Emotional Moments: The World Series Edition

It hasn’t been a fortnight since the Cubs won the World Series, and it still feels surreal. I thought it might sink in—I’ve even claimed that it has, but don’t take me to court—but I’m still figuring out how to live in this world created by a Cubs World Series victory. I rewatched some bits of Game Six a few days after the series ended, but, other than obsessively hitting “replay” on the video of the final out of the series, I haven’t relived the ups and downs of the series. It’s been too much fun to bask in the warm glow that has lingered, and vibrate with joy like millions of other Cubs fans. It’s in that spirit that I’m going to recount a few of the moments that heightened my emotions and brought me to my feet. These ones are also why my voice was hoarse most of that week.

Large Adult Son of November

Due to the dominance of Corey Kluber, there were few highlights from Game One’s loss. The Cubs’ relentless offense, which awakened from a pair of shutouts in the NLCS to bludgeon Dodgers pitching in the final three games of the series, again went quiet, and it was a frustrating start to a radically up-and-down World Series. There was one moment of exuberance, and it had nothing to do with an actual game event.

Kyle Schwarber started at designated hitter and hit fifth, behind Ben Zobrist. So, so many words have been spilled on Schwarber’s herculean feat, coming back from a torn ACL in April to play in the World Series, but more are warranted. The second half of 2015’s surprise playoff run was due, in part, to Schwarber’s scene-stealing performance, swatting 16 homers in 69 nice games and providing a jolt to the Cubs’ slagging early season. He factored heavily into the Cubs’ plans for a 2016 juggernaut, slotting in behind the plate and in left field, but a collision with Dexter Fowler in the second series of the season ended his year and put his future fielding prospects in jeopardy.

On a team full of heart and soul players, Schwarber stands out. His work ethic, replete with his comments about catching to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer upon being drafted, turned heads as much as work ethic, in its banality, can turn heads, and he exhibited a fierce joy in all aspects of the game. While he wasn’t integral to the Cubs’ success, as the club’s 103 regular season wins and pennant prove, losing Schwarber was always lamentable, in that he wouldn’t share in the team’s success.

Thousands of pitching machine reps and two Arizona Fall League games later, and Schwarber started Game One of the Cubs’ first World Series in 71 years. His 7-for-17 World Series, including two RBI, three walks, and a three-hit Game Seven (with a stolen base!) grew his legend three sizes.


A Homer and a Closer Save the Season

The Cubs took Game Two in Cleveland before looking wholly impotent in the next two games, falling behind three games to one and staring down long odds. Two performances righted the ship, however, securing a Game Five victory and the chance to win the series in Cleveland.

Down 1-0 due to a Jose Ramirez home run, Wrigley Field was palpably resigned and deflated. After a 1-for-14 start to the series, Kris Bryant showed Trevor Bauer that the righty should stick to helping people with slope-intercept form and shouting his bad politics on the internet. Bauer served a 92-mile-per-hour fastball middle-in to Bryant, who turned quickly on the pitch and put it in the first row of the left-center-field bleachers. Not showing their weariness at the 3-1 series deficit, the Wrigley crowd erupted, knowing that it might be the last time they would be able to spill their hearts and roughen their throats with shouts and cheers.

Fortunately for them, it wasn’t a literal last hurrah. The Cubs tacked on two more runs due to a vintage Cubs sequence: Anthony Rizzo double, Ben Zobrist single, Addison Russell single, Javier Baez single, and David Ross sac fly. Cleveland slashed that lead to one run, and starter Jon Lester exited the game before the seventh. Joe Maddon selected Carl Edwards, Jr., to relieve Lester, but a single and a passed ball scared Maddon into using his closer, Aroldis Chapman.

Chapman allowed only two singles over 2 ⅔ innings, grabbing a career-best eight-out save. He struck out four and found himself at the plate for the team’s last home at-bat of the season; it was his game to finish, and Maddon was going to let it all ride on their midseason acquisition’s arm. The gamble paid off, and the Cubs nabbed a cathartic home victory.

Bases Juiced? No Problem.

Miguel Montero’s NLCS grand slam remains the peak of unexpected playoff moments this year, but Addison Russell’s Game Six grand slam ensured a Game Seven of the World Series. Russell had already swatted a two-run double in the first, a higher leverage hit considering the context, but it’s the grand slam that sticks in my mind and, I imagine, yours as well. A Schwarber walk and a pair of singles from Rizzo and Zobrist set up the homer, chasing starter Josh Tomlin from the game. Dan Otero relieved, fell behind 2-0, and served Russell a fat fastball that the shortstop parked in the deepest part of the park, above the high wall.

After Russell’s slam, the Cubs had a 96 percent chance of winning the ballgame, and, as players are wont to say, anything can happen in Game Seven (and oh, did anything happen). It was the high point of Russell’s young career, as many of these moments were for the aptly named Cubs, and Russell howled visibly as he rounded first.

Trio of Dingers

Game Seven’s roller coaster featured a few soaring peaks before its twisted ending, and the Cubs’ home runs encapsulated a season’s worth of joy quite neatly.

Dexter Fowler skied a Kluber fastball, the third pitch of the game, to dead center, just beyond the outstretched glove of Rajai Davis. For a man whose future with the team is uncertain, and whose surprise return to the club in February at Spring Training was a tear- and frenzy-inducing event, it was a fitting bookend. It also was a harbinger of the game to come: an unexpected homer, a wilting Kluber, and a guarantee of a whacky game.

In the fifth, with Kluber still in the game and the Cubs up 3-1, NLCS co-MVP Javier Baez made his mark on Game Seven. Kluber left a slider up on the outer half of the plate, and Baez went with the pitch. Of course, he went with it nearly 400 feet—the ball landed in the mitt of a Cleveland fan, not a player, and Kluber knew it, not honoring the homer with even a glance. With Jon Lester warming in the pen, Baez gave the Cubs a 4-1 lead.

“You go, we go” Fowler homered; breakout postseason star Baez homered; all that was left was a homer from the old man David Ross, in his last major-league season, and he delivered a shock versus playoff MVP Andrew Miller. Nearly to the same spot as Fowler’s leadoff homer, Ross smacked a fastball down in the zone, a home run in Game Seven of the World Series and the penultimate at-bat of his career. Kluber and Miller failed to deliver Cleveland a World Series victory after carrying the team for nearly three full postseason series, an impressive feat that would produce only an American League championship.

Rain Pours; Champagne Pours

Rajai Davis’s historic home run in the bottom of the eighth downsized the impact and memorability of those three home runs. It was one of the best World Series moments in recent memory, and many have argued that, quantitatively and emotionally, that it was one of the biggest moments in major-league history. They’re right.

The rain came, however. Cleveland had depleted its bullpen, having used its best relievers, and the Cubs had bullpen depth and the meat of their lineup coming up. A pep talk for the ages from Jason Heyward, who proved without a doubt that he is a leader of the first order, was the catharsis that a nervous wreck of a Cubs team needed, soothing their anger and drying their tears. They were the best team in the majors, and would soon prove it on the biggest stage any of them would ever grace. They never quit.


Lead photo courtesy Ken Blaze—USA Today Sports Images

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