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Best Game of 2016: World Series, Game 7, Cubs vs. Indians

Best Game of 2016: World Series, Game 7, Cubs vs. Indians

Posted by PanamericanWorld on December 19, 2016

2016 was a special, crazy year in baseball. Odds are that it will be a year in which you look back and tell a son, grandson, or some member of a future generation about. It held many crazy, unforgettable games. But there was one game that baseball fans will never forget. It was truly a gift to baseball fans of not only Chicago, but all over the world, to get to witness a game of such grand historical significance, and have it live up to the hype in every way possible. The greatest game of 2016, and possibly the last decade, was the last game we all witnessed.

The context

This game was already the biggest game of the decade, before it was even played. There were two massive streaks pinned up against each other, in a winner-take-all Game 7. The Cubs were looking to break their 108 year championship drought, by completing a massive comeback, from a 3-1 series deficit. The Indians were looking to break the second longest championship drought in baseball, a 68 year drought, and take Cleveland’s second championship of the year for the city.

The match-up

The game matched-up two of the best pitchers in the game in 2016. The Indians were sending out their undisputed ace, Corey Kluber, who would later finish third in the AL Cy Young voting. Kluber had won both match-ups thus far, in Games 1 and 4. He would undisputedly be the World Series MVP if he were to get a win in three World Series games for the Indians. For the Cubs, it was NL ERA champion Kyle Hendricks. No one had heard of Hendricks at the beginning of the season, but that would never be the case again. Hendricks would also finish third in the NL Cy Young voting. But it wasn’t as simple as these two pitchers. Both teams had an ace in the hole. The Cubs had ace Jon Lester ready to come out of the bullpen and bridge the gap to the Cubs’ bullpen ace, Aroldis Chapman. The Indians had bullpen ace, Andrew Miller, who had been able to bridge the gap in every game, shutting down teams in every inning, to get the Indians to the end of the game with the lead. Going into the game, it appeared, whichever starter could get to the bullpen with the lead, would have a massive advantage.

Hot start

The game got started in dramatic fashion. Center fielder Dexter Fowler started the game with a lead-off homerun to straight away center field. It was the first time that ace Corey Kluber had looked vulnerable, and it laid the foundation for what would be the game’s biggest theme: fatigue.

Early in the game, neither starter looked entirely up to the task of locking down Game 7. In the third inning, The Indians would come back to tie the score at one, when Carlos Santana hit Coco Crisp in from third on a single.

Knowing how valuable every run would be, the Cubs came out and played small ball in the fourth. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist were on first and third base with one out. Addison Russell only needed a deep pop fly to give the Cubs the lead again. He didn’t hit it deep, but it was deep enough. Kris Bryant tested the arm of Rajai Davis, who seemed invoved in every play during this game. Bryant slid under the catcher to take a 2-1 lead.

That wasn’t it, though, as Wilson Contreras hit a ball deep to center field off of the wall, in a play that would score Ben Zobrist, giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead at the end of the fourth inning.

Hendricks handled the Indians in the bottom of the fourth, giving things back to Kluber for damage control in the fifth. He failed at controlling the damage, as second baseman Javier Baez connected on a leadoff homerun to give the Cubs a 4-1 lead. Skipper Terry Francona then pulled the plug on the Indians’ ace, putting in his bullpen ace, Andrew Miller, who had pitched in every game of the series, and would then revisit our theme from earlier: fatigue.

Kris Bryant would start with a walk. Bryant then took off from first on a hit and run play. Anthony Rizzo would barrel the ball down the right field line. Indians right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall would play the ball perfectly, but it wasn’t enough to keep Bryant from scoring all the way from first, to give the Cubs a 5-1 lead.

With a four run lead in the fifth inning, Kyle Hendricks just settling in, and ace Jon Lester waiting in the bullpen, things looked sealed for the Chicago Cubs.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon is likely a future hall of famer, but people won’t soon forget how he mismanaged the bullpen in this game.

Kyle Hendricks allowed baserunners on in the bottom of the fifth, with two outs. Not wanting to take any chances, Maddon pulled Kyle Hendricks for Jon Lester. Lester would fail to lessen the damage, as he threw a pitch in the dirt, that would stun David Ross, and allow two runners to score, making it 5-3, and a game once again for the home Indians.

David Ross was in the game, though, for the final time in his career. David Ross had announced his retirement following this season, which made it all the more special when he came up to bat in the top of the sixth inning.

On a connection that looked eerily similar to the ones that Dexter Fowler and Javier Baez made earlier in the game, David Ross barreled a ball to straight away center. Rajai Davis was there once again to jump and fall just short of yet another homerun ball from the Cubs. Ross made it a 6-3 game. In a game that looked out of reach for the Indians, Ross’ homerun looked like a nice story in his final game, but his homerun would only count as good measure.

After that, things would stay even until the bottom of the eighth. Jon Lester looked as though he was rolling. The Cubs were four short outs away from a World Series championship. A little roller off the bat of Jose Ramirez would seal the eighth inning, and send the ball to Aroldis Chapman for a clean three out save.

But the roller rolled out of the range of shortstop Addison Russell, who shagged the ball off his glove, allowing Ramirez to reach. After that, outfielder Brandon Guyer connected on a pitch that would split the gap in right center, and score Jose Ramirez. Joe Maddon would then make his second bullpen mistake of the night, going to closer Aroldis Chapman for a four out save in the bottom of the eighth, with a runner on second and the tying run at the plate.

Chapman had pitched two innings the night before, and had been used heavily throughout the Cubs’ playoff run. He would complete the narrative on fatigue.

With a 2-2 count on center fielder Rajai Davis, Chapman threw a high nineties fastball down and away from the batter. Davis reached his bat out and connected, pulling the ball low and fast down the left field line. As soon as everyone could get a sight of the ball, it had hit the camera just to the left of the foul pole, tying the game, and sending Jacobs Field into a roar.

The Cubs were so close to breaking the curse, but it seemed another black cat, Steve Bartman moment was brewing, and this could be the biggest one yet.

As though fate knew exactly how to handle the big stage, it started to pour down rain over Jacobs Field, in the bottom of the ninth. The umpires called for a rain delay.

 

The rain delay

The rain changed the tide of the game. It won’t soon be forgotten in either of the towns involved. The rain delay lasted only 17 minutes. But that was just enough for the Cubs. After blowing a three run lead in the eighth inning and sending the game to extra innings, the Cubs looked down, as though they were writing the next chapter in the Cubs’ tragedy books.

Then, outfielder Jason Heyward gathered all of the players for a rain delay meeting in the clubhouse. The players gathered, arm to arm, and discussed how sweet it will be when they come together to win in extra innings. They discussed the contributions of every player, that got them to the point of where they are at right now. The Cubs spent 17 minutes hyping themselves up for a big extra inning showdown.

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