It was just three years ago tonight that a similar celebration happened in Wrigley Field, when the Cubs punched their ticket to the World Series with a 5-0 win over the Dodgers, winning the National League Championship Series in Game 6.
The Cubs hadn’t been in a World Series in 71 years. Fans who had been at the 1945 World Series were trotted out for interviews, folks then well into their 80s. And in fact, clinching a spot in the World Series at Wrigley Field was a rare event even back when the Cubs were winning pennants every few years. Before 2016, the last time a Cubs pennant-clincher had happened at home was 1932, when a doubleheader sweep of the Pirates wrapped up the N.L. championship.
What you might not remember from that day is something I sure do — a nervous feeling before the game started. The Cubs had gone down two games to one in the NLCS, shut out twice in a row by the Dodgers, looking feeble at the plate. They then won two straight at Dodger Stadium and came back to Chicago leading three games to two — one win to get to the World Series
This had happened before, and in recent memory, in 2003. We don’t need to go over that again. Winning, to us back then, wasn’t a no-brainer until it happened.
Kyle Hendricks, who had an outstanding 2016 season in which he led the major leagues in ERA and finished third in Cy Young voting, was starting for the Cubs against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, back when Kershaw was still Kershaw.
Hendricks dispatched the Dodgers in the first. A leadoff single was erased on a slick Javy double play [VIDEO].
And then the Cubs got to work in the bottom of the inning. Quickly, too. [VIDEO]
A double by Dexter Fowler. An RBI single by Kris Bryant. A line drive by Anthony Rizzo that was misplayed for an error. A sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist.
Kershaw had thrown 16 pitches and the Cubs led 2-0.
In the second, the Cubs added a third run. Addison Russell doubled and two outs later Fowler drove him in.
In the meantime, Hendricks was simply mowing down Dodgers. Josh Reddick reached on an error with one out in the second. One out later... [VIDEO]
Hendricks has perhaps the best pickoff move of any righthanded pitcher in baseball. That one wasn’t even close.
And then Kyle simply dominated. He retired the next 16 Dodgers. Meanwhile, the Cubs added runs on solo homers.
With one out in the eighth, Reddick singled off Hendricks, just the second hit he’d allowed. He left to a deafening ovation for Aroldis Chapman, who needed just three pitches to get out of the inning with a double play.
Chapman took the 5-0 lead into the ninth. He issued a one-out walk. Yasiel Puig was the next hitter.
It took just one pitch and... “The Cubs have won the pennant!” [VIDEO]
Inside the ballpark:
One of my favorite Wrigley Field moments ever. Yours too, I’d bet. It happened three years ago today. Look at all these people outside Wrigley Field that night!
Nothing will ever feel quite like this, I don’t think. Even if the Cubs do win more pennants, nothing can ever quite live up to the feeling of breaking the pennant drought, and 11 days later, the World Series drought.
Only one thing might beat it — winning the World Series at Wrigley Field.