The ghosts of Game Six haunted the Chicago Cubs in Game Seven. But the Cubs ultimately performed a self-exorcism that won the World Series and saved Maddon the Goat from replacing Murphy the Goat in North Side lore.
Neither a Bartman nor a goat played any role whatsoever in this near heartbreak. The previous 108 years mattered nothing. The previous 24 hours mattered much.
Dugout whiz Joe Maddon outmanaged himself. The Cubs skipper strangely brought Aroldis Chapman into the seventh inning of a 7-2 game on Tuesday night. He left him in the game into the ninth. A guy used to pitching the last inning in save situations instead pitched in an almost unlosable game over parts of three innings. He did this after pitching 42 pitches in the game previous to that.
“We brought him in earlier because that’s the part of the order he had to get out,” Madddon maintained. “You do not want the game to get away from you at that particular moment, so it all worked out well.”
Except that it didn’t.
In Game Seven, Brandon Guyer hit an RBI double with two outs in eighth off of a fatigued Aroldis Champman to score a runner inherited from Jon Lester. Then Rajai Davis hit a rope of a two-run homer. The ball left the park as fast as it left Chapman’s arm. The ball cold-clocked a camera in the face, unleashed LeBron James imitations of Hulk Hogan, and ignited a street celebration of thousands of Clevelanders. If anyone doubted whether Chapman threw on fumes, Coco Crisp hit an exclamation-point single before the excruciating inning ended.
Davis’s laser marked the first home run allowed by Chapman as a Cub. But Maddon really allowed it.
The Cubs entered the bottom of the eighth up 6-3. They escaped the inning stalemated at six.
Maddon outsmarted himself again in the top of the ninth with a man on third when Javier Baez bunted with two strikes only to foul the pitch off for out number two. Baez got the suicide part right. He never quite found the squeeze. Francisco Lindor then made a sensational play to end the inning on a Dexter Fowler grounder up the middle.
Then the rains came down to wash away the managerial sins and end the drought.
Kyle Schwarber hit a leadoff single in the top of the tenth. Albert Almora pinch ran for him and tagged to second on a deep fly to center by Kris Bryant. Cleveland’s Bryan Shaw intentionally walked Anthony Rizzo. Ben Zobrist then doubled to left, sending Almora home. Miguel Montero hit a clutch single to plate Rizzo. Trevor Bauer then put out the fire by sitting the final two batters of the inning with the bases loaded.
Chicago pitcher Carl Edwards quickly notched two outs in the bottom of the tenth before Guyer walked, took second on catcher indifference, and ran all the way home when Davis played the hero again with an RBI single. But a Michael Martinez grounder to Kris Bryant ended the marathon at 8-7.
Aroldis Chapman in a quirk of baseball scoring registers the win and Joe Maddon leads the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series since the Roosevelt Administration, the Theodore Roosevelt Administration. Harry Caray never witnessed this big a win, Ernie Banks never played in this big a game. Not since the days of Tinker to Evers to Chance have Cubs fans experienced this exuberance.
The rains poured down in Cleveland. Then the skies opened in Chicago.