On one side, you've had logic. The Chicago Cubs were by far baseball's best team this year and their 103 wins in the regular season would certainly translate to October. At least that was the thinking.
On the other side, you've had the litany of dubious history. No World Series victories since 1908, not even a measly appearance since 1945. Don't forget black cats, billy goats and, of course, Bartman. How are the Cubs ever going to overcome all that?
My answer is they needed something extraordinary to happen. I was there when the 2004 Red Sox wiped out an 86-year drought by winning the World Series -- after their monumental comeback from 3-0 down in the ALCS against the Yankees. The Cubs didn't go that far Tuesday night in San Francisco. But if we're talking about them ending 108 years of frustration in about three weeks or so, another late night in AT&T Park will be the game they point to.
The Cubs were down, 5-2, through eight innings and had just two hits off Giants starter Matt Moore. They were three outs away from enduring Game Five of the division series, albeit at home in Wrigley Field, and their fans were about to be thrust into 48 hours of angst over their World Series dreams slipping away again. Then it happened. Five Giants relievers were helpless as the Cubs suddenly scored four runs in stunning fashion in the top of the ninth. Closer Aroldis Chapman quickly took care of things in the bottom of the inning.
That made the 6-5 win the greatest ninth-inning comeback in a clinching game in baseball history. And it produces a date with the Game Five-bound Nationals or Dodgers in the NLCS starting Saturday in Wrigley.
Maybe this win will lift the huge balloon of pressure off the Cubs' back. They hit just .200 in the series and six of their runs were driven in by pitchers. Javier Baez and Kris Bryant each went 6 for 16 over the four games -- and the rest of the team batted .148. Ben Zobrist (3 for 16), Dexter Fowler (2 for 15), Jason Heyward (1 for 12), Anthony Rizzo (1 for 15) and Addison Russell (1 for 15) all did nothing at the plate and the Cubs still won in four games.
With their pitching and defense, the Cubs simply need some of their hitters to get remotely closer to their norms and they may be unstoppable. Especially now that they ended the Giants' run of three straight even-year World Series wins in the most improbable of fashions.
A word or three on the G men: They blew 32 saves in the regular season. They blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning of Game Three, allowing the Cubs to tie it on a Bryant home run, before winning in the 13th. GM Brian Sabean should be ashamed of himself for letting a team that was once 57-33 fall to pieces because it didn't have a closer.
(Pretty terrific recap of the damage tab from Game Four here by Andrew Baggerly of the San Jose Mercury News.
What must Sabean think watching Chapman in Chicago, Andrew Miller in Cleveland and Mark Melancon in Washington? All trade deadline acquisitions while he sat by idly. What must manager Bruce Bochy be thinking today?
He probably should have stuck with Moore to start the ninth. Even at 120 pitches. Moore threw 133 Aug. 25 in Los Angeles when he came within one out of a no-hitter. With this bullpen -- and with the season on the line -- surely Bochy should have at least tried to see if he could sneak a couple more outs.
It took five relievers -- five -- to get through the ninth and by then it was too late for the Giants. But the timing was perfect for the Cubs. It was after midnight in Buffalo when this all went down. If you missed it, you can relive it all here: