Believe it: Cubs reach World Series as generations rejoice at Wrigley

CHICAGO -- It was an eruption, the sound of euphoria, one that could be heard Saturday night, all the way from Wrigleyville to downtown Chicago.

The Chicago Cubs, those lovable losers that epitomized heartbreak and dreams deferred, are going to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

Really.

The Cubs won the National League pennant in convincing style, 5-0 over ace Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning the NL Championship Series in six games and routing the Dodgers for the third consecutive game.

Believe it.

The Cubs, who had lost all six times with a chance to clinch the pennant  ended the longest drought in professional sports without an appearances in a championship game or round.

And the Dodgers set a major-league record for 10 consecutive playoff appearances without reaching the World Series, their last appearance coming in 1988.

The frenzied crowd danced in aisles, screamed from the rooftops, and partied on the streets.

The Cubs will play the Cleveland Indians, who haven’t won the World Series since 1948, beginning Tuesday at Progressive Field.

And, for the Cubs, they’ll be looking for their first World Series championship since 1908.

It was bedlam on the streets in Wrigleyville, and that was three hours before the first pitch, with everyone trying to get a piece of history.

The lines to the famed Murphy’s Bleachers and the Cubby Bear were around the block. Generations of fans stood at the first pitch, and never sat down. One fan even proposed to his girlfriend on Clark Street, with thousands celebrating along with him.

By the third inning, Chicago police closed off the entrance to Wrigleyville.

It was that crazy of a celebration.

Just four years ago, they were 100-game losers, and one of the game’s biggest laughingstocks.

Today, they are champions of the National League, with aspirations of bringing home their first World Series title since the Teddy Roosevelt administration.

“History doesn’t really weigh on this club,’’ Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “A lot of them are in their early 20’s, they’re not really burdened by that stuff. The organization isn’t. It’s about trying to win. We’re keeping it simple.’’

Any talk of the Indians, or the World Series, can wait.

After all, they had a pennant to celebrate.

“It's just a fan base that's been waiting for a while,’’ Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “ We're definitely on the verge of doing something wonderful, and they're absolutely engaged and involved. At the end of the day, it goes back to my advice, let's just do this one thing at a time. That's what we can control.

“It's a really passionate fan base, obviously. And it's generational. And it's wonderful. So, my interaction with the fans has been great on the streets or wherever. Went out to dinner last night, and they couldn't be more kind.

“You accept it, and you nurture it, and you understand it.’’

And what terrifies the rest of the National League is that this could be just the infancy of a Cubs dynasty.

The average age of the Cubs’ starting lineup on Saturday was just 23.

As for the game, the historic one that Cubs fans have been awaiting for generations, it was drama-less.

No nail-biting. No Steve Bartman. No black cats. No chance of a curse.

It was never a case of suspense, but inevitability.

The frenzied crowd, on their feet screaming from the first inning, never stopped the entire night. This game was over in the first inning when Kershaw, undercut by a dropped fly ball from left fielder Andrew Toles, yielded two runs.

The last time he gave up more than one run in the first inning?

Would you believe June 27, 2015? Yes, that was 44 starts ago.

The last time Kershaw faced the Cubs in Game 2, he became the first Dodger pitcher to record 13 consecutive outs in a postseason game since Sandy Koufax in Game 1 of the World Series. He was also the first visiting player to pitch seven scoreless innings in a postseason game at Wrigley Field.

It took three pitchers for Kershaw to give up a hit on this night, when Dexter Fowler hit a leadoff double, continuing his mastery against Kershaw with a .408 career batting average. And just seven pitches to score a run on Kris Bryant’s single to right. And after Toles dropped Anthony Rizzo’s fly ball, the Cubs scored again on Ben Zobrist’s sacrifice fly.

Kershaw, who barely even threw his curveball, wasn’t close to being the pitcher that has dominated everyone in his wake. He lasted just five innings, departing with a 5-0 deficit, with the Cubs rocking him for five extra-base hits.

Kyle Hendricks, the major league’s ERA leader, never gave the Dodgers a prayer of getting back into the game. He methodically mowed down the Dodgers every inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Toles in the first inning, and never gave up another one until the eighth inning.

The Cubs were having so much fun this night that you would have thought it was a spring-training game in Mesa, Ariz. Why, second baseman Javy Baez actually cut in front of first baseman Anthony Rizzo on Josh Reddicks’ infield popup in the fifth inning.

It was a series that the Cubs thoroughly dominated, outscoring the Dodgers 23-6 since falling behind 2-1 in the series. Why, take away the Cubs’ two shutout losses, they outscored the Dodgers 30-10.

Now, it’s onto the World Series, where they once again will embrace the pressure, just as Maddon preached to them all season.

Yes, believe it, the Cubs are in the World Series.

Really.

“I love being in a city that’s playing October baseball where you can feel everybody captivated by the ballclub,’’ Epstein said. “Everybody is tired from staying up late, prioritizing baseball above anything else.

“A great phenomena.’’

Epstein, who won two World Series championships with the Boston Red Sox, now will be able to fulfill another dream.

He’ll get to see that beautiful outfield ivy turning orange.

The Cubs are in the World Series.


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