CLEVELAND – Holy cow!
Click your heels!
Let’s play two!
Ding-dong, the goat is dead!
And thank you, thank you, thank you, Ben Zobrist!
Eureka’s favorite son forever earned the World Series MVP award when he doubled into the left-field corner in the top of the 10th inning late Wednesday night to put the Cubs back into the lead and send them on their way to an 8-7 victory over the Indians. And life as we know it is forever changed.
“#$@& Curses!” says the adidas ad hanging over the bar in Murphy’s Bleachers, across the street from Wrigley Field back in Chicago.
Amen to that.
Eamus Catuli – Latin, loosely translated as “Let’s Go Cubs” – resets to zero: AC000000.
That’s the sign that peers down on Wrigley Field from the fascia of the rooftop at the Lakeview Baseball Club, across Sheffield Avenue from the right-field bleachers. Anno Catulorum – again, loosely translated to “In The Year of the Cubs” – zero years since the team last won a division title, zero since the Cubs last won a pennant and now zero since they last won a World Series.
In other words, next year is now. No more will Cubs fans be pining for something they’ve never seen. Those huge, awful, pornographic numbers of the past – AC0871108, they read until September – have been wiped away, dumped in history’s trash bin.
“There are no curses,” a champagne-soaked general manager Jed Hoyer said in the clubhouse. “There never was a curse. It’s about having the best team and playing well over seven games in the World Series. We did that. The Cubs are no different than any other team. When we are the best team, we can win, and this year we were the best team.”
Still, it almost didn’t happen, because the Cubs had to put their entire world of fans through a century’s worth of torment one more time. It was the longest hour in Cubs history.
There they were, four outs from winning the championship. Up 6-3 in the bottom of the eighth, with their 100 mph savior, Aroldis Chapman, entering to shut down the Indians one more time, the Cubs could taste the champagne chilling in the clubhouse. All Chapman had to do was get one more out in the eighth, then three in the ninth.
Instead, he gave up the entire lead, the crowning blow being a two-run homer by Rajai Davis.
Both teams went through a scoreless ninth, and then – this was simply too perfect – the skies opened with rain and stopped play.
And why not?
You knew a World Series between the two most historically forlorn franchises in all of Major League Baseball would not be complete without a rain delay.
But a lot of the Cubs will tell you they believe the rain might have been divine intervention of some sort. “Mean to be” was heard a lot.
As the team headed out of the dugout and back toward the clubhouse, still in a state of shock over having victory yanked from them so quickly, right fielder Jason Heyward called a meeting. As Maddon retired to his office, Heyward herded his teammates into the weight room.
This is what Zobrist said happened:
“He said, ‘Whatever’s happened to this point of the game, we’ve got to forget about it. It’s over. We’re still the best team. We’re going to pull this thing out. We need to pull together and chip away. We’re going to win this game.’”
The delay lasted only 17 minutes, and when play resumed, the Cubs attacked.
Kyle Schwarber led off with a single through the Indians’ defensive shift into right field. He ran to first base pumping his fist, then took a seat on the bench so Albert Almora could run for him.
Almora then tagged up and advanced to second on a fly to the center-field wall by Kris Bryant. With first base open, the Indians walked Anthony Rizzo, who had only lit them up for a 1.467 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) that belongs in a universe of its own.
That brought Zobrist to the plate.
Before the game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon had praised Zobrist’s contributions to the team.
“He’s among that elite group in all of professional baseball that, even if he’s not getting hits or is in a slump, he’s still doing something to contribute to the offense, just based on his at-bats,” Maddon said. “His at-bats are the most professional on a daily basis. And he provides protection. You don’t want to give up on Rizzo to get to Zobrist in a pertinent moment.”
But that’s exactly what the Indians did.
And Zobrist killed them with a double into the left-field corner, driving in Almora with the go-ahead run.
“Doubles are nice,” Maddon had said. “It doesn’t have to go over the wall. We dig doubles, and his singles with runners in scoring position are pretty cool, too. His postseason play has been spectacular.”
Amen to that, too.
Zobrist leaped into the air as he arrived at second base, pumping his fist, and then jumping up and down. Rizzo grabbed his helmet with both hands at third, in apparent disbelief.
But it was finally time for the Cubs and their fans to truly believe.
A few minutes later, Miguel Montero drove in Rizzo for the run that ultimately proved the game-winner when the Indians scored once more in the bottom of the 10th.
And the Cubs rushed the field to celebrate the end of an era.
— Kirk Wessler is Journal Star sports editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KirkWessler.
World Series: Ben Zobrist leads the Cubs to World Series championship
CLEVELAND – Holy cow!