All that discouraging history. All that fear and doubt.
If anyone was cursed Saturday night at Wrigley Field, it was the visiting Dodgers. Cursed by the baseball gods, who lined them up against an absolute buzzsaw of a team and a stoic savant of a pitcher.
Clayton Kershaw, you are dismissed.
Kyle Hendricks, you are everything you’ve been cracked up to be and more.
The Cubs are going to the World Series. Let’s say that once more, with emphasis: The Cubs are going to the World Series.
Their 5-0 victory in Game 6 touched off a celebration that will live forever in the hearts of these Cubs ands their massive following. And it will be ages before anyone forgets how it happened, with Hendricks — the 2016 major league ERA champ — delivering the performance of his life and Kershaw, the most ballyhooed pitcher of his time, left standing hopelessly in front of a runaway Cubs train.
“We’re not done,” Hendricks said. “We’re still going.”For the Cubs, there was no waiting to get rolling. They jumped on Kershaw in the first inning, with leadoff man Dexter Fowler dropping a double down the right-field line. Kris Bryant followed with an RBI single, taking a two-strike single to the opposite field as if he’d been doing that sort of thing his whole career.
When Dodgers left fielder Andrew Toles dropped a line shot from Anthony Rizzo for an error, one began to see that the guys from Los Angeles — not the ones bearing the weight of 1908 and 1945 and monstrous expectations — might not be built for a moment the size of this one. The Cubs? Ready. Willing. Able as all get-out.
They put two runs on the Dodgers in that first, with Kershaw toiling for 30 pitches, and ran the lead to 5-0 — with home runs from Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo — by the time they were done bullying the lefty.
Hendricks, meanwhile, was at his unflappable best. After he picked off Josh Reddick at first base to end the second inning, Hendricks did what Hendricks does — turn, pull down the brim of his cap, lower his head and slowly, ever so calmly walk to the dugout. It was an epic reaction in its utter serenity, an impossibly juxtaposition against the gathering chaos in the stands.
Jake Arrieta recently described that side of Hendricks, the one that never gets higher or lower than the dead middle. It’s an approach, a tactic, a gift — whatever you want to call it — that no one else on these crazy Cubs has.
“It was funny to me at first. I thought it was odd,” Arrieta said. “But the guy’s as even-keeled as they come. He never shows his emotion whether he’s getting his ass kicked or throwing a shutout.”
Hendricks probably could’ve done the latter had Joe Maddon let him. Instead, he went 7 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and striking out six, with zero walks. He took the baton from Game 5 winner Jon Lester and ran with it — a pair of Cy Young-level outings and a hell of a one-two punch.
Kershaw and the Dodgers went down for the count. Hendricks rose to the occasion like a boss.
Like there was never any doubt.
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