Why World Series MVP Ben Zobrist had one of the biggest hits in baseball history
By one measure, Zobrist had the sixth-highest leverage hit in World Series history
Zobrist, who was acquired via free agency in the offseason after winning the World Series with the Royals, stepped to the plate in an enormous spot in Game 7 of the World Series against the Indians. It was the 10th inning. A tie game -- obviously since it was the 10th and the Cubs were visitors. Kyle Schwarber had singled before Kris Bryant nearly homered. On the Bryant fly, pinch runner Albert Almora advanced to second.
With Anthony Rizzo -- who had a great case for MVP here, by the way -- looming, Indians manager Terry Francona pushed what seemed like the most obvious button: Intentional walk.
That cleared the path for Zobrist, who had been hitting the ball hard a lot in the series, even when he was making outs. He had several loud outs. That wouldn't be the case this time.
We don't see many go-ahead hits in the extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series, do we? Yeah, that was pretty special. Using a formula far more advanced than we need to get into, Zobrist had the sixth highest-leverage hit in a World Series Game 7.
Given that Game 7 of the World Series inherently contains more leverage than any other game they could possibly stage, I'm content to say this was one of the biggest hits in baseball history.
"I was looking for a cutter out over the plate," he said afterward. "He throws a really tough pitch to hit, and I was trying to stay inside of it. I wasn't able to do it early in the at-bat. It was a tough at-bat and I was just battling, grinding up there. Fortunately, that last one he left over the plate and up to where I could just slap it down the line and that's all I was trying to do -- and just out of the reach of the third baseman."
Approach and execution. Game, set and match.
"Who sets a better example of how to work an at-bat?" Joe Maddon rhetorically asked after the celebration. "Who sets a better example of just being a professional than he does? I've been around him for a long period of time with the Devil Rays, the Rays and then eventually here. Here's a guy that he's in his mid-30s, and his work ethic is incredible to watch, what he does after games, not before games, after games, to be ready for the next day and his dedication."
"He's just a different cat. Everybody would like to have one of those on their team. We're just very fortunate to have him. He just probably exemplifies exactly how we want to play the game."
And it paid off in perhaps the biggest moment in franchise history. No hyperbole. They need to get that lead with those runners on base and if they lost the World Series after the season they had, getting back would be a journey. Zobrist came through, though, setting things up for the win.
The Cubs would tack on an all-important run thanks to Miguel Montero's single and then survive the bottom of the 10th by allowing only one run. The Cubs won the game 8-7. They were the World Series champions for the first time in -- yeah, you know what? Who cares about that anymore. It's done. It's over.
Much of that is thanks to Zobrist coming through with one of the most clutch hits baseball has ever seen.
Ben Zobrist, you are a hero in Chicago for the rest of your life. Enjoy it.
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