CLEVELAND, Ohio — Aroldis Chapman just lost the lead, and the Chicago Cubs were in big trouble.
It was the bottom of the eighth inning and, with their closer on the mound, the Cubs saw their three-run lead against the Cleveland Indians evaporate courtesy of a Brandon Guyer RBI double and a two-run homer from Rajai Davis.
Then, at the end of the ninth, it started raining hard, halting play.
The momentum was with Cleveland. Chapman was in tears. Something had to be done.
The spark came from an unlikely source.
“Honestly, Jason Heyward called a meeting, only the players,” Anthony Rizzo said to Fox Sports on the field after the game.
“And we rallied together, we rallied strong. We knew that we could do this. We know we could keep fighting. We never quit. We always say it, and we pull together, and the boys believed, and we won.”
Said third baseman Kris Bryant to Fox Sports: “Jason Heyward led the way.”
Heyward is a three-time Gold Glove winner for his excellent skills in the outfield, but he has been heavily criticized over his $184 million contract and his lack of offensive production. He hit just .200 in the World Series, going 3-for-15 in five games.
But in a time of crisis, Heyward, who finished the night 0-for-4, stepped up.
“I just had to remind them who they were,” Heyward said to Fox Sports. “I just had to remind everybody who we are, who these guys are, what we’ve overcome to get here. Win or lose, we never worry about that. … At the beginning of the day, we never worry about win or loss. We just worry about how we’re going to go out there and have fun, compete, be right there for the guys next to us and not take the situation for granted. I just had to remind them that I’m proud of them. I say it all the time, but I’m proud of you guys.”
The pep talked worked.
To start the 10th inning, Kyle Schwarber singled off Indians reliever Bryan Shaw. Albert Almora, Jr., came in to pinch run and advanced to second on a fly out from Bryant. Ben Zobrist’s RBI double off Bryan Shaw drove in Almora, Jr., and Miguel Montero’s single with the bases loaded brought home Rizzo for what proved the winning run.
A short time later, the Cubs were World Series champions.
It may not have happened if it wasn’t for Heyward.
“Every time we got asked to do something this year … we answered it,” Heyward said.