The problem with losing cultures is that they become self-fulfilling prophecies. No one knows this better than Chicago Cubs fans. From Leon Durham’s error against the Padres in 1984, to Steve Bartman’s infamous fan interference nightmare against the Marlins in 2003, Cubs fans have grown accustomed to expecting the worst.
Last night, with the Cubbies trailing the Giants 5-2 in the top of the 9th, in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, the proverbial walls felt like they were closing in on the “Loveable Losers” yet again. A loss would have tied the series, and sent them back to a deciding Game 5 in an anxiety ridden Chicago, against a Giants team that had earned a reputation as unkillable vampire in playoff elimination games.
Just one night earlier, they were 6 outs away from a series sweep and securing a spot in the NLCS. Then, they kicked away a 3-2 lead, en route to losing a 13-inning heartbreaker to the Giants. Cubs fans told themselves that it was just one loss, but deep down there was definitive evidence of the early stages of “that feeling.”
As the Cubs came to bat in the top of the 9th inning of Game 4, the tacit symptoms of “the feeling” from the previous night had become full blown. The television broadcast shots of the Cubs dugouts were less than reassuring. It looked a another Windy City baseball funeral was imminent. It was happening. Again.
Then it wasn’t.
Giants starter Matt Moore had dominated the Cubs, tossing a 10 strikeout, two-hitter through 8 innings. But, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy opted to pull Moore in the 9th, in favor of securing the final 3 outs of the game with a bullpen that had blown 32 saves on the year.
The inning started innocently with a Kris Bryant single. Then Anthony Rizzo drew a walk. Ben Zobrist scorched an RBI double to drive in a run and draw the Cubs within 2. Wait.
With the Giants bullpen reeling, pinch hitter Wilson Contreras stepped to the plate and lined a 2 RBI single to tie the game. What the hell was happening?
With the unflappable Giants officially out on their feet, Javier Baez delivered the KO, giving Chicago the 6-5 lead with a go-ahead single. Down goes Frazier.
In the bottom of the 9th, Aroldis Chapman, who blew the save one night earlier, was untouchable in his turn at redemption. He slammed the door on the Giants, and the series, with a flurry of 102 MPH gas, including the strikeout to end the game.
The celebration was on, and the city of Chicago was spared the 9 inning heart attack that would have been a deciding Game 5 at home at Wrigley, complete with the ghosts of failure’s past.
They’ll look to take the next step in the NLCS against the winner of the Nationals and Dodgers series, and see if this year is finally “next year.”