CHICAGO — Living in a nursing home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, Edith Heath, 82, knows something about faith.
As a Cubs fan who was born 25 years after her favorite team last won the World Series, she knows there are only so many times she can get her hopes up only to be disappointed. So this year is it.
"I'll give up if they don't win this year," Heath said Thursday in the lobby of the nursing home about a mile from Wrigley Field. "If they don't do it, I wouldn't want to even hear their name. I would just say I've had it."
The Cubs' World Series drought dates to 1908 and has been filled with heartbreak. But this year has a different feel to it. There's a new owner and new front-office personnel calling the shots for Chicago and more young talent in the Friendly Confines than there has been in a long time. There is a bona fide NL Cy Young candidate in ace Jake Arrieta, a possible rookie of the year in Kris Bryant and maybe the league's best manager in Joe Maddon, who came over this season from the Rays.
So when the Cubs beat Pittsburgh in the wild-card game Wednesday, there were celebrations — but also a sense of more to come. Next up is the NL Division Series against the Cardinals.
Over the next several days, plenty of 20something fans will proudly say they have waited their whole lives for the Cubs to win it all. But for those whose love affair with the Cubs started well before Steve Bartman was born, this playoff run brings with it feelings that fans who don't remember Wrigley without lights or recall days when ladies got in free can't possibly understand.
"It's time for our hopes to come true," Margaret Bailey, 81, said at a community pool near Wrigley, just before her older friend — she won't say how much older — Loretta Czyzewski added: "While we can still enjoy it."
Wednesday's game drew the largest TV audience in the four-year history of wild-card games. Shown on TBS, it averaged 8.3 million viewers, topping the record of 7.6 million set a night earlier for the Astros' win over the Yankees in the AL game on ESPN. It's the most for a major-league game on cable since the 2011 NL Division Series between the Cardinals and Phillies.
CARDINALS-CUBS: Former Red Sox teammates John Lackey (Cardinals RHP) and Jon Lester (Cubs LHP) will face off in tonight's Game 1 of the NL Division Series. "I'd like to say I was surprised, but I'm not," Lackey said. "He's good. No accident people running into each other this time of year." Lester said of Lackey: "He's going to almost out-will you sometimes. Our friendship will go beyond this game, will go beyond this career, but come (tonight), we're not buddies anymore." Also, All-Star C Yadier Molina is on the Cardinals roster. He will wear a splint to protect a strained ligament in his left thumb.
DODGERS-METS: Clayton Kershaw isn't sure what to expect from the new-look Mets, whose dramatic transformation in the second half of the season led to an NL East title. The Dodgers' ace left-hander faced a mostly different New York lineup before the July trade deadline; among key additions were Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe. "Definitely a completely different team. Obviously, a lot better than what we faced in July," Kershaw said. In tonight's NLDS opener at Dodger Stadium, Kershaw will be trying to earn the second postseason win of his career after going 0-4 in his past two series against the Cardinals. "I definitely remember," he said, "but it's a new team, new season and, hopefully, for me a new outcome."
MORE METS: LHP Steven Matz (back) threw approximately 90 pitches in a simulated game and is on track to be the NLDS Game 4 starter.
more dodgers: Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully won't be calling any playoff games after undergoing a recommended, unnamed medical procedure. The Dodgers said Scully, 87, was resting comfortably. … Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda, 88, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for Game 2 Saturday.