Move over, Peanuts Lowrey and Phil Cavarretta: Your 1945 Chicago Cubs are no longer the franchise’s most recent pennant winner. The 2016 iteration guaranteed that on a raucous Saturday night at Wrigley Field, as the Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 and won the NLCS four games to two.
The historic moment made fans weep tears of joy and sent the city of Chicago into a frenzy. But the way the Cubs won was also hugely impressive. They chased Clayton Kershaw — the best pitcher in baseball by both statistics and popular consensus — from the game after just five innings, scoring five runs off of LA’s ace on seven hits (two of which were home runs). According to the starting-pitcher “game score” component of FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings, it was the fourth-worst outing of Kershaw’s 18 career playoff starts.
And on the other side, Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks was amazing, shutting out the Dodgers and allowing just two hits (with six strikeouts and zero walks) in seven and one-third innings. Judging again by game score, it was the second-best start of the 2016 postseason to date (only Marco Estrada’s win in Game 1 of the ALDS was better), and the fourth-best in all of Cubs postseason history. Five flame-throwing outs from Aroldis Chapman later, the Cubs were going to the World Series.
There, they’ll face the Cleveland Indians in a matchup saturated with history and storylines. Our Elo ratings currently give Chicago a 63 percent chance of winning the series, but the Indians have surprised the algorithm twice in the playoffs already. If Cleveland does it a third time — over a Cubs squad that’s looked like a Team Of Destiny™ all season — they’ll join their basketball counterparts among the greatest underdog champs in sports history.
Then again, if the Cubs win, they’ll end a 108-year title drought. If the Indians win, they’ll end a 68-year dry spell of their own. Remember the 2003 playoffs, when we just barely missed out on seeing the Cubs face the Red Sox with two long championship droughts on the line? Thirteen years later, Cubs-Indians is basically that — and it’s actually happening.
In other words, this World Series should be a fun one.