CUBS TO FACE CARDINALS IN ST. LOUIS AFTER WILD-CARD WIN; FANS REVEL IN WRIGLEYVILLE
After shutting out the Pirates in the National League Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh, the Chicago Cubs move on to the first-ever Cubs-Cardinals playoff series, which starts Friday with a 5:45 p.m. game, in St. Louis. Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo and Clayton Richard celebrate after a 4-0 win over the the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cubs took an early lead over the Pirates Wednesday night. Kyle Schwarber drove in the first three runs of the game, including a two-run homer in the third inning. Dexter Fowler had a big game and made it 4-0 with his solo home run. That was more than enough for Cubs ace Jake Arrieta. He struck out 11 Pirates. There were also a few huge double plays.
Things got heated in the seventh inning, when Arrieta was hit by a pitch. He had words for the pitcher and both benches emptied. The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez was the only player ejected and took out his frustrations on a water cooler.
The final out of the game was a liner right into the glove of Starlin Castro's glove. Arrieta went the distance in a complete game shutout. The Cubs won 4-0. It was the team's first postseason victory since 2003.
There was a big celebration inside the Cubs locker room in Pittsburgh Wednesday night. The champagne was flowing. For most of the young Cubs, it was their first playoff experience.
"The crowd was unbelievable. I expected that, but you can't really put it into words until you experience it. I wouldn't have it any other way. This is awesome. This is what you play baseball for," Arrieta said.
The final out touched off a celebration among Cubs fans, who haven't seen a playoff win in 12 years.
Fans poured into the streets in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood after the game. Police shut down Clark Street to let them celebrate. Some fans lingered until early Thursday morning.
"We were out really late. It was crazy out here. Absolute madness. But I don't regret a second of it," said Kim Mulier, a Cubs fan.
They came out of area bars by the hundreds and packed into the street, shouting, waving flags and hugging. The crowd multiplied quickly as fans who live in the area flocked to Clark Street, knowing from experience that this is where Chicago celebrates its sports wins.
Last year, Chicago Blackhawks fans packed into Clark Street after the team's Stanley Cup win. Cubs fans are thrilled to follow suit, especially since they've been waiting a lifetime for what could come next.
"We haven't had anything to cheer for except for the Blackhawks for such a long time. This is amazing," Paola Villagomez said.
"What do you mean how far can we go?! We're taking it all," another fan said.
Wednesday night's celebration was mostly peaceful, with the exception of one fan who got a little rowdy with police. He was arrested for disorderly conduct after taking a swing at an officer trying to detain him.
CUBS TAKE ON CARDINALS IN NLDS
Friday's game is likely to attract a bigger crowd. Some dedicated fans will make the trip to St. Louis to see Game 1 of the National League Division Series in person.
The next round will not be easy. The Cubs and the Cardinals have never played each other in the playoffs.
Cubs President Theo Epstein compared the rivalry between Chicago and St. Louis to the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry. He called the Cardinals "formidable opponents." The players said the next few games will be more about work and not underestimating St. Louis.
"We have a long way to go. We haven't done anything yet. We have a tough opponent versus the Cardinals, but we'll be ready for them," said Anthony Rizzo, Cubs first baseman.
MORE: Cubs, Miami meet in 2015 'Back to the Future II' World Series matchup
"Yeah, it's all about baseball. We're not talking about rivalries. We're talking about wins. We're trying to get 'W'," said David Ross, Cubs catcher.
The Cardinals had the best record in baseball this past season. The Cubs and Cardinals played 19 times in the regular season, with St. Louis winning 11 games.
Here's how Cubs fans will want to schedule the next week of their lives. Games 1 and 2 are in St. Louis. First pitch is at 5:45 p.m. Friday and at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Game 3 is Monday at Wrigley Field. Game 4, if necessary, will be Tuesday. If there's a Game 5, it will be on Thursday back in St. Louis.
Steve Buzil, a ticket broker for Sit Close.com, said there will be a lot of Cubbie blue in Busch Stadium this weekend. He said the calls to get tickets began early.
"I got emails, I got texts, phone calls, all hours of the night," Buzil said.
Buzil said standing room-only tickets for this weekend's games will cost fans around $150. They can nab seat in the upper deck for $160.
He said ticket prices increase considerably when the Cubs return home to Wrigley Field. Upper deck seats may go anywhere from $300-$400. Bleachers seats may cost upwards of $350.
"We are getting calls from all over the country right now, which is great. I believe you want to buy now and not wait because it's only going to get worse, not better, at the supply," Buzil said.
But tickets are not as easy for everyone to get their hands on. Michelle Dopp, a lifelong Cubs fan, said she has lived in Chicago her entire life - most recently in Wrigleyville. She said her husband and son are in St. Louis for a soccer tournament.
"He tried getting tickets for tomorrow's game and he didn't get them. They are so bummed. But we'll take them back here on Monday and keep going," Dopp said.
Tee Cozy owns Cozy Noodles n' Rice in Wrigleyville. When he first came to this country, his cousin took him to one Cubs game. He said that was all he needed to become hooked.
Cozy said he has high hopes for the Chicago in the playoffs, especially after the NL wild-card game.
"This is a game I will never ever forget. This year is the year," Cozy said.
"This is a really fun team. It's going to happen," Dopp said.