One hundred and eight years after the Cubs last held the title of World Champions, 212 days after the first pitch of the 2016 season, and 26 days after the Cubs took the postseason by storm, Game 7 of the World Series unfolded exactly as predicted: with a rain-delayed, three-homer, 10-inning, heart-pounding win.
Defensive miscues accounted for three baserunners. Jon Lester gave up two runs on a wild pitch. David Ross took Andrew Miller deep for the last home run of his career. Rajai Davis tied the game on a two-run shot off of Aroldis Chapman in the eighth. Javier Baez botched a safety squeeze attempt in the ninth. A rainstorm kept the tarp on the field for 17 minutes. J.R. Smith ripped his shirt off.
Javier Baez engineered a home run into the center field bleachers as well, picking on a first-pitch slider from Kluber in the fifth inning, but it was veteran catcher David Ross whose homer struck the loudest chord with the crowd.
Down 2-1 in the count, Ross obliterated the second heater he saw from the once-invincible Andrew Miller, blasting it 402 feet into the center field seats for the last home run of his major-league career.
Where Miller excelled in almost every postseason appearance, he faltered in the last gasp of the Indians’ 2016 run, allowing five baserunners and giving up two runs in 2 1/3 innings. (His 19 1/3 innings, however, will still be entered in the history books as the most by a reliever in a single postseason run.)
Dexter Fowler figured out Miller’s signature fastball-slider combo in the fifth inning, as did Anthony Rizzo. Ross returned a 94.7 mph fastball for a home run, and Fowler’s second base hit in the seventh spelled the beginning of the end for the left-hander. His lone strikeout of Kris Bryant made Game 7 his second 2016 postseason appearance with just one strikeout, and the first such outing he’d seen in the World Series.
The fun stopped for the Cubs in the eighth inning, when Aroldis Chapman watched Rajai Davis hit his first career postseason homer to tie the game, 6-6. Davis plucked one of Chapman’s slower offerings from the bottom of the zone, just clearing the left field bleachers to even the playing field.
While Chapman was bailed out by Chicago’s offensive drive in the 10th inning, interrupted only by a brief rain delay, he became the first pitcher credited with both a blown save and a World Series-clinching win since Harvey Haddix in Game 7 of the 1960 Pirates-Yankees World Series.
Terry Francona went to the last of his triple-threat relievers in the ninth inning, deploying right-hander Bryan Shaw to polish off the last two outs and take the Indians into the 10th inning. Kyle Schwarber, who went 3-for-5 in the DH spot just a week after getting cleared to play in the majors, drove the second pitch he saw into right field for a leadoff liner. Shaw intentionally walked Anthony Rizzo, then planted a cutter on the outside edge of the strike zone on a 3-1 count to Ben Zobrist:
What happened next would cement the Cubs’ place in history:
Everything that happened after Zobrist’s play was just icing on the cake. Shaw loaded the bases before giving way to Trevor Bauer, who knocked down Jason Heyward and Javier Baez to cap the Cubs’ rally. Carl Edwards Jr. and then Mike Montgomery relieved Chapman in the bottom of the inning, sustaining the Indians’ hopes with another come-from-behind RBI for Rajai Davis, then induced a game-ending, World Series-clinching, curse-lifting groundout from Michael Martinez.
If there were a more fitting end to the Cubs’ 2016 run, it might have come in the form of a no-frills, strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out World Series sweep. A better story, though? Impossible.