The Chicago Cubs, who don't know the meaning of the words "quit" or "boring," rallied and then held on to beat the Washington Nationals 9-8 Thursday night in our nation's capital to advance to the National League championship series for the third year in a row. Was there ever any doubt?
To be truthful, there was. You saw social media posts postulating that Joe Maddon is an egomaniac whose teams won in spite of him, that something was wrong with Kris Bryant, that Ben Zobrist was an old man, that Javier Baez was pressing, or that none of the Cubs relievers was worth a darn. The Cubs added to those worries by falling behind 4-1 early.
But the Cubs scratched and clawed their way to a run behind, and then, after two quick outs, the Cubs batted around against Max Scherzer, the Nationals' most dominant pitcher. Addison Russell hit two clutch doubles and drove in 4 runs, and the Cubs took an 8-4 lead. The Cubs used an assortment of pitchers, including closer Wade Davis starting his work in the 7th inning. With the tying run at second base and the lead run at first, Cubs' Catcher Willson Contreras picked off the runner at first base to end the 8th inning on a call that the umpires originally missed. Davis struck out Nationals star Bryce Harper swinging on a 3-2 pitch for the final out of the 9th inning for an astonishing 9-8 victory.
Instead of looking for fault with these 2017 Cubs, we fans should be enjoying the ride. We are living in the golden age of Cub fandom. Before the current Cubs came around, our glory team was the 1969 Cubs squad that finished eight games out of first.
Since Cubs President Theo Epstein hired Maddon after the 2014 season, the Cubs have been to three straight postseasons for the first time since 1906-08, won consecutive Central Division championships for the first time since 2007-08, won a pennant for the first time since 1945, and won a World Series for the first time since 1908.
We have no reason to doubt this team. They thrive on exceeding expectations.
On July 28, 2015, after losing 7-2 to the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field, the Cubs were 52-47 and 11½ games out of first. The Cubs went 45-18 down the stretch to win 97 games and earn a wild card shot. Going into Pittsburgh to face All-Star pitcher Gerrit Cole, the upstart Cubs won 4-0. They were not expected to upset the division champion St. Louis Cardinals, winners of 100 games, and yet, the Cubs spanked them three games to one. The Cubs lost the next series in four straight to the New York Mets, but fans were happy with the progress from the year before.
In 2016, the Cubs won 103 games, won the division, and overcame every postseason obstacle. About to fall to 2-2 in the best-of-five division series with the prospect of having to face San Francisco ace Johnny Cueto in the deciding game, the Cubs scored four runs in the 9th inning to win Game 4. Down two games to one in the National League championship series and having been shut out twice, the Cubs outscored the Los Angeles Dodgers 23-6 while winning three straight and besting Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to win the pennant.
And, of course, in the World Series, the Cubs were shut out two of the first three games, were down three games to one, and were behind 1-0 in the first elimination game when they rallied to win that game and the next two.
Blowing a 3-run lead in the bottom of the 8th inning in Game 7, the Cubs used a rain delay and two 10th-inning runs to beat the Cleveland Indians 8-7 to become world champs. Now, they rally to beat the favorite Nationals. What's next?
The Cubs start the National League championship series at 7 p.m. Saturday against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.