By Brandon Niles EBS Sports Columnist
Back in June, I wrote about the rise of the Chicago Cubs and said that President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and Executive Vice President Jed Hoyer should add “curse breakers” to their resumes if they got the Cubs back to the World Series. Five months later, the title is official. Epstein and Hoyer: curse breakers. Chicago Cubs: World Series champions.
It seems fitting that the 108-year drought since their last World Series victory would come in such dramatic fashion.
After cruising through the regular season with the best record in baseball, the Cubs came into the playoffs with championship buzz already surrounding them. They quickly dismantled the San Francisco Giants in the National League Divisional Series in four games, using the ninth inning of Game 4 to score four runs and beat the Giants 6-5.
During the National League Championship Series, the Cubs faced a Los Angeles Dodgers team featuring a young core of hitters and one of the best pitchers of all time in Clayton Kershaw. After losing two of the first three games, the Cubs scored 10 runs in three innings of Game 4 and used the momentum to close out the series out in six games.
In the first World Series appearance for the Cubs since 1945, they faced the Cleveland Indians who haven’t won a World Series since 1948. Fans were treated to a matchup of underdogs and it seemed like no matter who won, we all won.
In true Cubs fashion, the Indians got off to a commanding lead. Cleveland star pitcher Corey Kluber pitched a brilliant first game shutout, going six innings and striking out nine batters. The Cubs came back in Game 2 with a convincing win, but then dropped the next two games, scoring only two runs combined in the back-to-back losses. The Cubs trailed the series 3-1 going into Game 5, and few people expected them to come back and win the seven-game series.
Closer Aroldis Chapman pitched an eight-out save in Game 5 to keep the Cubs alive. Then they brought an offensive bombardment in Game 6, including a grand slam in the third inning by shortstop Addison Russell that proved too much for Cleveland to overcome, and the Cubs tied the series with a 9-3 victory.
Game 7 was when Chicago fans started to believe again and Cleveland fans got worried. It was only a few months ago when the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. With the Cavs’ success fresh in their minds, Cleveland fans hoped their team could pull it off.
Cleveland got down early, with the Cubs holding a four-run lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning. By the eighth inning, the Cubs were up 6-3 and Chicago fans were starting to celebrate. Then Chapman gave up an RBI double to pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer, followed by a home run by Rajai Davis that tied the game 6-6. It seemed as though the “Curse of the Billy Goat” might rear its head once again and doom the Cubs.
After neither team scored in the ninth inning and a short rain delay, the Cubs managed to put up two runs in the 10th. A double by left fielder Ben Zobrist followed by base hits from Russell and catcher Miguel Montero had the Cubs up 8-6. Cleveland got another run in the bottom of the 10th off a Davis single, but it wasn’t enough and the Cubs held on to win 8-7.
This was a great win for the Cubs, but also a great win for sports fans. Parity helps to keep a wider fan base engaged in the sport, and seeing an underdog win a championship off the backs of exceptional management gives hope to fans of every MLB franchise.
Hope is what keeps fans coming back year after year, and as I root for my Seattle Mariners during the dog days of August I’m going to be repeating to myself, “Hey, the Cubs did it.” Congratulations Chicago!
Brandon Niles is a longtime fan of football and scotch, and has been writing about sports for the past decade. He is a fantasy football scout for 4for4 Fantasy Football and is co-host of the 2 Guys Podcast.