Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the Cubs reversed role on the Giants and became the team that came back from behind. I didn’t start watching this game until the 8th inning (I was at the Minnesota Lynx big win over the LA Sparks in the WNBA Finals Game 2). The Cubs were trailing 5-2 going into the ninth when they started their improbable comeback. At that point, it didn’t look good. I was getting emotionally ready for the dreaded Game 5 at home, with the visiting team carrying all of the momentum. With all of the dreaded history looming over their heads, the Cubs would have faced unbelievable pressure at home. And they would have had to face Cueto, a pitcher who, to quote John Maddon, they had been abysmal against.
But in the ninth, like the Giants had in Game 3, the Cubs created their own magic. Kris Bryant led the inning with a single and then Rizzo managed a walk. Ben Zobrist had a key at bat, laying off a couple of low sinkers. When he got one up in the strike zone, he lined a curving double to right field scoring Bryant easily and closing the gap to 5-3. Runners on second and third and nobody out. This could be real. The next batter, Wilson Contreras, singled up the middle scoring Rizzo and Zobrist tying the game at 5. With nobody out and a runner on first, Maddon called on Jason Hayward to bunt. His bunt was too hard and right back at the Giants pitcher, who threw a strike to second baseman Crawford for the first out of the double play, but Crawford’s threw to first was wild and Hayward advanced to second base. Then Game 1 hero Javi Baez lined another single up the middle to score Hayward for the 6-5 lead. Boche will be second guessed for taking his starter Matt Moore out of the game after Moore had throttled the Cubs in 8 innings striking out 10. The Giants bullpen struggled all year long (they blew 30 save opportunities) and five relief pitchers could not get a single out before the Cubs tied this game.
The table had been completely reversed, and instead of facing an elimination game at home against the elimination kings, it was the Cubs who were applying the vice grip to the Giants. Arnoldis Chapman would get a chance at redemption, after having completely blown the save opportunity in Game 3.
Chapman wasted no time and struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to clinch the amazing victory. The Cubs celebrated like they had just won the World Series. Their fans held up banners with a blue W. The Cubs continued their wild celebration in the locker room.
This team has won during the regular season, but after this game, they learned what it takes to really win in the post-season by rallying back against the best team of the decade. For this team, this appears to just be the start of a magical ride that will culminate with a World Series championship.
The four run comeback was the largest comeback in post-season clinch game in history.
Combined with their ninth inning comeback in Game 3 to tie the game, no team had ever come back to tie the game in the ninth inning in consecutive playoff games in history.
Javi Baez had the first and last RBIs of the series, both game winning hits.
In Game 2, I tuned into the MLB Network, which actually seemed to be carrying a playoff game. game. I was treated to the commentary of Bob Costas. Costas is more famous for his Olympics telecasts, but the more I heard him, the more he sounded like the second coming of Vin Scully. Costas weaved in stories throughout his play by play that made the game so pleasurable to hear. Scully’s magic, which Costas has been able to masterfully duplicate, is that you don’t really need to watch the game to enjoy it. All you need to do is to hear a gifted broadcaster to appreciate the essence of the game.
In the 6th inning alone, Costas managed to weave in a story about the Cubs pitcher Hector Rondon, a Venezuelan who was concerned about his family in the ever volatile country as well as commenting on Baez’s long hit to left field that when he thought it was a home run, didn’t start running very hard. When the ball failed to clear the wall and bounced back into play, Baez was forced to accelerate and slide into second to be called safe on a very close play. Costas immediately questioned why a player wouldn’t run hard from the beginning and how that may have cost him a double. Under the new rules, in which certain baseball plays can be reviewed on replay, Baez was indeed called out. On the inning change over, MLB showed a list of the best Cubs teams to have lost in the past 108 years. Costas narrated each of the team’s records and lack of achievement in great style.
When the game was over, and the Cubs had won to take a 2-0 lead, Costas speculated about what would happen in Game 3, when both teams’ aces would match up against each other. When Madison Baumgartner, one of the baseball best pitchers in the last 6 years goes against Arrieta, the best pitcher of the past two years, it will be the best baseball game in many years.
“If the Cubs make it to the World Series” Costas would say, it will “be a national story.” It will not only be a national story, it will be a historic story.