WS Game 7: Cubs, World Champions

Jolly Cholly Grimm started Hy Vandenburg instead of Hank Borowy. The College of Coaches was decertified in its crib. Leo Durocher didn't burn out his regulars and make nervous wrecks out of his subs and rookies. Leon Durham fielded the grounder. Steve Garvey made a long out. Dusty Baker lifted Mark Prior to start the eighth. Alex Gonzalez fielded the hopper cleanly and turned the double play.

Go ahead. Say it. Write it. Flash it. Paint it. The Chicago Cubs — the Cubs! — have reached the Promised Land at long enough last. There! Didn't that feel wonderful? Now that you've done that, however, go ahead and say, write, flash, paint something else, too. Mostly about what Series MVP Ben Zobrist called the greatest rain delay of all time, partly about the things that happened that used to mean yet another otherworldly Cub heartbreak and almost meant the Cleveland Indians exorcising their own heartbreaks past.

Because when the Cubs battered a 4-run lead these hale, hearty, and terribly underrated Indians by the middle of the fifth, and the Indians wrestled them back to a six-all tie after nine full, something beyond extraterrestrial just had to happen. And, did. When the rains came you expected the skies to yield a corpulent chuckle and a stentorian Voice intoning:

"From the bottom of My heart, I apologize. But even My stomach has its limits. I'm stopping it right here. I can't make up My mind, and you're both too good to lose. So let's leave it right here. And let's do it again — maybe in another 108 years."

Anyone who tells you the foregoing didn't cross the mind of every citizen of Cub Country and the Indian Isles is a liar worthy of running for the presidency. Just as anyone who says the Cubs would hang up a 5-1 lead by the middle of Game Seven and get away with it against this pack of Indians, who don't know the meaning of the word quit, is worthy of becoming the liar's running mate.

Now we know Cubs manager Joe Maddon is living a charmed life. Time was that lifting his effective Game Seven starter Kyle Hendricks for Jon Lester, David Ross throwing wild in the seats advancing runners in position to score on a Lester wild pitch, and sending in a gassed Aroldis Chapman to serve Brandon Guyer an RBI double and journeyman Rajai Davis — who hadn't hit one out since late August — a 2-run homer to tie things at six in the bottom of the eighth, would have meant a Cub fan's resignation and perhaps another sentence to the wilderness.

So Dexter Fowler opened against a finally-spent Corey Kluber by hitting the fourth pitch of the game over the center field fence? Carlos Santana tied the game with a nasty RBI single? Kris Bryant channeled his inner Secretariat to gun it home on a short fly by Addison Russell? Javier Baez — whose plate indiscipline threatened to become the Cub cobra's own mongoose most of the Series — hit the first pitch of the top of the fifth over the center field fence to send Kluber out of the game? Grandpa Rossy, smarting over the wild throw but facing a no longer invincible Andrew Miller, hitting a leadoff bomb in the top of the sixth? (What a way to go off into retirement!)

When Davis's line homer banged off a FOX Sports camera in the left field pavilion, with the Cubs four outs from the Promised Land, decades of Cub calamity must have danced obscenely in front of Wrigleyville's eyes, on its native grounds and among its contingent in Progressive Field Wednesday night. The storybooks that came out when Grandpa Rossy cleared the center field fence were replaced for the moment by funeral home guest books. But then came the rain delay, and right fielder Jason Heyward called a players only meeting in the clubhouse.

"I told them I love them," said Heyward, whose season-long sleeping bat got him benched a time or two in the postseason and in the Series. "I told them I'm proud of the way they overcame everything together. I told them everyone has to look in the mirror, and know everyone contributed to this season and to where we are at this point. I said, 'I don't know how it's going to happen, how we're going to do it, but let's go out and try to get a W.'"

Before you could blink and name any three members of the College of Coaches, Zobrist smacked an RBI double and Miguel Montero — inserted late behind the plate in relief of Ross — stepped in and stroked only his second postseason hit. With ducks on the pond. After an intentional walk, just as Zobrist's double was. Just like when he hit the pinch grand slam against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. This may have been the first time a bases-loaded single was bigger than a grand salami in any postseason game.

Except that these Indians still had a couple of cards to play in the bottom of the tenth. What a surprise: their names were Guyer and Davis. Cubs reliever Carl Edwards, Jr. opened with two swift outs, but Guyer wrung him for a walk and took off practically a second before the bat met the ball when Davis smacked a single to center sending him home.

Out came Edwards. In came Mike Montgomery. Up came Michael Martinez, another ancient journeyman. Montgomery threw Martinez a curve ball and Martinez jerked a herky-jerky grounder up the third base line that Bryant grabbed just as herky-jerky, but threw on sharply to Anthony Rizzo — who'd smacked an RBI single on Miller's dollar in the fifth — at first to light the celebratory powder keg.

The Indians offered no excuses, but let's face it. They were as battered as a team could be coming into the postseason. They'd lost their best hitter (Michael Brantley) for most of the season and two key starting pitchers (Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, though Salazar recovered in time to work out of the bullpen for some of the Series) later in the year. They relied on Kluber and a mostly invincible bullpen to get to a 3-1 World Series advantage that dissipated only when the Cubs' once-dormant lineup awoke beginning in Game 5.

"We were going on our willpower," Davis said after the game. "We have some talent, but they have a lot of talent. They were loaded."

"We did it," said Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who'd finished building the Boston Red Sox's (actual or alleged) curse busters in 2004 — whom now-Indians manager Terry Francona managed — but who got the chance to remake the Cubs, blow up the organization from the bottom up, and build what finally kicked off the party Wrigleyville and Cub Country beyond waited a measly century plus to throw. "Got through the tough times. October's crazy, in a great way, and this may have been the craziest."

May have been? The Cubs being first team to come back from a 3-1 Series deficit since the 1985 Royals and the first to do it winning the final two on the road since the 1979 Pirates may have been the makers of the craziest October? The Cubs blowing a 3-run Game 7 before the rains came and standing as world champions after the rains departed may have been the makers of the craziest October?

Get that man a stiff drink. In Wrigleyville, there seems to be a bottomless well of them now. And if you thought Boston was in endless party mode over the 2004 Red Sox, Chicago's about to give you a heaping helping of you ain't seen nothing yet.

Signed, Epstein's mother.

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