By Cat Garcia
The word believe takes on many meanings to sports fans, but for Cubs fans, belief may be an emotion that feels exhausted. It’s been 108 year since the Cubs last saw a World Series victory, accompanied by an almost equally as painful 71 years since they last appeared in the World Series, but the 2016 Chicago Cubs truly gave fans a sturdy foundation for which they could build their belief on one more time.
They gave fans legitimate hope all year, with 103 wins, they gave them hope in the NLDS after beating the San Francisco Giants, and after being down 2-1 in the NLCS, that hope and faith was rewarded at the Friendly Confines. There was only one thing standing in the way of the Cubs and the journey to redemption — facing one of baseball’s best pitchers. Beat Clayton Kershaw and become a part of sports history? No problem.
The energy in Wrigleyville was electric all afternoon. Fans didn’t just say they thought it was the night, they believed it was the night to make history down to their core. The streets were flood with hopeful fans, peering through crowded bar windows, standing with radios on the corner, and simply wandering through a crowded and chaotic Wrigleyville, just to be a part of something bigger than this city has seen on the North side in most of their lifetimes, and most of their families lifetimes.
The Cubs 5-0 blanking of the Dodgers was an authoritative win that sent a message to the Cleveland Indians, who the Cubs will face Tuesday evening at Progressive Field, that they’re hungry.
The Indians have not won a World Series since 1948, and after the Cavaliers brought a championship back to their city this past summer Cleveland has their own reasons to believe that facing the Cubs to bring home yet another trophy to their tortured city is simply fate’s way of putting them up to the tallest of tasks that will only serve to make their victory sweeter.
As special as this win would be for Cleveland, it’s just a good baseball story. It’s not something that the world lives and dies on, families live and die on, it’s not legend or curses or true, deeply rooted heartbreak. It’s not just not the same for Cleveland.
From the start of Game 6 on Saturday evening, it was evident that there was no surrender in these Cubs. Just three pitches into the game, lead off man Dexter Fowler sent a line drive down the right field line for a ground rule double. Shortly after, Kris Bryant belted an RBI single into right, scoring Fowler from second, and the Cubs were on their way. Kershaw’s pitch count quickly climbed to 30, and after a fielding error by outfielder Andrew Toles that felt nearly metaphorical of what was in store for the Dodgers the rest of the evening, Cubs fans were ready to pop the champagne before pitcher Kyle Hendricks even took the mound.
Going from the epicenter of doubt in the middle of the rotation to the 2016 ERA leader, Hendricks had the weight of a 71-year drought and nearly 43,000 fans on his shoulders as he took the mound to face the Dodgers on Saturday evening. Hendricks made the task look easy, pitching his way to the win in 7.1 innings of shutout baseball, allowing just two hits, no walks, and six strikeouts.
The bats of the Cubs that had fallen silent for most of October came alive in the nick of time over the last few games, and solo home runs from Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras helped pad the Cubs lead and pathway to champagne showers on Saturday night.
With fireballer Aroldis Chapman on the mound in the top of the ninth inning, the Cubs were just two outs away from winning the series and packing their bags for Cleveland when Russell-to-Baez quickly became the double play heard around the world as the Cubs put a period on the Dodgers season and Wrigley Field chanted “Go Cubs Go” as loud and clear as the old stadium that has never seen a World Series victory had ever heard it.
Jon Lester and Javier Baez were named co-MVPs of the NLCS, and the Cubs will visit Progressive Field in Cleveland on Tuesday evening to play in game one of their first World Series since 1945.