The Chicago Cubs are partying like it’s 1945.
Seventy-one years after the Cubs clinched their last pennant, the National League Central champions set up a World Series date against the Cleveland Indians with a 5-0 Game 6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. It came behind a two-hit gem from starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who struck out six hitters in 7.1 scoreless innings at Wrigley Field on Saturday:
THE CHICAGO CUBS ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!
THIS IS NOT A DRILL. #FlyTheW pic.twitter.com/MJkayqN1VL
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 23, 2016
The Cubs’ official Twitter account relayed video of the final two outs as they turned a double play to win the National League Championship Series:
Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw allowed a grand total of two hits in his dominant Game 2 outing, but the Cubs refused to let the three-time Cy Young winner enjoy similar success Saturday.
Dexter Fowler led off the first inning with a double to right, and Kris Bryant brought him home a few pitches later with a single to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs may have been content with one run in the first, but things took a turn in their favor when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped a fly ball off Anthony Rizzo’s bat, which moved Bryant to third and put two men in scoring position with no outs.
A sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist allowed Bryant to score, and the Cubs left the first inning with a 2-0 lead.
The deficit represented uncharted territory for Kershaw, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
This is the first time all season Clayton Kershaw has allowed 2 runs in the 1st inning of a game
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 23, 2016
Kershaw had tossed 30 pitches by the time the opening frame ended, which represented his highest first-inning tally since 2011, according to ESPN Radio (via the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh).
Kershaw escaped the second inning with just 16 pitches, but the Cubs hit him hard. Addison Russell doubled to lead off the second, and Fowler knocked him in three batters later with a single to left.
With the Cubs in possession of a 3-0 lead, ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers observed that Kershaw did not have his best stuff:
He is not fooling anyone tonight. Hard hit balls everywhere.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) October 23, 2016
MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy pointed out a statistical disparity that displayed how off Kershaw was:
Cubs had one AB with a runner in scoring position against Kershaw & Jansen in Game 2. They have eight in the first three innings of Game 6.
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) October 23, 2016
Meanwhile, Hendricks breezed through the first three innings after striking out five and walking four in an up-and-down Game 2 outing.
The 26-year-old faced the minimum of nine batters through three innings while allowing just one hit, and his command of the strike zone had the Cubs in control, as the New York Times’ Doug Glanville explained:
Like Maddux @Cubs Hendricks pitches as if he can see himself from the batter’s box. An almost innate ability to see his own reflection #Cubs
— Doug Glanville (@dougglanville) October 23, 2016
Solo home runs by Willson Contreras in the fourth and Rizzo in the fifth put the Cubs ahead 5-0, and at that point, Kershaw was cooked.
On a night like this, @ARizzo44 had to be involved. #LloveTheGame pic.twitter.com/e6ha2qoAm0
— MLB (@MLB) October 23, 2016
With his curveball nonexistent and his slider moving inefficiently, the Dodgers pulled their ace, who allowed seven hits and four earned runs through five innings.
According to the Orange County Register’s Bill Plunkett, Saturday represented another misstep for Kershaw in a big spot:
Clayton Kershaw in 6 #Dodgers elimination games since 2013 — 6.07 ERA 1.28 WHIP, about go 1-3 with 1 save unless LAD comes back to life
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 23, 2016
Hendricks was brilliant, and his masterpiece set up Aroldis Chapman with five outs remaining.
With their ticket to the Fall Classic punched, the Cubs can turn their attention to the Indians. Cleveland has been off since Wednesday, when it downed the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
Although the teams didn’t meet during the regular season, they figure to combine for some theatrics when things get underway Tuesday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
While the Indians pitching staff has been the best in the big leagues throughout the postseason, recording a 1.77 ERA while limiting opponents to a .206 batting average, the Cubs have the players to make them pay at the plate.
Considering the Cubs and Indians are seeking to snap championship droughts that span 108 and 68 years, respectively, this year’s World Series should be a sight to behold.
With the pennant in tow, the Cubs took their celebration to the field, as the team’s official Twitter account documented:
Once the final out was recorded, Rizzo told Fox’s Tom Verducci that he wasn’t letting go of the game ball anytime soon:
Catcher David Ross was also rather fired up, as Fox Sports MLB displayed on Twitter:
"I can’t even describe it right now," owner Tom Ricketts said, per Haugh. "All I know is we have to win 4 more games."