The once "Lovable Losers" are now the lovable National League champions.
The Chicago Cubs received a masterful performance from starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, while the bats roughed up Los Angeles Dodgers superstar ace Clayton Kershaw in Game 6 on Saturday night at Wrigley Field to claim their first NL crown since 1945.
A raucous crowd witnessed the lifting of the hex in a 5-0 victory that seemed to belong to the Cubs from the very start. Hendricks baffled the Dodger bats, allowing just two hits over 7.1 innings, while striking out six and not allowing a walk before closer Aroldis Chapman finished things off, getting outfielder Yasiel Puig to ground into a double-play to end the game.
“Kyle pitched a perfect game,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said.
The bats showed up, as well. Kershaw, who dominated Chicago in Game 2, labored in the first inning, allowing hits to the first two batters he faced, Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant. By the start of the fourth inning, Manager Joe Maddon's squad was leading 3-0, but Kershaw would later allow solo home runs to Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo.
Jon Lester and Javier Baez were selected as co-MVPs of the National League Championship Series. Lester allowed just two earned runs in 13 innings, while Baez batted .318 in the series.
Wrigley Field was a party from start to finish, with fans sticking around for more than hour after the final out to soak up the moment. Outside the famed stadium, thousands took to the streets to celebrate what could eventually become the organization's first title since 1908.
"Listen to them. Outside before the game was crazy. Inside the game was crazy," Lester said. "These guys have done nothing but support us from Day 1. It's been unbelievable to be here and be part of this. Words can't really describe where I'm at right now."
“There’s a lot of pent up angst and emotion in this city and really all over this nation, Cubs fans that have been loyal over the years,” left fielder Ben Zobrist said. “We know that, but the bottom line is you have to execute at the right time and stay here in 2016. These guys have done it all year long with all the expectations on our backs.”
Up next for the Cubs is another club that has dealt with a long title drought. The Cleveland Indians made two appearances in the World Series in the 1990s, but haven't won a title since 1948. The last time the Cubs won was in 1908.
The series begins Tuesday at Progressive Field in Cleveland, where the Indians had a 53-28 record in the regular season and won all four postseason games. The Cubs finished with the best record in baseball but were more proficient at home than on the road.
Cleveland ace Corey Kluber is expected to start Game 1, while Lester is the probable choice for Chicago.
The Indians struggled to put up runs against the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series, batting just .186, but received strong pitching efforts. Relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are coming off an impressive series after excellent regular seasons.
While the Indians will be the more rested team and with home-field advantage, the Cubs appear to have the more balanced roster. Chicago finished third in the Majors in runs (808) and first in earned-run average (3.15), while Cleveland finished with the No. 5 offense (777 runs) and the No. 7 ERA (3.84).
Both clubs boast veteran managers with success with former clubs and each knows about ending title droughts. Terry Francona began his first season with the Indians in 2013 after winning two titles with the Boston Red Sox, a club that had famously gone several decades without a title. Maddon served as Mike Scioscia's bench coach from 2000 to 2005, winning a 2002 World Series ring in the Los Angeles Angels' only title.