CHICAGO -- I heard it, loud and clear. The speakers at Wrigley Field were blaring, "Go Cubs Go," the greatest team song in a genre filled mostly with awful ones, yet I still heard it over that song, over the car horns beeping outside the old ballpark, over the happy sounds that 40,000 people make as they leave after a victory.
"It's 2004. Theo magic lives again!" a fan shouted.
Cubs fans waited forever for a World Series title. Why wouldn't you want another one?
Of course a miracle comeback could happen. After all, we just saw a game that featured Joe Maddon getting ejected for the second time in the series and then quoting Ricky Bobby of "Talladega Nights" in his postgame media session. We saw Willson Contreras hit the longest playoff home run since Statcast began tracking distance in 2015, a mammoth 491-foot blast that will require some surgery for the left-field scoreboard, and then take nearly 31 seconds to round the bases, like he was taking a lunchtime stroll along the lakefront trail on Lake Michigan. We have Clayton Kershaw pitching in Game 5, which adds the possibility of cathartic postseason redemption or tragic disaster as he seeks his first trip to the World Series.
What it means is we're on the verge of NLCS chaos.
When Theo Epstein was general manager of the Red Sox in 2004 and his club rallied from a 3-0 deficit to stun the Yankees in the ALCS -- the only team in MLB history to rally from such a hole -- it was all about the chaos: extra-inning games, Alex Rodriguez slapping at Bronson Arroyo, Curt Schilling's bloody sock, a Johnny Damon grand slam in Game 7.
It was all crazy and ridiculous and ridiculous and crazy.
That's what we want. (Well, unless you're a Dodgers fan. You've already lost your mind over Curtis Granderson getting too much playing time. You know you don't want this series returning to Los Angeles. You just want Kershaw to throw a damn shutout. Or at least pitch seven innings, followed by an inning each from Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen.)
The rest of us? Give us the impossible, whatever that might entail.
The good news for Maddon is that in Game 4 he didn't burn through his entire bullpen. He did, however, burn through closer Wade Davis for 48 pitches over a shaky final two innings that featured a home run, three walks and a game-ending double play when Cody Bellinger lasered a ground ball right to second baseman Javier Baez. The Cubs already gnawed away their fingernails after that performance and still have three wins to go.
After the game, Maddon was asked who would be the closer for Game 5. "It's not going to be [Davis]," he said. "Wade did the job tonight, so tomorrow we'll be able to parcel it out a little more cleanly." He mentioned Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards, but if you've seen the way Maddon has managed his bullpen this postseason, you know he doesn't really trust those guys all that much.
It's a bit of a replay of last October, when Maddon was hesitant to use much of his bullpen. In Game 7 of the World Series, his plan was Kyle Hendricks to Jon Lester to Aroldis Chapman, and only after Chapman broke and blew the save was Maddon finally forced to use Edwards and Mike Montgomery in the 10th inning to finish it off.
So, while a perfect plan would be seven innings of Jose Quintana and then maybe an inning each from Strop and Edwards with a preferably something like a 14-run lead, we know it probably won't be that easy. Though Maddon said the other day he wants to save Jon Lester for Game 6, maybe Lester makes another relief appearance like he did in Game 4 of the Division Series -- remember, that one came when the Cubs were actually leading the series. As Maddon said, "We have four Game 7s. It's all hands on deck."
Before Game 4, Dave Roberts was asked about that 2004 comeback when he played for the Red Sox. "I think that was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," he said. "Teams can't do that anymore." He was joking. He pointed out that it takes some luck for such a comeback to happen.
That's what the Cubs might need in Game 5 against Kershaw. We also know this is a pitcher who hasn't exactly had luck on his side in the postseason. He was relaxed and self-deprecating in his media session before Game 4, but I almost got the feeling he wanted another chance to pitch in the series. Kershaw is certainly aware of his postseason demons as much as anyone, and it kind of bothers him as much as it does Dodgers fans that he hasn't had that signature postseason run to silence the critics.
Roberts did use five relievers in Game 4, but he didn't use Morrow and Jansen, so his plan is probably pretty simple: Kershaw for six innings and then his two stud relievers. At least Kershaw is pitching with a lead in the series; for once, the series won't rest on his shoulders.
Aside from that, everyone is creeping closer to the edge in this series. Maddon, though he says, "I'm not here to bang on the umpires" as he then bangs on the umpires, clearly isn't happy that some calls went against his team -- even if they didn't end up impacting either game. You know all that's transpired there will stir up Cubs fans even more Thursday night.
Contreras' home run trot was no doubt a reaction to some of Yasiel Puig's antics, like bat-flipping a double off the wall back at Dodger Stadium. There's too much at stake for the Dodgers to react, but it creates an added layer of energy and intensity throughout the teams and the stadium, similar to the bad blood that permeated the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry 13 years ago.
What happens in Game 5? My gut says Kershaw pitches a gem. My brain says, "Please, don't let this game be decided on a ball stuck in the ivy or a controversial collision at home plate." My heart says 13 innings, 14 relief pitchers, two managerial ejections, a 591-foot home run with a 130-second home run trot and the winning manager quoting Shakespeare. Or at least Babe Ruth: "Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world."