Chicago Cubs: Defying odds in their quest to win it all

Oct 11, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; The Chicago Cubs celebrate after defeating the San Francisco Giants in game four of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 11, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; The Chicago Cubs celebrate after defeating the San Francisco Giants in game four of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

Déjà vu?  No.  For the second straight year, the Chicago Cubs are heading to the National League Championship Series.  With a chip on their shoulder, they’ll look to end a century worth of “curses.”

Both games three and four of the NLDS between the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants became instant MLB classics.  FS1 smashed it’s own viewership records as the two teams battled for a spot in the NLCS.  With the Giants “even year” magic and the Cubs never-ending list of curses still in place, this series was full of crazy narratives.

The disappointment that came from losing game three was not merely because the Cubs lost, but rather because they exceeded expectations against “Mr. October,” Madison Bumgarner and ultimately let it slip through their fingers.  After the Giants took a 5-2 lead in fifth, fans began to worry.  There was a looming feeling that everything was starting to fall apart for the north siders.  Then something very un-Cub-like happened.  Something unusual for any team, in fact.

The turning point

Still down by three runs, the Cubs pulled off the improbable by scoring four runs in the top of the ninth to take the lead.  Kris Bryant singled to lead off the inning, and Anthony Rizzo followed with a walk.  Ben Zobrist then doubled to pull the Cubs within two.  Called upon to pinch-hit was rookie Willson Contreras, who drove in two runs to tie the ballgame with a single up the middle.  Then, none other than Javier Baez put the icing on the cake by bringing in what would end up being the winning run with a RBI single of his own.  Aroldis Chapman then struck out the side to vault the Cubs back into the NLCS.

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To many fans, the impending collapse seemed all too typical.  I don’t need to remind you of the Cubs’ past postseason woes.  Heck, we’re reminded of them every single day by cave-dwelling Twitter trolls.  But what they did in the ninth inning, nobody saw coming.  It was something so uncharacteristic of a typical Cubs team.  But this is not your grandpa’s Chicago Cubs.  This team is different.

A typical Cubs team would have gone three up, three down in that ninth inning, forcing a game five.  A red-hot Johnny Cueto twice in one series?  No thanks.  We can all speculate what would have happened in a potential game five, but for our own sanity, it’s best to forget about it.  Fans are tired of the same old thing from the Cubs, and this team is determined as ever to achieve the ultimate goal.

Rewriting the history books

According to Fangraphs, the Cubs’ chances of winning after the eighth inning sat a mere 2.5%.  Coming back to overcome those odds is no easy feat.  In fact, the Cubs offensive explosion at the end of the game matched the largest ever comeback in a postseason elimination game in MLB history.  It’s not often that the Cubs find themselves on the desirable end of historic stats like that.

The Giants made some history of their own.  They had won a record 10 straight postseason games when facing elimination.  This is why so many fans were uneasy with the way things were starting to unfold.  The Giants are no strangers to postseason comebacks.  No matter what kind of regular season they have, someone always seems to step in clutch situations for San Francisco in October.  This year it was Conor Gillaspie.

But this time, it would not be enough for the orange and black.  And thus, the “even year” magic was over.  The Giants had won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, leading fans to believe that their team was destined to win the World Series every even year.  The team even embraced the trend by making “beliEVEN” their official postseason hashtag on Twitter.

Next: Dramatic win sends Cubs to NLCS

 Is this finally the year?

This Chicago Cubs team is different in a lot of ways.  Somehow, they’ve managed to separate themselves from Cubs teams of the past.  Instead of faltering in big situations, they’ve “embraced the target” and made the big plays necessary to advance.  Now begins a test they failed last year.  After being swept by the New York Mets in last year’s NLCS, the Cubs will look to reverse their fortunes against either the Washington Nationals or Los Angeles Dodgers and reach the World Series for the first time since 1945.

Also, I just have to mention something.  The Giants were up 3-1 at one point during game four, but they blew it.  This isn’t the first time the Bay Area has seen one of their teams blow a 3-1 lead, is it?  Sorry, I had to.