WOW is the first word that comes to mind after watching Game 7 of the World Series last night. Definitely the W flag the Cubs fans wave so proudly stands for more than just Win, Wrigley, Worth the Wait, etc.
Before I get into what an awesome experience last night's Cubs win was for the world of sports and the city of Chicago, my hat goes off to the Cleveland Indians. Even though the Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 or made it to the World Series since 1945, many of us who follow baseball are not terribly surprised that the Cubs are World Series champions since the Cubs front office, mainly Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, assembled a very talented team and had a very good chance of winning the whole thing last year. The Indians, on the other hand, took many baseball pundits by surprise. They kind of flew under the radar this season but got hot at the right time of year. Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller are both amazing pitchers and should continue to dominate for the next few seasons. Sadly, the agony of having the longest World Series drought now belongs to the Cleveland Indians but hopefully they don't have to wait 40 more years like the Cubs had to in order to lift whatever curse has been cast upon them. The Indians are a class act and I will be pulling for them to win soon as long as they are not going up against the Oakland A's or San Francisco Giants!
Now about the game last night. WOW again! Just when you think you have seen it all, you haven't. For a while it seemed like the game was going to be nothing terribly special except for one team ending a decades or even century long championship drought. Then the wild pitch by Jon Lester that bounced off the ground first and then off David Ross's face mask in the 5th inning happened. Prior to that mishap, Ross overthrew to first that put runners on 2nd and 3rd. Last night's game displayed a certain level of aggressiveness that you usually don't see in baseball like the way the runners were charging ahead on the base paths or the way the fielders would try to do too much to make a play. The sequence of events in the 5th inning that enabled the Indians to cut their run deficit by half truly exemplified the aggressive nature of how this game was played and made it a very entertaining game, arguably the most entertaining baseball game I have seen in my lifetime.
One had to wonder if Ross sustained another concussion since he was woozy at first and rarely do you see two runners score on a wild pitch. Ross made up for those errors by hitting a solo shot the next inning. I think if any of us had a baseball hit us in the face (even if the ball hit the ground first and we were wearing a mask), no way would we be able to get back up for at least a few minutes. Ross's home run, just a few minutes later, proved pivotal since we probably would be talking about the Indians as World Series champions with Rajai Davis's two run homer in the 8th inning winning the game instead of tying it. The fact that Ross is almost 40 is even more impressive with some guys on his team that are about half his age.
Then we had Aroldis Chapman's meltdown in the 8th inning which is not completely shocking since he had a similar meltdown against the Giants this postseason. I find it odd how he gets the Win even though he almost cost his team the game. I know how Wins and Losses are doled out to pitchers but I still find it odd how certain baseball stats operate. The image of LeBron James cheering Davis's two run homer made me want the Cubs to win this game even more badly!
More drama would ensue the following inning with the Cubs having a runner on 3rd after the Indians committed an error themselves. For a brief moment, it seemed like Dexter Fowler's grounder up the middle would sneak its way to centerfield and bring home Jason Heyward for a 7-6 lead and allow Chapman to redeem himself. Fowler played lights out last night and his leadoff homer set the tone for the kind of crazy roller coaster ride this game was going to be. Oddly the previous batter, Javier Baez, tried to bunt with two strikes (shortly after Heyward took third base after the wild throw to second) and it was a head scratcher. I felt Cubs manager Joe Maddon made a few questionable decisions last night, especially with the timing of his pitching changes that could have cost the Cubs the game. Fortunately the way he over managed the game won't make headlines in Chicago!
Oh, then the rain! This game was never short on drama and in a weird way, it seems that the baseball Gods decided to give the Cubs a reprieve by bringing in a storm in the direction of the stadium. I really think the 15 - 20 minute rain delay allowed the Cubs to re-center themselves and not get fazed by the fact they blew a 3 run lead late in the game. Most teams would crumble in those situations but the Cubs displayed so much grit with the hit parade they put on display after the rain delay was lifted which of course was good for an 8-6 lead.
Of course nothing comes easy with lifting a 108 year curse so after Cubs relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. was down to the final out, the Indians score a run with the game tying runner on 1st base and the game winning runner at the plate for the Indians. Even the pitching change that occurred made everyone anxious but I guess if you have waited 108 years to win a title, why not wait a few more minutes. This time, Joe Maddon's decision to change pitchers paid off when Mike Montgomery got the next batter to ground out and finally end the misery Cubs fans have long been accustomed to.
Prior to this game, I really thought we would see a pitcher's duel with someone as talented as Kluber who had been impressive against the Cubs in Games 1 and 4 and NL ERA champion Kyle Hendricks both taking the mound. For a while, my prediction of a 1-1 game through 6 - 7 innings was looking like a reality until the Cubs teed off on Kluber during the 4th and 5th innings. Miller and Chapman did come out to pitch as predicted but both got rocked after being nearly unhittable for most of this series. I guess it seemed fitting that if the Cubs were going to finally win a World Series that they would have to win perhaps one of the wildest games in baseball history. Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs and their diehard fans. No more are you Lovable Losers and I am sure it was Worth the Wait. Forget about Billy Goat and embrace Steve Bartman! Wave that W flag proudly and enjoy this moment!