Reverse the curse.
Clayton Kershaw finally caved under the enormous pressure and the Chicago Cubs crushed the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-0, in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1945.
Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo both homered to help end the Dodgers dreams of reaching their first World Series since 1988. Instead of survive and advance, the Dodgers season ended in the darkest of nightmares and a soft whimper.
The sloppy play that plagued the Dodgers in Los Angeles carried over to Wrigley Field as their pitching, defense and baserunning failed them in the most inopportune moments.
"If we play a clean three games in 4, 5, and 6, it could have been a different outcome," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the sloppy play. "It's very uncharacteristic of our guys. When you look back at these three games, to not play our best baseball, it leaves a sour taste."
The Cubs played better defense, made less mistakes, had a better bullpen, and much better offense as they outscored the Dodgers 33-17 in the six-game series.
"The thing I've preached from Opening Day is I want us to play the same game regardless of the time of year," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told the sold-out crowd at Wrigley Field. "That's one of the best games we've played of the year, regarding being clean with the pitching, the defense, the at-bats. It was a spectacular evening. Four more and then we can have a party."
There will be no more "Win For Vin," as the Dodgers were simply beaten by a better team in the NLCS, and were thoroughly embarrassed on Saturday night.
"We came up short," finished Roberts. "That's a very good club out there and they outplayed us this series."
The Major League ERA leader and Cy Young Award candidate, Kyle Hendricks threw a two-hit masterpiece, allowing no runs, with no walks and six strikeouts in 7 and 1/3 dominant innings.
All week long all Hendricks heard about was how great Kershaw was, but on Saturday he proved he was just as clutch, just as dominant, and every bit as good as advertised.
Hendricks and closer Aroldis Chapman combined to face the minimum 27 batters for the Cubs. It was the second time in MLB postseason history that a team has faced the minimum batters, the first being Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series (called by Vin Scully).
Meanwhile, Kershaw had a meltdown on the mound as he experienced his worst postseason performance in years.
Kershaw struggled with his curveball command for the second straight start and had problems locating his fastball in the early innings. Despite his scattered impressive performances in the postseason, the narrative that Kershaw is not the same in the playoffs as he is in the regular season is sure to continue.
"I think I only threw one curveball for a strike the whole game," said Kershaw. "So basically eliminate that pitch. I pitched with only two piches and my command wasn't as good as it was in Game 2."
The three-time Cy Young winner took the loss in Game 6 of the NLCS for the second time in his career allowing five runs on seven hits with no walks and four strikeouts allowing two home runs in just five short innings.
"They kept tacking on runs and those are things you can't do in a game like this," added Kershaw. "The ending of a season is never fun. It's tough to swallow tonight, but I'd much rather be in this situation and fail, then not be in this situation at all."
The left-hander allowed an extra-base hit in each of the five innings he pitched for the first time in his career, totaling over 283 starts.
Things got off to a disastrous start for the Dodgers when Dexter Fowler led off the game for the Cubs with a ground-rule double to right field. Chicago was 41-13 in the regular season when Fowler got on base to start the game, and the Cubs cashed in a few pitches later on an RBI single by Kris Bryant.
Six pitches later, Kershaw thought he had gotten the first out of the inning when he hit a fly ball to left field, but Andrew Toles took his eye off the ball, committing an error allowing Bryant to eventually score and Rizzo to take second base.
Things continued to unravel for the boys in blue as Josh Reddick was caught leaning off first base in the top half of the second to end the Dodgers threat and Kershaw surrendered another run on a leadoff double to Addison Russell and an RBI single by Fowler.
The Cubs had a 3-0 lead after the third inning, and were 29-2 entering the game when leading by three runs after three innings. Just to add insult to injury, they tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth on a solo shot from catcher Willson Contreras.
"I floated around the bases," Contreras told reporters. "I was waiting for my pitch. I was looking for a fastball middle-up and I got a slider. I put the bat on it and thank God I hit a homer."
One inning later, it was Rizzo's turn to tee off on the former MVP as he crushed a two-seam fastball deep into the seats in right field as the Cubs staked a commanding 5-0 lead.
That's when the countdown began for Chicago as the fans in attendance jumped for joy as the Cubs cruised through the final few frames of the game, advancing to their first World Series since the infamous "Curse of the Billy Goat," in 1945.
For the Dodgers, another postseason disappoint will haunt this team as they head into the offseason. Instead of going out with a roar, they exited with a whimper, never able to muster any offense against the Cubs, let alone a runner to reach second base in the game.
"This is four years in a row to have to go out of the postseason with a bad taste in your mouth," said Justin Turner after the game. "We had it on our fingertips, but we got beat by a good team. Things just didn't go our way."
For now, the tables have turned for each of these national league teams as the Cubs will look to end a 108-year World Series Championship drought, and the Dodgers will have to wait until next season to "Win For Vin."
Players of the Game:
Dexter Fowler: 2-for-3 Double, RBI and run scored.
Anthony Rizzo: Home Run.
Willson Contreras: Home Run.
1. What Curse? The Chicago Cubs 108-year curse could be coming to a dramatic end. Chicago will make their first appearance in the World Series since 1945 (71 years) and are just four wins away from breaking the longest World Series drought in MLB history.
long baseball tradition going down the tubes tonight.Cubs haven't been to a WS since 1945 going down,haven't won since 1908 still alive. — john kilmer (@deankilmer) October 23, 2016
2. Not Himself: Clayton Kershaw has started 283 games in his big league career, and before tonight had never given up an extra-base hit in five straight innings.
This is Clayton Kershaw's 283rd trip to the mound (counting postseason). It's the first time he's ever given up an XBH in 5 straight innings — Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 23, 2016
3. Catch Me If You Can: All three Cubs catchers on the roster homered in the postseason. David Ross homered in the NLDS against the Giants, Miguel Montero hit a pinch-hit grand slam off Joe Blanton in Game 1 of the NLCS, and Willson Contreras took Clayton Kershaw deep in the fourth inning in Game 6.
All 3 Cubs catchers have now homered in this postseason because, well, of course they have! — Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 23, 2016
Cubs (4-2): Chicago will head to their first World Series since 1945 when they travel to Cleveland to take on the Indians on Tuesday.
Dodgers (2-4): Los Angeles season comes to an end in the postseason as they are eliminated for the fourth consecutive year.