Chappily ever after: Final outs for the ages

Cubs call on closer with one on in eighth, and he seals clinch

October 23rd, 2016

CHICAGO -- In a postseason filled with unconventional pitching decisions and bullpen moves by the managers, Cubs skipper Joe Maddon inserting closer into the eighth inning with a man on first base in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on Saturday didn't seem, on its face, all that unusual.

Except, of course, for the fact that Chapman had not been very effective the other times Maddon turned to the flame-throwing left-hander in anything but the start of the ninth inning, void of baserunners and distractions.

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But this time, the tactic worked. Chapman, who allowed a game-tying base hit in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the NLCS and was charged with a blown save in Game 3 of the Division Series, did not have a major misstep in the most important outing of his short Cubs career. He nailed down the eighth, the ninth -- and the pennant during a 5-0 victory.

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Chapman induced two double plays: one from in the eighth, and the pennant-clinching 6-4-3 with at the plate to close it out.

"We actually were trying to get one," second baseman said. "I saw that ball and I decided to turn it and we made it happen."

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For now, it's one of the most famous double plays in history, not because of the acrobatics of the fielders, but because of the frenzied celebration that followed, both on the field and in the stands.

"You stand out on that platform afterwards and you're looking at the ballpark and the fans and the W flags everywhere, and truthfully I do think about everybody," Maddon said. "I think about the fans and their parents and their grandparents and great-grandparents, and everything that's been going on here for a while."

The party seemed to last as long as the Cubs' seven decades-long drought since their last pennant in 1945. The stands at historic Wrigley Field were rocking throughout the game, but once the final out was recorded, it was really on.

"Really special looking into the crowd," Maddon said. "When you're on that moment up front like that and you just look around and you look out at the bleachers and it's -- that's kind of one of those surreal things right there; that you really want to slow it down and really try to take a mental snapshot so you don't forget that."

Said first baseman : "This is as special as it is in sports. I know my parents are crying. My girlfriend is crying. Everyone is crying. It's amazing."

Rizzo was spot-on about the crying. There was a lot of that happening in the stands, along with screaming, yelling and hugging -- a gigantic love-fest among more than 42,000 fans, all witnessing history at the Friendly Confines.

Fans high-fived, embraced strangers and danced in the aisles in a scene that soon turned into the world's largest karaoke sing-a-long, first, the "Go Cubs Go" tune that has long been a staple after home wins, followed by "Sweet Home Chicago."

"It's crazy living this life right now," Baez said, taking in the scene around him.

"I would say thank you for hanging in there," said shortstop , asked for his message to the fans. "They deserve it more than we do. They've lived the Cubbie way for X amount of years. We're just happy they could live through us. We're just happy they could see us on the big stage."

And the biggest, if this story is to have the ultimate happy ending, is up next, starting Tuesday in Cleveland.