By HAL McCOY
Unfortunately, the general rule is that there had to be a loser in the most emotional, compelling, competitive and exciting World Series in recent baseball history.
And it was the Cleveland Indians finishing second in a World Series for the fourth time since last winning in 1948.
That meant that the sentimental favorites, the Chicago Cubs, are no longer the Lovable Losers, winners of a World Series for the first time since 1908. Roosevelt was president then, Theodore, not Franklin, and Henry Ford rolled out his first Model-T car.
That was 108 years ago and the Cubs finally did it again, beating the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 Wednesday night, 8-7 in 10 innings.
AND GAME 7 WAS EVERYTHING a Game 7 should be — extra innings, a rain delay, dramatic home runs, a blown save, aggressive baserunnng, curious managing, the Cubs blowing leads of 5-1 and 6-3.
It was a tough go getting there, but 108 years of tears and frustration ended with the Cubs pulling it out.
After Cleveland’s Rajai Davis blasted a stadium-rattling two-run home run off Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the eighth to tie it, 6-6, the two teams sat out a 17-minute rain delay before the start of the 10th.
Then the Cubs went to work to erase more than a century of broken trails when play resumed.
MIDDLETOWN NATIVE KYLE Schwarber opened the 10th with a single and Chris Coghlan ran for him.
Kris Bryant flied to deep center and Coghlan boldly tagged at first and took second.
That forced Cleveland manager Terry Francona into a decision. What to do? He walked Anthony Rizzo intentionally, preferring to face Ben Zobrist.
Unwise, as it turned out. Zobrist ripped a double to left field to score Coghlan. And it won Zobrist the Most Valuable Player award and a new Camaro.
Addison Russell was walked intentionally to fill the bases and Miguel Montero, the third catcher used by the Cubs in this game-for-the-ages, singled home another run for an 8-6 lead.
WAS THE TRIBE done? Not yet.
With two outs in the bottom of the 10th, Cubs pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. walked Brandon Guyer.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon lifted Edwards for Mike Montgomery. On his first pitch, Guyer took second uncontested and Rajai Davis produced again, a run-scoring single.That put the potential tying run on base, but pinch-hitter Michael Martinez, the Tribe’s last available player, grounded out to third and the Cubs were World Champions.
And nobody has been able to say that since 1908.
IT CONCLUDED THE IMPOSSIBLE Dream, made even more implausible when the Cubs were down three games to one and had to win the last three, two in Cleveland.
And by doing it they became only the fourth team to win the last two games on the road in the 112-year history of the World Series.
The Cubs did it with some aggressive baserunning and some firepower while the Indians displayed the jitters most of the way until they were down, 6-3, in the eighth.
CLEVELAND STARTER COREY Kluber, untouchable in his first two starts in this Series, was not even close to his previous sharpness, showing more like a dull blade, while starting his third game in nine days.
It started poorly. Leadoff batter Dexter Fowler opened the game with a home run.
The Tribe tied it in the third when Coco Crisp led with a double, was bunted to third and scored on Carlos Santana’s single.
The jitters surfaced for the Indians in the fourth when the Cubs scored two runs for a 3-1 lead.
KRIS BRYANT SINGLED and Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch — two on, no outs. Ben Zobrist grounded to first, a double play ball. But first baseman Mike Napoli’s throw to second was off target and the Tribe barely got the out at second and Zobrist was safe at first.
Then came the first of Chicago’s bold, aggressive baserunning. Bryant took third on the ground ball. Addison Russell lofted a shallow fly ball to left, too short for a sacrifice fly. Oh, really?
Bryant tagged and bolted for home. Left fielder Coco Crisp hesitated, thinking Bryant wouldn’t dare try to score. But he tried and he made it when Crisp’s hurried throw home was high. Willson Contreras doubled off the center field wall, a ball that appeared catchable but center field Rajai Davis couldn’t catch up to it. Another run scored to make it 3-1.
Javier Baez, 4 for 26 with 11 strikeouts, drilled a home run to right field leading off the fifth to make it 4-1. That was the end for Kluber — four innings, four runs, six hits, no walks, no strikeouts and two home runs.
MANAGER TERRY FRANCONA brought in Andrew Miller, The Unhittable Man, but the Cubs made quick work of him for another run. He walked Bryant after Sam Holbrook missed a strike three call.
It was time for Bryant to exhibit more derring-do on the basepaths again. Rizzo doubled to right and Bryant, never pausing, never hesitating, never looking left nor right, scored from first base to make it 5-1.
For some reason, Chicago manager Joe Maddon lifted starter Kyle Hendricks with two outs in the fifth after he walked Carlos Santana. Hendricks had given up one run and four hits.
MADDON BROUGHT IN starter Jon Lester and disaster struck. Catcher David Ross made a throwing error on a Jason Kipnis nubbed ground ball that Lester should have fielded, but because he can’t throw to first base he permitted Ross to handle it.
That put runners on third and second and Lester unleashed a wild pitch that bounced off Ross’s glove and both runners scored, Kipnis from second and it was 5-3.
Ross got one back in the sixth by drilling Miller for a home run. Ross, 39 and now retired, was the oldest player in World Series history to homer in Game 7, just as Dexter Fowler was the first to hit a leadoff home run in the top of the first in Game 7.
THEN CAME THE EIGHTH and Aroldis Chapman was on the mound, even though he had thrown 62 pitches in four innings the previous two games.
His velocity was down — from 102 and 101 to 97 and 98. He came on with two outs and a runner on first. Brandon Guyer doubled for a run and Rajai Davis ripped a game-tying home run off a 98 miles an hour fastball — his first home run since August 8. It was the first home run given up by Chapman in a Cubs uniform and his first since June 25 (221 batters back) when he wore a New York Yankees uniform.
So, he blew the save and tears rolled down his cheeks while he sat in the dugout during the rain delay. But he pitched a scoreless ninth, using mostly sliders, and was the winning pitcher when the Cub erupted in the 10th.
“Everything was going perfectly for us until Davis hit the home run,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon while holding the World Series trophy. “Then we had to go to Plan B, C, D and E.”
Actually, it was Plan F and G that finally punctuated the exorcism of all the Cubs demons.