After 108 years, the wait is over. The Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions.
The Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in seven games on Wednesday night, but they made their fans hold on as long as they possibly could.
The game went 10 innings, was interrupted by a 17-minute rain delay and saw lights-out closer Aroldis Chapman blow a two-run lead.
But in the end, free-agent signing Ben Zobrist came through in the top of the tenth with an RBI single and the Cubs bullpen which hadn’t been trusted all night by manager Joe Maddon combined for a save in the bottom of the tenth.
The first thing that needs to be discussed is the managing. Maddon nearly over-managed his team right out of Game 7.
First things first, Kyle Hendricks was pitching incredible. The 26-year-old got through 4 2/3 innings, before allowing a walk to Carlos Santana. The Indians only had four hits up to that point but Maddon felt that was enough and made a move to starter Jon Lester who was in the bullpen.
John Smoltz made a great comment when Maddon made the move, “never make a decision that makes the other team happy.”
Hendricks was dominate. Much like the Dodgers couldn’t figure him out in Game 6 of the NLCS, the Indians were struggling with his stuff in Game 7. Maddon it seems likes to be unconventional and sticking with Hendricks seemed to be the move.
Second, going to Lester was questionable in and of itself. Everyone knows Lester is likely to win the NL Cy Young this year and he’s a great pitcher, but to bring him in during the middle of an inning with runners on just made no sense.
Lester can’t hold runners on as was evidenced when a tailor-made double play ball was underhanded to first by him instead of thrown to second.
Lester ended up allowing two runs, one inherited and one of his own, and the Cubs watched their lead dwindle to 5-3.
If Maddon wanted to pull Hendricks, which I still can’t support, it seems the move was either to pull Hendricks in favor of a reliever who could hold runners on or wait until the start of the sixth to go to Lester.
The final move that was questionable was asking Chapman for four outs…again. Chapman saved Game 5 getting the team’s last eight outs, something he’d never done before. Two days later, in another questionable move, Maddon brought Chapman into Game 6 with his team up by five.
To say he was probably fatigued is an understatement. The man who generally has outings where one can count on one hand the number of pitches he throws under 100 M.P.H. only threw a handful of pitches over that mark in Game 7. To ask him for a three-out save in Game 7 would’ve been one thing, but to ask for four was just too much. This was evidenced when Rajai Davis sent a two-run blast over the left-field wall to tie the game in the eighth against the Cuban flamethrower.
With that being said, the future is bright for the Cubs. Ten key players are all under 30, with a majority of them being under 25.
A team that just broke a 108-year World Series drought seems like a team that could be a lock to represent the National League in the World Series for years to come.