The New York Yankees outlasted the Chicago Cubs, 5-4, early this morning at Wrigley Field. The two teams combined to strike out a Major League-record 48 times — five more than the previous high — in the 6 hour, 5 minute game.
What the Yankees and Cubs created was not a monument to failure. It was a testament to the most beautifully frustrating game. One unbound by the constraints of a stopwatch. One where failing seven out of ten times at the plate can earn a spot in the Hall of Fame. One that can go on until a team truly earns victory by pushing the decisive run across the plate.
At a certain point, the inevitability of these two teams meeting again in the World Series sunk in. Maybe it was after the Cubs’ feverish ninth-inning rally against Aroldis Chapman. Maybe it was upon realizing that every reliever out of the Yankees bullpen was going to post a goose egg. Maybe it was when Kyle Schwarber turned in a stellar Derek Jeter impression by making a ridiculous catch in the 12th inning.
Despite stumbling out to a disappointing 16-15 start, the North Siders have the firepower to return to the Fall Classic. It feels more likely than not that they’ll emerge out of the National League. The Yankees entered this year with lower expectations. All they’ve done is jump out to an ML-best 20-9 record, buoyed by an extremely impressive three-game sweep over the weekend.
Perhaps suggesting we just witnessed a World Series preview is to get caught up in the magic only a ridiculous six-hour game can create. But letting go and enjoying the moment is what it’s all about. By early May standards, an 18-inning marathon deep into the night featuring two top teams is about as good as it gets.
Those who opted to stay up until the end are bleary-eyed this morning. Most would say it was worth it. It’s hard not to see the absurdity in an argument pushed by those who want ties or innings-limits or other carnival type rules to address these long games after such greatness occurs. Why do these people want to deprive fans of such a unique experience?
It’s a rare treat when a game so early in the season can feel like a playoff game, and that’s precisely what happened late last night and early this morning. The stakes raise after each inning. The prospect of a team playing all these hours and expending so much energy only to lose carries great weight.
That feeling must have sent a tingle down the spine of Major League and television executives who now can’t help but imagine the real-dollar impact of a Yankees-Cubs World Series. The record-setting 48 strikeouts didn’t detract from the game or give rise to concern. Historic failure at the dish begat great drama.
It was beautiful. Long, but beautiful.
Nonpartisans can only hope it was a glimpse of what’s to come.