Most of the commemorations of the Cubs’ 2016 season focus on November 2, the date the team ended a 108-year World Series drought in Cleveland. (Of course, I’ll cover that here too, a bit more than a week from now.)
But a drought nearly as significant ended on this date five years ago today, October 22, 2016, when the Cubs defeated the Dodgers before a raucous crowd at Wrigley Field to win the National League pennant for the first time in 71 years.
The Cubs had come from a 2-1 NLCS deficit — and being shut out in back-to-back-games — to take a 3-2 lead by winning the last two games at Dodger Stadium.
I remember thinking at the time, “Now we’re back to exactly the place we inhabited 13 years ago,” that being having a 3-2 NLCS lead, needing to win one more game at home to go to the World Series.
A Cubs fan, right? Not “glass half full,” instead wondering when the glass is going to get knocked over and spill.
Kyle Hendricks allowed a leadoff single to Andrew Toles in the first inning of Game 6. Was that glass tipping over?
Nope. A double-play ball erased that runner and the Dodgers didn’t score, but the Cubs did in the bottom of the inning off Clayton Kershaw. Dexter Fowler led off with a double and Kris Bryant drove him in:
An error on a ball hit by Anthony Rizzo moved KB to third, where he scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
The Cubs added a run in the second on a Fowler single to make it 3-0 and Hendricks was mowing down Dodgers. Josh Reddick had reached on an error in the second, but Hendricks picked him off:
The first-inning single by Toles and Reddick reaching base were the only two Dodger baserunners until the eighth, when Reddick singled with one out. Hendricks was removed to a thunderous ovation:
The Cubs had scored two more runs while Hendricks was shutting down the Dodgers, both on solo homers.
Willson Contreras, in the fourth:
Rizzo, in the fifth:
And so, the game went to the ninth inning with the Cubs leading 5-0, three outs to go to erase the pain of the previous 70 seasons.
Aroldis Chapman struck out Kiké Hernandez. Two outs to go. Then he walked Carlos Ruiz.
Yasiel Puig was the next hitter:
For those of you who don’t like Joe Buck — and I still don’t get that, he’s a perfectly competent baseball broadcaster — that was an absolutely perfect call: “The Cubs have won the pennant!” And then... he let the pictures tell the story.
There was still a World Series to be won, and of course, that happened. But this win, at Wrigley Field in front of a deliriously happy crowd, is perhaps my favorite memory of being at the ballpark, all those years of failure erased by one wonderful game. Hendricks and Chapman, thanks to three double plays and Kyle’s pickoff of Reddick, faced the minimum 27 batters in shutting out the Dodgers 5-0 on two hits. Even if this game hadn’t had the impact of breaking a 71-year pennant drought, it would have been one of the best-pitched games in franchise history. Given the importance, this game — including the pitching, the key hits off a very good Dodgers starter, the defense — has to rank very high as one of the best overall games in Cubs history.
The only thing better will be to see Cubs players jump around in a pile at Wrigley Field after winning the World Series. It might feel far away now, but I am convinced, to repeat a famous phrase, “It’s gonna happen.”
The Cubs won the National League pennant by defeating the Dodgers five years ago today. If you’d like to watch the entire game — two hours, 36 minutes, try doing that with a postseason game in 2021! — here it is: