By Lauren Grimaldi
Harry Caray’s 1991 words finally ring true.
After 71 years, the Chicago Cubs are finally going to play in the World Series.
“Too bad we couldn’t have had a victory that meant a pennant. But that will come; sure as God made green apples. Someday the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series,” said the famed commentator who passed away in 1998, sadly unable to see the day when the team he loved finally capture their first pennant since 1945.
The years of suffering since then may soon be forgotten, if the Cubs can forge just four more wins from the American League Champion Cleveland Indians.
But the Los Angeles Dodgers stood in their way first. Solving ace Clayton Kershaw may have looked simple for the Cubs lineup, but such a feat is truly anything but.
The Cubs got to one of the best pitchers in baseball in the first inning after leadoff man Dexter Fowler got a double. Kris Bryant, who also went on to score in the inning, drove in Fowler with a single, and his other half Anthony Rizzo reached on a crucial error by Los Angeles outfielder Andrew Toles. It was the first time all season that Kershaw had given up to two runs in the first inning of a game. And the team never looked back.
Rookie catcher Wilson Contreras and Rizzo both sealed the deal with solo homers to ease the nerves of the 42,000-plus at Wrigley. The offensive threat that had buried virtually every team in the regular season was back once more after taking a brief hiatus earlier in the series. They simply looked unstoppable.
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks looked to the world like a man on a mission, pitching what was absolutely the game of his life. He allowed just two hits through 7.1 innings and was so dominant that manager Joe Maddon, just innings away from being the first manager in so long to lead the team to a World Series, was booed by the Wrigley faithful for taking him out with five outs left to go in favor of closer Aroldis Chapman. The hard throwing left hander had struggled when asked to pitch outside of the ninth inning, but gave up just one walk that was quickly erased by a double play to win the game and send Wrigley shaking in awe and exuberant celebration.
The spirit of Cubs fans both alive and passed on were collectively felt by all that night which will live on in lore for an infinite period of time.
The team itself did not feel the weight of the wretched history of a franchise so very desperately yearning for a chance to celebrate a sweet victory. The players looked and acted as if they were playing a dull, meaningless game in the middle of June, not as if they were about to make history as the team that finally broke the ‘curse of the Billy Goat.’
There is only one thing that can surpass the pure jubilation and emotion pouring out of every Cubs’ fans soul on October 22 2016 and that is just four more victories to secure Chicago their first World Series championship since 1908. The Cleveland Indians present a tough challenge for the North Siders in accomplishing this mighty task, but so did the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. With an incredible offense, strong starting pitching, and just purely raw talent from nearly everyone on the roster, the Cubs will enter the World Series as the favorites to win it all.
And they may be getting some more help in terms of offense. Fan favorite Kyle Schwarber, who has been injured since the first week of the regular season, was sent to the Arizona Fall League after being medically cleared to play early in the week. Though there has been no confirmation, all signs point to the outfielder/catcher returning to the roster as a designated hitter for away games in the World Series. His return would be remarkable not only because of the potential he brings, but it would be immensely meaningful to his teammates and the fan base who has been hoping for his comeback to become a reality.
However, Cleveland is indeed a worthy opponent. Corey Kluber and Co. will not make it easy for Chicago. They have a deep team that poses a threat to the Cubs chances at the ultimate prize and have lost just one game in the playoffs thus far. They swept the Boston Red Sox and stifled their offensive prowess and they finished off the Toronto Blue Jays in five games in the ALCS. But after facing the likes of Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw, it is clear that Chicago can defeat any normally dominant pitcher that comes in their way. The Cubs starters have faced deep offenses as well and have been able to shut them all down once getting settled into the series.
It will truly be a glorious matchup to watch as both teams have a real chance at taking it all.
Though nothing is guaranteed for the team with the best record in baseball, it seems as if the storybook ending is may finally come true for the Cubs. They have accomplished every task facing them this season and look poised to be the ultimate victors.
Next year is finally here after so many decades of turmoil and mediocrity. This once in a lifetime chance to see one of the greatest stories in all of sports come to a close must not be taken for granted. The start to the Cubs final quest at history will begin on Tuesday and the series itself will surely be one for the ages.
PREDICTION: Cubs in six.