- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

After 108 years, the drought has ended.

The Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908, defeating the Cleveland Indians in extra innings to complete a rally from a 3-1 series deficit.

“It happened,” said Anthony Rizzo, who scored the eighth run in the 8-7 thriller, after the game. “We’re in history forever.”

The winning runs in the dramatic contest, with multiple twists of fortune, came in the 10th with the game tied 6-6 after a rain delay of about 20 minutes before the top of the 10th inning iced both teams.

The Cubs‘ Kyle Schwarber led off with a single and was lifted for pinch runner Albert Almora Jr., who advanced to second on a long sacrifice fly. Rizzo was then intentionally walked.

Ben Zobrist, who won the World Series last year with the Kansas City Royals and was named MVP this year, then hit a double to left field, scoring Almora and giving the Cubs the lead. After the Indians walked Addison Russell to load the bases, Miguel Montero followed with another RBI single to make it 8-6, but the Cubs couldn’t cash in further after loading the bases with one out.

“What a group of winners, what a group of resilient winners,” gushed catcher David Ross after the game.

Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, said in the clubhouse while holding the World Series trophy that “this has got to be one of the best games of all time.”

The Cubs looked like they might blow it, losing leads of 5-1 and 6-3, and then letting the winning run come to the plate in the bottom of the 10th.

But relievers Carl Edwards Jr., a 48th round draft pick, and Mike Montgomery, who’d never recorded a major-league save, finished off the Indians, despite yielding a run.

Both teams entered the World Series “boasting” the longest streaks in their respective leagues without a World Series win, as the Indians last won it all in 1948 and seemingly had the Series in their grasp after their Game 4 victory.

But the Indians fell behind 4-1 as ace Corey Kluber — aiming to become the first pitcher to start and win three World Series games since Mickey Lolich in 1968 — was not the untouchable force he was in Games 1 and 4. 

Pitching on three days’ rest for the second straight start, Kluber gave up four runs on six hits in four-plus innings, and failed to strike out a single Cubs batter.

Cubs leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler gave Chicago the lead with a home run to dead center in the game’s first at-bat. And Javier Baez ended Kluber’s night with another solo home run to lead off the fifth.

Both bullpens struggled. Indians reliever Andrew Miller hadn’t given up an earned run in 27 innings between Sept. 8 and Game 4 of this series, when the Cubs got a meaningless run off him late in the Indians’ 7-2 win.

But he gave up two runs in relief Wednesday, one on a solo home-run to Ross — at 39, the oldest man in the series — giving the Cubs a seemingly unassailable 5-1 lead.

The tide seemed to turn when Cubs skipper Joe Maddon pulled starter Kyle Hendricks in the fifth inning despite his only having given up one run, in favor of ace starter Jon Lester.

While Lester is one of the game’s best pitchers, he isn’t used to relief appearances on just two days’ rest, and his usual control betrayed him. Lester gave up two runs on a wild pitch that hit Ross — also freshly inserted in the game — in the head.

Still holding a 6-3 lead after Lester recovered, the Cubs gave the ball to Aroldis Chapman with two out in the eighth, and the closer with the 100 mph fastball, pitching his third straight game, promptly gave up an RBI double to Brandon Guyer and a two-run home run to Rajai Davis to tie the game at 6-6.

Davis added an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th to close the gap to 8-7, but the Indians could not tie the score.

The Cubs are one of the most popular teams in baseball, in part based on a “lovable losers” image, fostered by years of futility and their status as a kind of baseball throwback — Wrigley Field being the last major-league stadium to be outfitted with floodlights for night games.

They last had made the World Series in 1945, the year the “curse of the billy goat” was supposedly placed on them for kicking a tavern owner and his goat out of Wrigley Field during that series.

The closest they had been since before this year — the 2003 National League Championship Series — produced the Steve Bartman incident, in which a Cubs fan interfered with a foul pop-up and the Cubs promptly blew a 3-0 lead over the Florida Marlins in a potential clinching Game 6, and then lost Game 7.

With the storyline of two long-starved fanbases, this year’s World Series has been a ratings smash, with Sunday night’s Game 5 even topping the NFL’s juggernaut and drawing the biggest audience for a Game 5 since 1997.

That game, a potential clincher for the Indians garnering 23.6 million pairs of eyes for Fox, topped the 18 million who tuned into NBC for the Cowboys-Eagles game.

According to ticket-resale service StubHub, seats at Progressive Field in Cleveland were fetching a median price of $1,823, with some tickets being sold for more than $20,000. Eighty percent of the sales were to buyers outside Ohio.

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