Before Game 5 of the National League Championship Series began Thursday night, Los Angeles fans had high hopes for their team. Vin Scully, the legendary Dodgers broadcaster for 67 years, returned to Dodger Stadium as a fan and started the game off with his famous call, “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”
L.A. fans were ecstatic and confident that after a Game 4 loss, and with the series tied 2–2, this time they would win. Some fans held signs that read, “Win for Vin.” Longtime Dodgers fan Angel Rodriguez, who is from Los Angeles, painted his face to show his dedication to the team. “The last time I was here for a big game like this was in 1988 for the Kirk Gibson home run,” Rodriguez said.
There was another fan in the stands dressed as a limping Gibson: An injured Gibson had hobbled around the bases after his walk-off home run in Game 1 of the World Series that year.
These fans knew their Dodger history: On this same day in 1988, October 20, the Dodgers clinched the Series with a Game 5 win. Dodgers fans were hoping for some of that ’88 magic to get the team closer to a shot at another World Series title.
Capturing that magic proved elusive for the Dodgers Thursday night. The Cubs won 8–4 to gain a 3–2 series advantage and head back to Chicago with a chance to win their first World Series in more than 100 years.
Many Cubs fans were at Dodger Stadium, hoping to display their big “W” banners at the end of the game. Some dedicated fans traveled from Chicago, like diehard 13-year-old Mitch, who shaved a “W” on the back of his head. Mitch and his family flew in from for the game.
"This is my first postseason game. I have never been outside of Wrigley,” said Mitch, who explained that he had “some history” with the Cubs. He was born on the same day that Cubs fan Steve Bartman accidentally interfered with the ball in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. (More on that later.)
Also, Mitch’s middle name is “Baker,” after Dusty Baker, who was the Cubs manager at the time. It was clear that Mitch believes 2016 will change the course of history for the Cubs.
The game was a sell-out, and Dodgers fans were roaring until Cubs shortstop Addison Russell hit a two-run shot to make the score 3–1. But L.A. fans were still hopeful until the eighth inning. The Dodgers could have easily stopped the bleeding then, but instead they allowed two infield singles that resulted in RBIs. Those two singles made it possible for second baseman Javier Baez to clear the bases with a double. With the Cubs up by seven, many Dodgers fans left the stadium disappointed.
There was a lot of scrutiny in the stands about manager Dave Roberts not starting ace Clayton Kershaw. Many people were questioning his strategy, even though Kershaw would have been pitching on short rest.
Cubs fans waited for the final out to celebrate and to wave their “W” banners, with many singing, " Go Cubs Go."
The Cubs won this one, but the Dodgers still have a chance for a comeback in Chicago. Kershaw and Rich Hill are pitching Games 6 and 7. Both Kershaw and Hill were dominant against the Cubs in this series, allowing zero runs. Also, the last time the Cubs were up 3–2 in an NLCS, in 2003, they lost Game 6, known as the “Bartman game.” In Game 7, the Cubs lost and blew their chance to break “the curse.”
However, this Chicago team is different than the one from 2003. Today, the Cubs have the best record in baseball; back in ’03, they were the third-seeded team. With the Cubs' curse still alive in many fans’ minds, and the Dodgers as the surprising underdogs, this series is hard to predict. Whose time in history is it? The team with “the curse” or the “underdogs?”
Photographs by (from top): Jeff Gross/Getty Images; Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images