was the on-deck hitter.
This just goes to show you how many postseason games can go either way. If the Dodgers don’t put Blanton in that game, if he is taken out before Montero hits, so many other variables, maybe L.A. wins that game and the series.
But they didn’t. And Wrigley Field has never been louder. As someone who was there that night, I can tell you it was deafening, louder than any walkoff home run, any bit of history previously at the ballyard. It was the sound of a crowd confident that something special, something historic was going on.
I can envision Wrigley Field louder on only one occasion going forward: The game where they win the World Series at home.