Bryant goes long, Chapman goes longer — whatever it takes to win

SHARE Bryant goes long, Chapman goes longer — whatever it takes to win

Kris Bryant watched his fourth-inning home run off Trevor Bauer fly in Game 5 of the World Series. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Let the record show that it was a two-seam fastball on the third pitch of Kris Bryant’s second at-bat of the night and his 16th at-bat of the World Series.

Also, let the record show that Aroldis Chapman’s entrance into the game in the top of the seventh inning was bat-out-of-hell nuts and — without a doubt — the most dramatic move Broadway Joe Maddon has made as manager of the Cubs.

Just in case, you know, there’s ever a reason to dig back through time to determine the pivotal World Series moments for this team, these were the hugest ones yet. Without them, there is no 3-2 victory in Sunday’s Game 5. There is no return trip to Cleveland.

With the Cubs trailing the Indians 1-0 in the fourth inning — and facing a most unexpected elimination situation at Wrigley Field — Bryant finally broke through. The N.L. MVP favorite took Indians starter Trevor Bauer into the first row of the left-centerfield bleachers, tying the game, unburdening himself and touching off the Cubs’ best offensive half-inning of the World Series.

“Kris starting us off with the home run was beautiful,” Anthony Rizzo said.

With Bryant suddenly off a 1-for-15, RBI-less schneid, Rizzo ripped a double off the ivy in right. Ben Zobrist singled. Addison Russell singled. Even Javy Baez, who once upon a time could hit a baseball, figured out a way to get on base with a surprise bunt.

When ancient catcher David Ross hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1, it seemed the Cubs’ oppressive offensive problems in this series might finally be blowing over.

“That’s a good sign for us,” Bryant said.

But the Cubs didn’t score again Sunday night, and that led Maddon to crawl so deep into his own head, he emerged with a plan just drop-dead crazy enough to work.

Goodness, it had to work. Or else.

Cubs ace Jon Lester threw only 90 pitches through six innings, but Maddon stopped him right then and there for reliever Carl Edwards Jr. in the seventh. Not only that, but Maddon put Willson Contreras into the game at catcher. That meant comfortably crusty vets Lester and Ross were gone from the franchise’s biggest game in forever, replaced by a battery of rookies.

Compared to what came next, that little maneuver was nothing.

Three batters into the seventh, Maddon turned to Chapman, who hadn’t entered a game prior to the eighth inning since the spring of 2012. He wasn’t even a closer than.

In fact, Chapman never had been in a game long enough to record eight outs in his major league career — yet that’s what Maddon decided he could do in Game 5, with all the pressure and all the history on the line.

“Joe talked to me before the game,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “He asked if I could be ready to possibly come into the game in the seventh inning. I said, ‘I’m ready.’ ”

Chapman proceeded to blow the minds of his fellow Cubs pitchers.

“In a way,” Kyle Hendricks said, “every time he pitches is mind-blowing. He’s an animal.”

“Unbelievable,” Travis Wood said. “He’s a great pitcher. It’s why we went out and got him.”

By the top of the ninth, the Cubs didn’t even have a reliever up in the bullpen. Pedro Strop, Mike Montgomery, Hector Rondon — rumors, all. It was all Chapman, all the way to the wall. There was utterly no turning back.

Seriously — no one warming up just in case?

“Aroldis is the ninth,” Wood said.

Maddon had said before the game that he knew how anxious Cubs fans would be.

“Please be nervous,” he said. “Absolutely. You should be nervous. We have to win tonight, so go ahead and be nervous.”

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, the denizens of Wrigley were nervous wrecks. For a while there, it seemed like maybe Maddon’s own nerves had gotten the best of him.

But his bonkers move worked. Chapman’s left arm made it through. Bryant’s bat woke up. The Cubs won a World Series game. They’re still alive.


Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.


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