If the Cubs had made the World Series between 1946, the year after their last one before now, and 1996, there wouldn’t have been any way to make this sort of comparison. Before 1997, the only times National League and American League teams met was in the World Series or in spring training.
Now, though, with interleague play we have some basis to see how teams from different leagues match up.
The Cubs and Indians played four times in 2015, twice at Wrigley Field and twice at Progressive Field. Obviously some of the players on the teams this year are different, but many of the principals for both teams are the same.
Here’s a review of the four 2015 Cubs/Indians games... and five dates, and I’ll explain.
June 15, 2015 at Wrigley Field
If you look through the Cubs’ 2015 season on baseball-reference you won’t see a game score listed for that day. The Cubs and Indians were scheduled to play that evening, and though there was a forecast of storms, it appeared the teams would get the proverbial “window.” But that window rapidly closed:
Tornado Warning including Berwyn IL, Bellwood IL, Brookfield IL until 5:15 PM CDT pic.twitter.com/WeDSBSODR5— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) June 15, 2015
As that moved further east, it set off the tornado sirens on Waveland across from the left-field bleachers. That caused Wrigley officials to do something no one could remember happening before:
This is a first: raining so hard they won't let media to press box at Wrigley. Francona said it'll likely be split DH if washed out tonight.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 15, 2015
It was raining really, really hard. They did open the gates on time, but didn’t let anyone into the seating area. At 5:30 the game was called. For many fans, this wasn’t a bad thing as most went home or to bars to watch the Blackhawks clinch the Stanley Cup by defeating the Lightning that night.
Terry Francona, as it turned out, was wrong: The game was rescheduled for a mutual off day August 24.
June 16, 2015 at Wrigley Field: Indians 6, Cubs 0
Jake Arrieta hadn’t yet become the guy who would win the 2015 Cy Young Award. In fact, he walked six that night, the most he walked in any game last year and fully one-eighth of his season total.
Carlos Santana hit a three-run homer off Jake in the second inning and that would be enough for the Tribe to win. They tacked on some more runs later. As you’ll note in the boxscore, only one of the four Cubs relievers who pitched in that game is still on the team (Justin Grimm).
Kyle Schwarber made his major-league debut in this game, coming in to catch in the ninth inning with the Cubs down 6-0. He had his first big-league at-bat leading off the bottom of the ninth and was called out on strikes.
June 17, 2015 at Progressive Field: Cubs 17, Indians 0
The Cubs poured it on Shaun Marcum in the first inning, pounding out six hits and six runs, including homers by Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo. That game became what we have dubbed here a “RHOOTL” (“Ran Him Out Of The League”), as Marcum was sent to Triple-A after that game and never returned to the big leagues.
The Indians ran out a bunch of their relievers and then sent position player Ryan Raburn to the mound for the ninth inning. Truth be told, he didn’t do too badly — he gave up a walk and a single and retired two hitters.
Then Francona brought in another position player, David Murphy, to face David Ross. Murphy would have gotten out of the inning, except shortstop Francisco Lindor -- who was playing in just his third big-league game — dropped a popup hit by Ross.
That scored a run and, somehow, opened the floodgates. Russell singled, plating another run. Dexter Fowler walked, loading the bases, and Murphy hit Mike Baxter, with a third run scoring.
That brought up Kris Bryant:
For you numerologists, that home run, hit by No. 17, happened on the 17th day of the month, and gave the Cubs a 17-0 lead. Also:
June 18, 2015 at Progressive Field: Indians 4, Cubs 3
The Cubs spotted the Indians leads of 2-0 and 3-1, then tied the game 3-3 on a two-run homer by Schwarber off Danny Salazar in the fifth inning, his first big-league homer, hit in front of a large contingent of his family and friends who had made the trip to Cleveland from Kyle’s hometown of Middletown, Ohio.
Travis Wood, in relief of Jason Hammel, gave up three straight singles in the seventh inning and the Cubs could not score again.
Schwarber went 6-for-9 with five runs scored and four RBI at DH in those two games in Cleveland. Perhaps this is one reason Cubs management is so interested in having him ready to DH in the World Series. (Schwarber went 0-for-5 against the Tribe at Wrigley last year.)
August 24, 2015 at Wrigley Field: Cubs 2, Indians 1
In this makeup of the June 15 rainout, Jon Lester was magnificent. He allowed just four hits through eight innings, and Rizzo tripled in Chris Coghlan, who had doubled, in the bottom of the eighth for a 1-0 lead.
In the ninth, Lester hit Raburn and gave up a single to Lindor sandwiched around a pair of strikeouts. With one out to go for a complete-game shutout, Lester gave up an RBI single to Santana, tying the game. Hector Rondon was brought in and completed the ninth with no further runs scoring.
Zach McAllister struck out Coghlan and Rizzo, and then it was KB’s turn:
That was the Cubs’ 12th walkoff win of 2015, and led to the “Strop Strut,” as you can see in the video: Pedro Strop, coming to join the scrum at the plate, matched Bryant’s last few steps.
Incidentally, this game featured the same pitching matchup we’ll see in Game 1 of the World Series, as Corey Kluber pitched that day for Cleveland.
For a couple of more recent, but likely less meaningful, Cubs/Indians games, here are the BCB recaps from the two spring-training games the teams played this year: March 9 at Sloan Park (Indians won 5-3) and March 19 at Goodyear (Indians won 10-5).