The Chicago Cubs have won the World Series.
Some statements are so rarely true that they instantly lack credibly when first seen. But after 108 years, the time finally arrived.
Dexter Fowler started with a lead-off home run. Kris Bryant threw out Michael Martinez to end it. In between was a string of heart-stopping moments that had two title-starved fan bases on edge and helped create an epic Game 7—an 8-7 Cubs win that saw them complete the comeback from down three-games-to-one.
Of all the incredible moments that led to Chicago’s long-awaited title, here are the five most significant.
5. Albert Almora Jr. takes the extra base
Often lost in the highlights are the smaller plays which lead to bigger ones. What Almora did in the tenth can’t be overlooked, nor overstated.
Almora came in to pinch-run for Kyle Schwarber, whose single to right field led off the inning.
When Kris Bryant flied deep to center, Almora didn’t drift off the bag anticipating a home run. Instead, he tagged up and advanced to second base with one out. That opened the door for Terry Francona to instruct an intentional walk of Anthony Rizzo.
Next was Ben Zobrist. Soon after, the Cubs would have the lead for good.
4. A storybook ending for David Ross
When David Ross decided that the 2016 season would be his last, he had to have known it could end in a World Series title. He couldn’t have possibly scripted how he’d be involved in the victory.
Ross, who is Jon Lester’s personal catcher, entered in the fifth inning with the Cubs up by four. A throwing error would come in short order, as would a pitch that skipped away and resulted in a pair of Indians crossing the plate.
A stark revision to this Hollywood script would come during his first turn at bat. Ross connected off the seemingly unhittable Andrew Miller and drove one over the center field fence to put Chicago up by three.
It was a perfect way to go out and an historic moment in the process.
David Ross just became oldest man to homer in a Game 7 … by THREE days. The previous record? Pops himself — Willie Stargell.
— Joe Posnanski (@JPosnanski) November 3, 2016
3. Miguel Montero provides insurance
Zobrist’s RBI double will forever live in Cubs lore. But, in a similar vein to Almora’s heads-up play, what Montero did after the tie-breaking hit gets lost in the shuffle.
Addison Russell was walked intentionally to load the bases with the hopes of creating a force play at any base. Montero had other ideas. He knocked it past the drawn-in infield to bring in Rizzo and widen the margin to two.
Rajai Davis’ two-out RBI single in the bottom half of the tenth made the backup catcher’s single all the more critical.
2. Kyle Hendricks’ strong start
The calm, low-key demeanor of the National League’s ERA leader contrasted the magnitude of this high-stakes contest.
Save for a third inning run, Hendricks was stellar in the most important outing of his life. Into the fifth inning, he had allowed four hits, walked one, and appeared to be in rhythm as he surpassed 60 pitches. He was keeping the ball down, forcing Cleveland to hit ground balls with regularity.
Then came the first of Joe Maddon’s many curious decisions. Hendricks was removed after 4.1 frames in favor of Jon Lester (and personal catcher Ross). Then, all hell breaks loose in the form of an infield hit, a throwing error and a two-run wild pitch.
1. Ben Zobrist’s game-winner
For all the youth and World Series inexperience that was on both rosters, Zobrist is quite used to the Fall Classic—having won with Kansas City just last year.
But he (nor anyone else) had experienced anything like what transpired on Wednesday. Rajai Davis’ game-tying, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth sent Cleveland into delirium—and had the city of Chicago believing curses were still real.
These Cubs, though, were never fazed by the weight of 108 years over the course of the entire season. So it’s unlikely they were completely rattled by an Indians rally. Perhaps the rain delay calmed the waters in the clubhouse.
Zobrist made sure the goals of spring training held true. Following an intentional walk to Anthony Rizzo that put runners on first and second with one out in the top of the tenth, the 35-year-old went the other way on a 1-2 pitch and sent it past the third baseman.
Almora scored. Rizzo advanced to third. And Zobrist, en route to winning the series MVP, had the biggest double in franchise history.