CLEVELAND — There has never been a better Game 7 than Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians.
Not in baseball, anyway.
Oh sure, there have been plenty of classics over the years. Sandy Koufax shutting down the Minnesota Twins in the 1965 World Series comes to mind. The pitcher’s duel between Jack Morris and John Smoltz, too. Or the five-inning save – on two days’ rest, mind you – that established the legend of Madison Bumgarner.
But given the teams involved, the epic droughts each had gone without a championship, the wild swings of momentum, the extra innings and the rain that briefly brought the whole fun house ride to a halt, nothing was as compelling as Game 7 on Wednesday night (and into Thursday morning).
And that was before Ben Zobrist made Terry Francona pay for pitching to him, doubling in the go-ahead run to give the Cubs an 8-7, 10-inning victory and their first World Series title in 108 years.
This game would have made the list of all-time greats even without the drama worthy of a telenovela. The Cubs hadn’t won a World Series title since 1908, hadn’t even made it this far since 1945. The Indians’ last title came in 1948 and, until the Cavaliers won the NBA crown in June, all of Cleveland’s teams were on a 52-year oh-fer streak.
The Indians looked set to make Cleveland the new Title Town as they took a commanding 3-1 lead. No team had blown a lead like that since 1985, and no team had done it at home since Baltimore in 1979.
So of course the Cubs tied it up to force Game 7.
With thousands of Cubs fans flooding northeast Ohio, Progressive Field sounded more like Wrigley as Dexter Fowler led off the game with a solo homer, humbling the previously untouchable Corey Kluber. Only after the Indians worked their small-ball magic to their finest in the third, tying the game on Carlos Santana’s single did it begin to feel like a Cleveland home game.
After scoring two runs each in the fourth and fifth innings, and with $155 million relief man Jon Lester on the mound, the Cubs seemed firmly in control. Fans began flooding the streets around Wrigley Field, ready to let loose in the party of the century.
But it wasn’t over. Not even close.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose moves had gotten more and more daring and more and more head-scratching, brought Aroldis Chapman in after Lester gave up a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth.
Ten pitches later, the game was tied.
The teams got through the ninth, only to have rains move in.
But the 17-minute delay seemed to rejuvenate the Cubs, who scored two runs in the top of the 10th.
The Cubs closed it out, a classic ending to the Fall Classic.