The Chicago Cubs suffered through a late-season slide, capped by a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Their rival’s loss in the NLCS offers a little consolation.
There’s nothing the Washington Nationals or any other team can do to fully take away the sting of the season that the Chicago Cubs wrapped up a few weeks ago. Yet when the Nationals knocked out the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series on Tuesday night – sweeping them, no less – I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t smile just a little bit.
I became a Chicago Cubs fan at nine years old, in 1994, and in 1996 I learned early on in my fandom that I didn’t like the Cardinals. That year, the two teams met in St. Louis late in the year, with the Cardinals in first and the Cubs five games out. The Cardinals put their rivals from the Windy City in their place, sweeping all three games and putting out any flicker of hope the Cubs could come back and win the division.
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Over the years, I watched as the Cardinals, almost every year, would make the playoffs over and over while Chicago continued to suffer. Sure, we’ve had our moments: We finally got our revenge in 2015, when the Cubs beat the Cardinals in the playoffs.
I hadn’t yet witnessed the Cubs winning the World Series – none of us had – but when Hector Rondon struck out Stephen Piscotty to wrap up that series, it felt almost like I imagined winning it all would because it ended so much frustration against the Cubs’ hated rivals.
Then there was 2016, and while the Cubs didn’t have to beat the Cardinals in the playoffs that year, at least the team winning the World Series ended the Cardinals fans’ ability to hold the long championship drought over our heads.
Yet those have been the exceptions, and in 2019, after three straight years where Chicago made the playoffs and St. Louis didn’t, we saw a return to the way things used to be. It was bad enough the Cardinals essentially ended the Cubs’ season by beating them four straight times at Wrigley Field in September. But the fact that they did it in such heartbreaking fashion – every game decided by one run, including two ninth-inning comebacks – made it even worse.
I think I joined many Cubs fans in hoping that the Atlanta Braves could knock out the Cardinals, though thanks to that nightmare ten-run first inning in the deciding Game 5 of the National League Division Series, it didn’t happen.
The Cardinals once again defied the odds and defeated a better team. Yet the Redbirds met their match in the Washington Nationals, and I think many of us Cubs fans became Nationals fans, at least this October, after the way they decimated our hated rivals.
No, seeing the Cardinals lose won’t fully make up for such a disappointing year for the Chicago Cubs. Yet at least we can take a little comfort in seeing the team that tormented us yet again get ousted short of reaching the World Series. Hopefully, the Cubs will be able to regain the upper hand in this rivalry in 2020.