Cubs

Butterfly Effect: How Evan Longoria helped the Cubs end their World Series drought

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AP

Butterfly Effect: How Evan Longoria helped the Cubs end their World Series drought

Maybe Evan Longoria should've gotten one of the 1,908 World Series rings the Cubs handed out this spring.

After all, he deserves a ton of credit for the end of the 108-year championship drought.

On the day Longoria was dealt from the Tampa Bay Rays to the San Francisco Giants, let's rewind back to Sept. 29, 2011 when he came up to bat in the bottom of the 12th inning to face Buddy Carlyle. 

It was the final regular season game of the season and the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees were deadlocked in a 7-7 tie.

Longoria drilled Carlyle's 2-2 offering just inside the left-field foul pole for one of the most dramatic walk-off homers in baseball history. 

(Check out the shots of Joe Maddon in the Rays uniform in the dugout, sporting his long white locks.)

Amazingly, Longoria and the Rays began the game by falling in a 7-0 hole before clawing all the way back.

With the blast, he handed the Rays the American League wild-card spot and subsequently knocked out Theo Epstein's Boston Red Sox in the process. That completed one of the most epic collapses ever as the Red Sox faded down the stretch in what later became known as the Beer and Fried Chicken Incident (in which Jon Lester and John Lackey were both involved).

Epstein — then the GM of the Red Sox — left Boston in the aftermath, migrating west to join the Cubs front office. 

It was the first domino in the line that led to the end of the longest championship drought in American sports history.

And Cubs fans have Evan Longoria to thank for that...in a roundabout way.

Tom Ricketts brings the World Series trophy on stage during Pearl Jam concert

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NBC Sports Chicago

Tom Ricketts brings the World Series trophy on stage during Pearl Jam concert

During Saturday night's Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley Field, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts brought out the 2016 World Series trophy, delighting all Cubs fans in attendance.

The concert was made even more special by Vedder having the highlight of David Bote's pinch-hit grand slam playing in the background during his performance of "Rebel Rebel". 

Anytime Pearl Jam is at Wrigley Field, it's a good time, but it is safe to say that Cubs fans who double as Pearl Jam fans will never forget the special night.

Double the fun: Cole Hamels, Cubs defense make history

Double the fun: Cole Hamels, Cubs defense make history

Cole Hamels' dominant start to his Cubs career continued on Friday in stellar fashion, and with some considerable help from his infield.

The 34-year-old veteran not only pitched seven innings of five-hit ball without allowing a run, but induced five ground ball double plays. The Cubs finished with a staggering seven double plays in a 1-0 win at the Pirates on Friday.

The last time the Cubs turned five double plays was in 1985. 

All five hits Hamels gave up were groundball singles. The 16 groundballs induced is the most for a Cubs pitcher this year.

After Hamels exited after seven innings, the Cubs got double plays in the eighth, on a line drive double play with Jorge De La Rosa on the mound, and ninth, on a groundball induced by Jesse Chavez to end the game.

Hamels was initially brought in to provide depth to a struggling rotation and ease the pain of Yu Darvish being unavailable. But Hamels has now started an honest debate over who should be the Cubs' starter in Game 1 of the postseason. He has been otherworldly since joining the Cubs, with an 0.72 ERA, three wins and one no-decision (the Cubs won and he had nine strikeouts). 

The 1-0 win over the Pirates gives the Cubs more breathing room in the NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, pushing the Cubs lead to 4.5 games in the division.

And the Hamels hot-streak comes at an excellent time for the North Siders, who took in Jon Lester's gem of an outing on Thursday, where he went six innings with no earned runs and eight strikeouts in a win against the Pirates. The Cubs starting pitching seems to be turning the corner, and with three straight series against sub-.500 teams following their series in Pittsburgh, this could be the beginning of a great run of outings that carries the Cubs confidently into the postseason.