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The Chicago Cubs concluded America’s longest sports title drought in dramatic fashion Thursday morning, defeating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in a 10-inning thriller to capture their first World Series crown since 1908.
The Cubs captured Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven final 4-3, ending what had been an iconic 107-year run of failure, frustration and futility.
“This trumps everything. I am so happy,” Cubs slugger Kris Bryant said.
But the historic victory came only after Chicago squandered a four-run lead and looked ready several times for another heartbreaking stumble.
Ben Zobrist doubled in the go-ahead run and Miguel Montero added a bases-loaded single for an 8-6 Cubs lead in the 10th inning, which followed a 17-minute rain delay after regulation play ended in a 6-6 deadlock.
One out from victory, with Cubs fans chanting “We’re number one,” Cleveland’s Brandon Guyer walked and Rajai Davis, who homered to equalize in the eighth, singled to pull the Indians within the final margin.
But Michael Martinez grounded out to third to end Cleveland’s final threat and a roar erupted from Cubs fans as players began to celebrate.
“We got it done. That’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter how,” Cubs pitcher Jon Lester said. “It’s all surreal. I don’t have the words to describe how I feel right now.”
After more than a century — 39,466 days — and a final game of gut-wrenching tension, the Cubs were once again World Series champions. Thousands stayed after the game to watch their heroes, with Zobrist being named the Most Valuable Player.
Dexter Fowler, Javier Baez and David Ross blasted solo home runs and Bryant scored twice as the Cubs, long known as lovable losers and even considered cursed, became the first team since 1985 to rally from a 3-1 Series deficit to win the title — the first club since 1979 to do it by taking the last two games on the road.
The Cubs, who had not been to the World Series since 1945, claimed their third crown overall after 1907 and 1908. They had dropped seven consecutive World Series appearances from 1910 to 1945.
Heartache grew for supporters of the Indians, who last won the World Series in 1948. Their wait now becomes baseball’s longest title drought.
Cleveland sports teams had not won any title since the 1964 NFL Browns until the Cavaliers captured the NBA crown last June.
The anxiety and the ecstasy
The angst and anxiety of the droughts added to the natural drama of a winner-take-all showdown, with neither team having ever taken a seventh game before.
“That’s one of the best games anyone will ever see,” Bryant said.
The Cubs had a 6-3 lead and were four outs from victory when ace closing reliever Aroldis Chapman surrendered a run-scoring double to Guyer and a two-run homer to Davis that equalized at 6-6.
The Indians pulled within 5-3 in the fifth inning when a throwing error by Ross set up two runs that scored on a wild pitch by Sunday’s game-five winner, Jon Lester, in a rare relief stint.
But redemption followed. Ross homered in the sixth and Lester stifled Indians comeback attempts until Chapman arrived.
Kluber clobbered early
Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, who won the opener and game four, lacked the mystifying array of throws he dazzled Cubs batters with before and paid the price quickly.
A “Let’s Go Cubs” chant from thousands of Chicago fans among 38,104 spectators barely died down when Dexter Fowler, hitting only .160 over six Series games, blasted a leadoff home run over the center field wall, becoming the first leadoff batter to homer in a World Series seventh game.
Cleveland equalized in the third when Coco Crisp doubled, took third on Roberto Perez’s sacrifice bunt and scored when Santana singled over leaping Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
The Cubs regained the lead in the fourth as Bryant singled, took second when Rizzo was hit by a pitch, went to third on a Zobrist fielder’s choice and scored on a sacrifice fly out by Addison Russell. Willson Contreras then doubled to score Zobrist for a 3-1 Cubs lead.
Javier Baez smacked a solo homer in the fifth inning and Indians reliever Andrew Miller later walked Bryant, who raced home on a Rizzo single to give Chicago a 5-1 lead.