Cubs advance to first World Series since 1945
Chicago — Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.
Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton Kershaw, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-0, Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.
The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.
Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon’s team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven’t won it all since 1948 — Cleveland and the Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.
“This city deserves it so much,” Rizzo said. “We got four more big ones to go, but we’re going to enjoy this. We’re going to the World Series. I can’t even believe that.”
All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.
Deemed World Series favorites since Opening Day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.
The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.
The eternal “wait till next year” is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure — the future is now.
“We’re too young. We don’t care about it,” star slugger Kris Bryant said. “We don’t look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We’re enjoying it and our work’s just getting started.”
Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 71/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.
The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.
“Chicago!” shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.
The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.
And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.
In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn’t allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.
Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.
This time, no such ill luck.
Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.
Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.
That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.
Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game’s first pitch.
Kershaw, dominant in a Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.
The Dodgers haven’t been to the World Series since winning in 1988.
Pitching on five days’ rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant’s single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.
They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo’s fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly.
The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.
Kyle Schwarber is working out in Arizona after major left knee surgery in April, and the Cubs say the injured slugger with the sweet left-handed swing could return for the World Series.
The Cubs had ruled Schwarber out for the year after he tore two knee ligaments during an outfield collision. But Schwarber’s checkup with Dr. Daniel Cooper on Monday in Dallas cleared the way for the Cubs to take a closer look at the catcher/outfielder in the Arizona Fall League.
“We got the best possible report. It exceeded any reasonable expectation that we had,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Saturday. “We basically got the news at six months that we had hoped to get at seven months, which was Dr. Cooper upon examining him cleared him to run the bases. Kyle called me right away and asked for a chance to get ready. The doctors greenlighted him to start hitting.”
Schwarber’s return would be a big boost for Chicago. He hit .333 with a franchise-record five homers in nine playoff games last year, including a drive that reached the top of a Wrigley Field videoboard.
Schwarber could help at designated hitter while the World Series is in Cleveland.
He was activated from the 60-day disabled list Saturday. Left-hander Giovanni Soto was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.