Top 10 Cubs Games of 2016

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SPOILER ALERT, but I think we all know what #1 will be.  That one is easy.  After that, not so much.  Obviously, you don’t get to be World Series champs without some ridiculous performances on the field, and some blowouts of the first order of magnitude.  Those games are always fun, but sometimes the close games in extra innings, or the walk off homer (or bunt?!?!), or the come from behind win, are even more memorable.  And then there are games with great stories, like Chapman’s arrival, walking Harper six times in one game, and games where, to be honest, a lot of guys were out there questioning Maddon (not me, Probie, Gramps nor Seadick, but some guys were).  And then you had the POSTSEASON!  Obviously these games were MUCH more important than any regular season game.

How would one even attempt to consider all these factors and name the Top 10 games, let alone IN ORDER??  Well, that’s what premiere blogging is all about.  You’re welcome.

10.     100th Home Run for Grandpa Rossy*

This May 27 Friday afternoon 6-2 win against the Phillies was not a big game by any means, but it makes the list for the Grandpa Rossy story, which was my favorite story of the year.  And hey, it’s ok to use the 10 spot for a personal, sentimental reason, you guys.  This is known.

David Ross was absolutely my favorite story of the 2016 Cubs.  Although a 39 year old backup catcher, Ross was the heart and soul of the team.  Everyone loved all the Cubs (except maybe Chapman and Lackey), but Ross was revered above all others as a great guy and leader of the young superstars.  And this was his last season, because he announced his retirement early in the year.  So when Ross did something exceptional, like catch Jake’s no hitter, OR HOMER IN GAME 7 OF THE FUCKING WORLD SERIES, it was really special.

I was fortunate enough to be at this game, my first Friday afternoon game of the year.  The crowd went wild for Ross on his 100th career home run.  And Harry sang the national anthem on the big board, and Christina caught a fly ball.  Good enough for the 10 spot in my blog.   

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9.  Chapman’s Arrival Against the Sox*

Tough to decide between Aroldis Chapman’s first game or second game with the Cubs, but one of these games is definitely making the list because Chapman’s arrival established that the Cubs would not only be contenders, but actually had all the pieces to win the World Series.  

Wrigley was electric when Chapman arrived, because he pretty much solved the Cubs’ biggest problem–the bullpen.  And then he went out in those first two games and just mowed batters down, something Cubs fans had not seen on their side in a long time, if ever.  And the games were against the White Sox, and the Cubs were down 0-2 in the series when Chapman arrived, so that made it even better.    

In the first game*, the Cubs were beating the shit out of the Sox 8-1 when Chapman came in for the bottom of the 9th.  So that was pretty much an exhibition (or Maddon time traveled back from game 6 of the World Series).  Chapman threw more pitches over 100 miles/hour in that half inning than the Cubs had thrown in the last 8 years, or maybe 12 years, I forget.  What a stat!  Awesome.  

The next day*, the game was closer, with Chris Sale on the mound for the Sox, and the Sox up 2-1 in the series.  Not that it mattered, but IT REALLY MATTERED.  Chapman came in in the 8th I think, and no one could touch him.  Had much better seats for this game, and by that I mean Seadick’s seats, which are awesome.  I appreciated getting to see up close the difference between Chapman’s speed and, you know, the speed of any old All Star starting pitcher.   Chapman mowed down the Sox again, and the Cubs had a fire reliever.

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White Sox pitcher Chris Sale, by the way, seems pretty chill, and talks to the fans even right before he bats.  But then again, if you are an AL pitcher, I guess they don’t really expect much out of you on those rare times you get to bat.

8.     Kris Bryant Goes 5 for 5 with Three Home Runs and Two Doubles

First off, one of my favorite lines of the year from Molly, and we used it repeatedly throughout the year.  Whenever Bryant came to bat with Molly around, the standard call and response was “Hey, have you heard about this new Cubs player Kris Bryant?”, with the response being “No, but I heard he’s hot.”

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Well, everyone certainly heard about Kris Bryant after the game on June 27, in an 11-8 win over the Reds.  Bryant went 5 for 5 with three home runs and two doubles, the first time that had ever happened EVER.  When you think of all the games played every year, and for so many years, that stat is ridiculous.

7.     NLDS Game 4*

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After going up 2 games to none at home against the Giants in the NLDS, the Cubs looked like they were going to finish off the Giants in game 3.  Well, that didn’t happen, so we got another game at Candlestick or whatever they call it now (thanks Mongo!).  

The Cubs were down all game, and the Giants fans were celebrating the whole time.  But in a nice way.  They all acted like they had been here before, because they had.  And it was an even year, so ho hum, the Giants were due for another World Series win.  NBD.  The Cubs had other ideas, and scored 4 runs in the top of the 9th to come from behind and win.  Great game, and the Cubs moved on to face either the Dodgers or Nationals for the NL championship.

6.     Baez Walkoff HR on Mothers Day

The Cubs beat the Nationals in 13 innings on the Sunday of Mothers Day to sweep the series and continue their ridiculous winning streak in the early part of the season.  Several great stories from this game and series.  My favorite was that Maddon absolutely refused to pitched to Bryce Harper the entire series.  Just walked him every time, no matter the game situation.  Just entirely took Harper out the game at the plate.  In this game, Harper tied the all time MLB record with SIX WALKS, and set the all time record for a four game series with THIRTEEN WALKS.  And the funny thing was, that wasn’t an accomplishment for Harper, it was an accomplishment for the Cubs.  Because it worked.  DQM!

But the best part, of course, was Baez’ walkoff homer in the 13th to the win the game.  The first walkoff win of the season.  One of so many games where you didn’t know where the runs would come from, but they came from somewhere.  This was Baez’ time to be the hero.  Great game, great win and great series.

5.     Lester Walkoff Bunt in the 12th

Certainly the most ridiculous win of the year.  Wish I had been there for this one.  The Cubs had just acquired (or brought up, I don’t remember) one Brian Matusz, who started and absolutely sucked.  In his first start, he gave up three two-run homers in the first three innings, to give the Mariners a 6-0 lead.  If my math is correct, and it always is, that’s an ERA of 18.0!  Jake and I were driving cross country, and turned the game off at that point.

When we got to our hotel, we turned the game on which was in the late innings.  Maddon was doing that thing where he brings Travis Wood into pitch, then sends him to the outfield, and then brings him back into pitch.  Always cracked me up when he did that, but in this game Wood actually had a great catch in left with Strop pitching.  

But the best part was in the bottom of the twelfth with Heyward on third and one out, Maddon sends Lester in to pinch hit.  That alone is ridiculous in itself, because it was a chance to win the game, but I think the Cubs may have been out of batters at that point.  Whatever, we DQM!  Then, WITH TWO STRIKES, Lester laid down a PERFECT bunt to bring Heyward home and win the game with a walkoff bunt.  Crazy.  But like I have said, you never know where the runs are going to come from.  

4.     Arrietta No Hitter, with Some Offense

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Arrietta’s no hitter on April 21 against the Reds was one of the top games of the year, obviously, but what made it even better was that the Cubs also scored 16 RUNS.  Really set the tone for the rest of the year.  The Reds game recap that day was pretty funny, noting that they did draw 4 walks.  Good for you, Reds!  

3.     NLCS Game 1*

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Had to go with Game 1 of the NLCS over all the others because the Cubs lost Games 2 and 3, obviously, and Games 4 and 5 just didn’t have the drama of a GRAND SLAM in the bottom of the 8th by Miggy to put the game away, let alone a run by Baez stealing home with Lester attempting to bunt, which is always fun.  

In the second inning with Chicago up 2-0, Baez hit a blooper to short center, and somehow turned that into a double.  Baez got to third on a wild pitch with Lester batting.  Then Lester squared to bunt on a squeeze play, but missed, and the Dodgers catcher threw down because Baez was way off the base, and Baez stole home.  Crazy.

The Dodgers tied it up with a run in the 5th and 2 in the 8th, making it 3-3 going into the bottom of the 8th.  Zobrist doubled, and the Dodgers intentionally walked Heyward to put runners on first and second.  Then with two outs, the Dodgers intentionally walked Coughlan to load the bases and get to the pitchers spot.  Miggy came in to pinch hit, and pinch hit he did, blasting a GRAND SLAM to rightfield to put the Cubs up 7-3.  Wrigley went nuts, and everyone was still going outside their minds when Fowler blasted another HR on the next at bat!  That finished off the Dodgers in Game 1, and the party was on Wrigleyville that Saturday night, that’s for sure.  

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2.     World Series Game 5*

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This game was huge because Cleveland was up 3-1 in the series, and everyone in the world thought the Cubs were finished.  But hey, there’s always next year.  

I had absolutely no interest in being at this game.  The ticket prices were astronomical and I had no interest in paying a ton of money to only get my heart crushed.  Been there, done that (and by that I mean Super Bowl XLIV).  Well, my plan to stay home and quietly watch the Cubs lose were ruined by SeaDick, who called me that Sunday afternoon with two extra bleacher tickets.  He made me an offer I could not refuse, and next thing I know Molly and I are at Game 5 of the World Series.

The mood was tense and serious, totally unlike any Cubs game I have ever been to. First, everyone there was a fan, and into the game, not just there to get drunk and socialize.  They should rename Wrigley “The Very Serious and Intense Confines” during the World Series.  If you doubt what I’m saying, check out this photo of the beer lines during the World Series.  And remember, that is IN THE BLEACHERS.

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Second, everyone at the game was thinking the same thing, I am sure.  “Yea, its cool to be at the World Series.  But the Cubs are gonna lose, and that is going to suck.  But I am at the World Series.  But the Cubs are going to lose.”  No one said that, but everyone was thinking it.  It’s the Cubs after all.  Even if the Cubs won the game, they would still have to win two more in Cleveland, and no way that could happen, right?  Right?

Well, we all know what happened.  Lester and Chapman held the Indians to 2 runs, and Bryant had a home run in the 4th, giving Molly and I our last chance of the year to see if anyone had heard of Kris Bryant, and comment on his alleged hotness.  And Molly and I could claim that we at the first game of the year and the last game of year at Wrigley.  Still didn’t think the Cubs could actually pull it off, but hey, WE WENT TO THE WORLD SERIES!

Another great story was that the guy behind us, John Connor the Second, had missed the World Series in 1945 because his dad, John Connor the First, took his mom instead of him when he was a little boy.  John Connor the First promised John Connor the Second that he would take him to the World Series the next time the Cubs made it.  Well, John Connor the First isn’t around anymore to see the Cubs make the World Series (hopefully because he traveled backed to the 80’s to kill the Terminator).  So, instead, John Connor the THIRD took John Connor the Second to the game.  If you don’t like that story then go kill yourself because you have no heart.

1.     World Series Game 7*

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Obvious choice for the top spot.  

Everything that can be said, has been said, about this game.  Not a lot that I can add.  Many are out there saying that Game 7 was the most memorable and/or most historic MLB game ever played.  Who am I to argue with that?  You had two teams who had not been to the World Series in recent history not only playing in the World Series but taking it to a Game 7, and then that game going to extra innings.  And then you had the Cubs, who apparently had it won, somehow blowing that lead.  And then there was the Ross home run.  What else could you ask for?  

For me, and I can say this now, I was sure that the Cubs would blow it somehow.  I just knew it.  The Cubs jumped out to an early lead, and then blew the lead late in the game, sending it into extra innings.  Could not have been more intense.  Every inning was like an entire game.  The Cubs made history that night, and I won’t forget it anytime soon.

HONORABLE MENTION:

NLDS Game 3*

A must win game for the Giants, and just an epic game with Jake Arrieta facing Madison Bumgarner for the Giants.  Probably two of the best pitchers in the MLB, but definitely the two best hitting pitchers in baseball.  Well, Arrietta won the hitting battle, blasting a 3 run homer against Bumgarner in the 2nd, proving my theory from early in the season that the Cubs had the BHPIB.  Although a great game, it can’t make the list with the Cubs losing in extra innings.  But it did get me another game in San Fran (thanks Mongo!), and we know how that ended, so I can’t complain too much.

All Star Game

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I don’t remember much about the game, except the AL won, obviously.  The fun part was the Cubs starting infield started for the NL team, and Fowler would have been in center if he had not been hurt.  Ridiculous.

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LaStella Returns from the Wilderness*

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Another great story from the year was utility man Tommy LaStella Artois.  LaStella was on fire all year at the plate as a pinch hitter and back up infielder.  In late July when Chapman joined the team, Maddon had to cut somebody from the roster, and LaStella got sent to Iowa.  A debatable move, because LaStella had done absolutely everything asked of him and actually had the highest batting average on the team at the time.  But hey, we DQM, right?  Well, LaStella does, apparently, and rather than report for duty in Iowa, he just said “fuck it” and headed home to New Jersey.  Hilarious.  Just went totally AWOL and checked out.  Probably not the best career move, but when the roster was expanded at the end of August, Maddon called LaStella back.  And not only was LaStella back, but he STARTED.  A nice move by Maddon.  The Cubs won 6-5 to sweep the Pirates, and all grievances were forgiven.  Heart warming.

NLDS Game 6

Huge win, obviously, to clinch the pennant and send the Cubs to the World Series for the first time since 1945.  Wrigleyville, and all of Chicago, really, went absolutely crazy.  This game should probably be on the list, especially since everyone was crapping their pants about Kershaw starting for the Dodgers, but NLDS Game 1 was a better game, so I went with that.

World Series Game 6

The Cubs blew the Indians out in Game 6, jumping out to 7-0 lead in the 3rd inning, and the result was never in question.  There was going to be a Game 7.  Bryant and Rizzo homered, and Russell hit a grand slam.  The Cubs firepower was in full force that night.  The great story was Maddon using Chapman late in the game, which hurt him for Game 7.  Although we DQM, I think we gotta question him on that one.  

* I was at the game.  NBD.

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