CLEVELAND — In the ninth inning, as the Cubs were tying a bow on their first World Series win in 71 years, Kris Bryant thought, “Hey, we’re tying a bow on our first World Series win in 71 years.” O.K., those were not the exact words that danced inside the likely National League MVP’s head. But he did think about 1945 and what this Game 2 win meant, even before Game 2 was won.
“Sometimes your mind wanders and you can’t control that,” Bryant said. “It’s important to enjoy this stuff. It’s not going to be every year you’re going to be in the World Series. When those thoughts come in your head, realize that they’re there and that they’re real, and that it’s a special time.”
Game 2 of the World Series was about what didn’t happen. Rain didn’t fall. Jake Arrieta didn’t throw a no-hitter. And the Cubs didn’t lose.
See, the Cubs could have trailed the Indians 2–0 when they played the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years, and the mere possibility of this would have been nerve-wracking if the Cubs had nerves. They clearly do not.
I mean, look at Kyle Schwarber. Some people say he could fall out of bed and hit Major League pitching, but after two Series games, I no longer believe he needs to get out of bed. He could probably pull a bat out from under his pillow and hit a two-seam fastball.
Schwarber hasn’t played all year because of a knee injury. He should be in spring-training mode right now, honing his swing and getting his timing down. Instead, he has three hits in seven World Series at-bats. One of them came on a 3–0 pitch in Game 2.
“Pretty much everybody here has the green light (on) 3–0,” Bryant said. “But it takes some guts to do that.”
The Cubs beat Cleveland 5–1 and continued to chuckle at history. They lead the majors in nearly everything, including motivational t-shirts—I saw MAKE SOMEDAY TODAY and THE PROCESS IS FEARLESS after Game 2. Schwarber’s week is a movie waiting to happen, but the rest of the season is missing some plot points. Where are the big motivational speech, the nervous moments, the rookies plagued by self-doubt?
Ben Zobrist should be the veteran leader who calms everybody. He helped the Royals win the World Series last year before signing with the Cubs, and he hit a triple in Game 2—Bryant said Zobrist is in as good of a groove at the plate as anybody on the team. But Zobrist knows his teammates need his bat more than his mouth.
“I look at Willy over there,” he said Wednesday, meaning rookie catcher Willson Contreras. “His first pitch he ever saw in the Major Leagues, he hit a home run. So what am I going to tell him about handling his nerves?”
Contreras didn’t just homer on the first big-league pitch he ever saw; he drilled a changeup over the centerfield fence and admired it. Yes, it was the same admiring pose that got him in trouble in Game 1, when he actually hit a double. Javier Baez made that same mistake against the Giants in the Division Series. It’s not ideal, but the mistakes are borne of confidence. The Cubs will take that over nervousness any day.
Can Schwarber play the field in the games in Wrigley? He hasn’t been cleared yet, but would you doubt it?
World Series games always have a great atmosphere, but Wrigley Field Friday night will feel different. Zobrist said during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, “You’d look in the crowd and people are just bobbing heads, jumping up and down the whole time.” The Cubs beat Clayton Kershaw that night. I don’t think Josh Tomlin will scare them.
Maybe we should forget 1908. Forget 1945. Maybe a more telling year for these Cubs is 1988. That was the year the Cubs added lights to Wrigley Field—it happened in August. Probably seems like yesterday to a lot of Cubs fans.
Seven players in their Game 2 starting lineup had not even been born yet: Schwarber, Bryant, Contreras, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell.
“What Schwarb’s doing, and Addy (Russell) and Javy (Baez), how young these guys are … it’s in their makeup, it really is,” Zobrist said. “The Cubs did their homework getting these guys that have this kind of makeup to be able to perform in this moment, and they’re doing it.”
Many Cubs are so young that this season just doesn’t seem as precious to them as it does to the rest of Chicago. They dominated the National League this year without Schwarber. They will be heavy favorites next year no matter what happens in the next week. If they act like they’ve been here before, it’s because they expect to be here again.
“There’s probably a lot of firsts happening that we aren’t even aware of,” Zobrist said. “Every W for this club feels like a step toward a new kind of regime in the National League. We really feel like we can make a mark these next few years as these guys mature and grow.”
The Cubs have a few more firsts left, including the big one. The enormity of it would rattle many teams. Not this one.