Lost in the shuffle after the Cubs’ historic and thrilling victory over the Indians is Rajai Davis. What would this game have been if not for him? With Jon Lester on the mound and a three-run cushion, the Cubs were cruising in the eighth inning. It got to the point, with about four outs to go, where I thought to myself, holy shit, it’s actually about to happen. The Cubs are finally going to win the World Series. Keep in mind that this was before Aroldis Chapman entered the game–and I say that in a complementary way. If the Indians couldn’t hit Lester, there was no way they were going to touch Chapman, especially with the bottom of their lineup coming up.
Enter Davis, who was hitless before he came to the plate with two outs and Cleveland trailing now by two runs. To my credit, I did happen to say to a few of my friends that whenever you have a pitcher like Chapman, the faster it comes in, the faster it goes out. I still didn’t actually think Davis–or anyone in the bottom half of the Indians’ lineup, for that matter–had a chance to go yard.
But that’s exactly what the thirty-six year old centerfielder–who had never hit more than eight home runs in a season before 2016–did, poking a 2-2 fastball over the high outfield wall in left to tie the World Series. What an unbelievable moment. So many words could describe that play. It was madness. It was stunning. It was gut-wrenching–for Cubs fans. It instantly became one of the most improbable and most clutch plays in baseball history. And yet, in the end, it will all be…forgotten.
Davis should take solace in the fact that he did deliver one of the greatest dingers in World Series history. Unfortunately it won’t be remembered like it should be. Davis joins a short list of players who have come through in extremely meaningful moments in World Series games over the past few decades yet ended up on the losing side. Here is a run down of some of those players.
Josh Hamilton: Game 6 of 2011 World Series
After blowing a two-run lead with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning of a potential closeout Game 6, Hamilton momentarily puts Texas fans at ease when he launched a two-run shot to give the Rangers a lead in the tenth inning. Of course, it wouldn’t stand, as the Rangers would again blow a save opportunity in the tenth and later lose on a David Freese home run that has etched its place in history far more than Hamiltons’ forgotten shot has. Texas is still searching for its first title.
Barry Bonds: 2002 World Series
Wait…let me watch that video again. Let’s brush aside the steroids for a moment: Oh my was Bonds a beast! Anyway, that was Bonds’ fourth home run of the series, and it came in a big spot as it put the Giants up 4-0 with a chance to close out the Angels in Game 6. But Bonds’ dominance at the plate (he still holds World Series records for career SLG, OBP, and OPS) couldn’t prevent San Francisco’s bullpen from relinquishing a 5 run lead in the seventh inning of Game 6. They would lose the series to the upstart Angels in seven.
Alfonso Soriano: Game 7 of 2001 World Series
With that blast to put the Yankees up by a run with their fourth consecutive championship in sight, Soriano almost had the biggest home run in the Yankees’ illustrious history…almost. Mariano Rivera shockingly couldn’t hold the lead in the ninth, as Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single doomed the Yankees and made Soriano all but a footnote in history.
John Smoltz: Game 7 of 1991 World Series
Many baseball fans are aware of what Jack Morris did in that famed Game 7. What everyone forgets is that John Smoltz pitched shutout baseball as well, until he was pulled in the eighth while the Braves and Twins were still knotted in a 0-0 tie. Credit Morris for pitching ten shutout innings. Just don’t hold it against Smoltz considering he held up his end of the bargain, too.
Dave Henderson: Game 6 of 1986 World Series
Everyone knows what happened at the end of this game. No one remembers that Dave Henderson could have prevented another eighteen years of suffering after his home run gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead in extra innings.
Looking past some of these forgotten heroes in World Series history, Aroldis Chapman garners a similar designation. His horrific outing in Game 7, in which he blew a 6-3 lead after entering the game with two outs in the eighth, puts him on a short-list of players who avoided becoming “the next Bill Buckner,” for lack of a better term. Off the top of my head, I can think of Gregor Blanco, whose misplay of a fly ball nearly allowed Alex Gordon to score on an inside the park home-run that would’ve tied Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, Byung-Hyun Kim, who blew multiple save opportunities in Games 4 & 5 of the 2001 World Series, and pitchers like Jason Motte and Curt Schilling who allowed home runs to some of those aforementioned players as players that Chapman will be linked to as being some of the more fortunate players in baseball history.