There comes a time when history unfolds before our very eyes. These moments are few and far between because we rarely have enough context to know in the moment. That’s not the case with the Chicago Cubs and their ninth-inning rally in an NLDS Game 4 win over the San Francisco Giants.
The Cubs, the team that hasn’t won the World Series in 108 years, was nearing the brink of another truly devastating playoff exit. After leading 2-0 in the NLDS best-of-five series, they blew a 3-0 lead in Game 3 before coming out flat against the Giants in Game 4, going down 5-2 entering the ninth inning.
Then, this happened:
The Cubs rallied for four runs in the ninth inning before closer Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the bottom half of the inning, vaulting the team into its second NLCS appearance in as many years.
In many ways, this rally was reminiscent of the Red Sox’s comeback in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. Trailing 4-3 in the game and down 3-0 in the series, Boston was tasked with mounting a comeback to keep their season alive against their hated rivals, the New York Yankees.
Kevin Millar drew a walk to lead off the inning, Dave Roberts pinch ran for him, stole second base, and later scored the tying run on a Bill Mueller single. David Ortiz’s two-run walk-off homer sealed the deal in the 12th inning. Of course, Boston went on to win the series and then the World Series, ending its own 86-year title drought.
That is what the Cubs rally against the Giants in Game 4 of the NLDS was.
No, they didn’t face as steep of odds as the Red Sox and they didn’t face elimination. But it sure felt like they were in trouble if they were forced into a decisive NLDS Game 5. In fact, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein even said he was feeling nervous, thinking the season would come down to one game in Chicago on Thursday, as he told Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:
“You start thinking of the possibility of a Game 5, anything can happen. You’ve gotta face [Johnny] Cueto, [Madison] Bumgarner out of the ‘pen. I believe in our guys, but it just wasn’t a great feeling,” Epstein said.
With their backs up against the wall, the Cubs mounted a rally and delivered, much like the Red Sox did in 2004. After that game 12 years ago, all the Red Sox gave their fans was a sliver of hope. Cubs fans have so much more than that, now far from the brink of elimination. As one fan page noted, the team is now just eight wins from that coveted World Series title.
That sliver of hope turned into something much bigger for the Red Sox. What this rally did for the Cubs was allow them to advance, await their next opponent, who will travel to Chicago, and prepare for an NLCS that could be historic. The Cubs will be favored against either the Washington Nationals or the Los Angeles Dodgers. In fact, they are the favorites to win the World Series, according to Odds Shark, an online betting site.
Where the 2004 Red Sox’s Game 4 ALCS comeback let them live another day, the Cubs’ rally in Game 4 of the 2016 NLDS gave them new life. It infused new life into a franchise that already fielded the best team in baseball. That is a scary prospect for opposing teams the rest of the way.
History very rarely seems to unfold before our eyes. But history is what we saw on an October night in San Francisco. It was fun to watch in the moment, but it will be even more fun to look back on.
After all, we watched history unfold before our very eyes. It was a moment almost as historic as ending a 108-year title drought.
Not quite, though. There is still history left to write.
[Featured image by Ben Margot/AP Images]