My dearest and loyal Chicago Cubs fans, we have witnessed a major battle and came out victorious.
Yes. The battle was arduous, difficult. Our plan, deliberately discussed and implemented by our leadership, was to aggressively attack our opponent and knock them off their feet early. Then, advance and triumph. As we all witnessed, it was not that simple.
Our opponent, the worthy Mariners of Seattle, were ready for us, knocking us back in the first inning. We pushed back but were overcome by their strength. For three straight innings, they hammered us, laying a six-run lead at the feet of our front line. It looked bleak.
Reports coming in from Twitter were telling of the tale on the battlefield. Things like “Cubs doing Cub things,” or “This is not a playoff team,” were stated all over social media. The accounts of the battle were traumatic enough that our own social media team decided to “stop reading” all the mentions and posted pictures of sunsets. (They were beautiful pictures.)
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Down six run in three innings, Manager Joe Maddon had to adjust the battle plan and dip into the bullpen. Carl Edwards executed two strong innings of work from the mound, followed by Travis Wood. The team was able to scratch out two runs off “King” Felix Hernandez in the fifth inning and held the opponent to those six runs. But, the battle called for new adjustments, new ways of managing the defense and mounting an offense. The historians and baseball science experts took to social media to provide their keen insight and commentary as Wood was moved to left field for two innings. To them, the white flag was being raised.
But, to the Chicago Cubs, it was a move of necessity. A move that allowed Wood to come back and pitch, if needed. Then came the seventh inning. One out, one on for the mighty Mariners, and Wood was in left field. The entirety of Cubs nation held their breath at the moment of impending horror – the moment when Franklin Gutierrez hit a mammoth shot to left field. It looked as if the Mariners were going to push back and take over the battle. Travis Wood, in a play that reflects Jack Nicholson’s role in the movie A Few Good Men, made a catch that proved the Cubs needed him on that wall. Running back and into the brick of Wrigley’s outfield, Wood caught the ball to the amazement of the ESPN commentators and all those watching. The momentum of the battle was changing.
With the Chicago Cubs still trailing in the bottom of the ninth inning, the offensive was able to move forward as the Mariners’ defense weakened. Willson Contreras came up with the bases load, hitting a ground ball. A double play ball. Contreras’s hustle down the line allowed him to beat the throw to first. A run scored and the Cubs were now down 6-5. A wild pitch tied the game. Extra innings were to be waged.
Back and forth the teams struggled in the tenth and eleventh innings, not giving an inch or a run. Bottom of the twelfth inning and the struggling Jason Heyward came to the plate. Cubs nation was on edge, but doubting the chances. They have watch Heyward, the high-priced free agent struggle all season. Not this at-bat. Heyward drills a pitch off the top of the right field wall. A foot higher and the game would be over, but for now, Heyward was on second. Contreras moved Heyward to third. With one out and all the position players utilized, Maddon turned to the unlikeliest of heroes. A pitcher with a batting average of .051.
The Mariners played for a suicide squeeze, holding Heyward close to third base. With two balls and two strikes, Lester bunts softly toward the pitcher, who scoops the ball to the catcher. Heyward slides. Cubs win!
It was an improbable game, snatching victory from the grip of defeat. It was a team effort, orchestrated by Joe Maddon. This game, dated July 31, 2016, will go down as the game the defined our season. This is what will be seen as the moment the team fully came together, merging as one unit.
We know and understand your passion for the Chicago Cubs runs deep, and that history serves as a constant reminder of the performance of the team. We stand here today and say that the state of our team is strong. We have struggled, we have succeeded. We will continue to battle until the end of our season.
Thank you for being the greatest baseball fans in the world!