What year is this, anyway?
In a season that’s already brought much discussion of “1945” and “1908,” you could be forgiven if you had flashbacks to 2015 in Wednesday night’s World Series Game 2.
There was Jake Arrieta, taking a no-hitter into the middle innings.
There was Kyle Schwarber, lashing hits all over the field, driving in important runs.
All of that led the Cubs to a 5-1 win over the Indians in Game 2, evening the series at one win each. As is traditional for teams without home-field advantage, that win “stole” home field back, and is all you can really ask from clubs that begin a 2-3-2 formatted series on the road.
The game started out the way quite a number of Cubs wins have this October: with a first-inning run. Kris Bryant singled, and Anthony Rizzo worked a seven-pitch at-bat before ripping a double [VIDEO] into the right-field corner.
The Cubs thus had their first World Series run and a 1-0 lead. There was some discussion on the broadcast about whether Cleveland right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall’s relay went to the wrong place. He threw to second base to try to get Rizzo; if he had hit relay man Jason Kipnis, would he have been able to make a play on Bryant at the plate?
Some said yes. I watched this play several times and I don’t think so. It would have taken perfect throws by both Chisenhall and Kipnis to get Bryant.
Staked to a 1-0 lead, Arrieta looked like 2016 Arrieta for an inning. Was he over-amped on seven days’ rest? After getting the first two outs in the first inning easily, Arrieta walked Francisco Lindor and Mike Napoli. That brought Chris Bosio out to the mound, a really early mound visit. Whatever he said did something, because Arrieta got Jose Ramirez to fly to center to end the inning. Jake had an easy 1-2-3 second, and that’s when Schwarber got to work.
The first two Cubs were easy outs in the third, but then Rizzo walked and Ben Zobrist singled.
Then it was Schwarber’s turn. He had the green light on 3-0:
Ripped up the middle, just like we saw so many times last year, and as if he just got up Wednesday morning and continued his hitting from spring training (.259/.317/.444 with two home runs in 54 at-bats this past spring, incidentally), never mind the more than six-month layoff. On the Fox broadcast, John Smoltz said he’d never seen anything like this, and neither have I, and neither have you. I can’t think of any comparison, not in baseball, not in any other sport.
It was 2-0 Cubs and Jake continued to deal. At one point he retired nine in a row before issuing a two-out walk in the fourth, but he stranded that runner.
And then the Cubs blew the game open in the fifth. Rizzo drew a one-out walk. Then it was Zobs again (video includes Len Kasper’s radio call):
Zobrist’s triple (really, only a triple because Chisenhall slipped and fell) made it 3-0. Fun fact about the triple:
The Indians made a pitching change, bringing in Bryan Shaw to face Schwarber. Kyle bounced a single up the middle to make it 4-0 (this video also includes his first hit as well as Pat Hughes’ radio call):
After an error allowed Willson Contreras to reach, consecutive walks to Jorge Soler and Addison Russell scored another run and it was 5-0.
This, now, felt like many 2016 Cubs games — waiting out counts, drawing walks, taking advantage of the other team’s pitching failures. The Cubs drew eight walks in all, their second-most ever in a World Series game (most: nine, in Game 2 in the 1910 Series).
Then it was up to Jake to see if he could throw yet another no-hitter. Jake threw the only 2016 regular-season no-hitter, and in fact, has two of the most recent three — the only one in between his 2015 no-no at Los Angeles and his 2016 gem at Cincinnati was one by Max Scherzer on the second-to-last day of the 2015 season.
Jake had another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the fifth. The Cubs got two more baserunners in the sixth on two-out walks to Zobrist and Schwarber, but could not add to their lead. Jason Heyward had run for Soler in the previous inning, obviously as a precursor to him entering the game for defense, perhaps in part to give Jake the best possible defense for the no-hit bid.
With one out in the sixth, Kipnis ended the suspense with a no-doubt double into right field. It was noted as the longest no-hit bid in a World Series game since the Mets’ Jerry Koosman threw six no-hit innings in Game 2 of the 1969 Series. Interestingly, it wasn’t even the Cubs’ longest no-hit bid in a World Series game:
Kipnis advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on a wild pitch [VIDEO] to end any chance Jake would have for a shutout. After Napoli singled, Joe Maddon figured it was time to end Jake’s evening at 98 pitches. Here, most likely, is one of the biggest reasons for Jake’s shutdown outing:
One interesting thing about Jake Arrieta's pitches.... All his pitches are released at the same release point. Especially tonight. pic.twitter.com/uXGFo5UoQN— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 27, 2016
He looked like last year’s Jake instead of the 2016 version, where he threw well at times but struggled at other times. If he’s got his release point back, watch out for 2017 Jake.
Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman finished up, throwing 3⅓ innings of shutout ball, allowing two hits and two walks, and combining for six strikeouts.
You know, the way it was drawn up by management and Maddon after Chapman was acquired, though this was not a save situation for Chapman.
The narrative of the game after Schwarber got the two hits, at least from the national media, was: “Can Kyle Schwarber play left field at Wrigley for Game 3?” Over and over the TV broadcasters noted that the Cubs could really use that bat, and of course they’re right.
Schwarber was cleared by doctors to hit. He’s obviously got no problem with that nor running the bases — it’s as if he never left. Playing the outfield, with cuts and turns, is a whole different story. Schwarber was completely noncommittal about playing the field in the postgame news conference:
Honestly? I wouldn’t do it. Beyond all the running and change of direction an outfielder needs to make — and let’s be real here, Kyle isn’t a great outfielder even when he’s 100 percent — there’s a brick wall at Wrigley Field. You don’t want to see Kyle running into that wall and ruining all the progress he’s made, do you?
Granted, if he doesn’t play the field at Wrigley, he’s limited to pinch-hitting. But remember, the Indians are also down a hitter without the DH in Chicago. That means either Carlos Santana or Napoli has to sit and do nothing but pinch-hit (likely Santana, with Napoli playing first base). I saw suggestions on Twitter Wednesday night of having Schwarber play first base and put Rizzo in left field, which is just silly — there you’d have not one, but two players in positions they have never played before on the professional level.
The Cubs offense would miss Schwarber’s bat in the starting lineup. But they’ve got many other offensive weapons, which we saw in Wednesday night’s win.
Whatever’s decided about Schwarber playing the field would likely not be announced until sometime Friday, so feel free to spend the rest of this day discussing. Again, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t do it.
One final note about Jake’s no-hit bid and the last previous one that long, by Koosman: Many of us who were around in 1969 didn’t pay much attention to that World Series because... well, you know.
But in looking things up at that link after Jake’s no-hit bid, I note that the Mets lost Game 1, on the road... and then won four straight to win the Series.
You could go for something like that from the Cubs this year, right?
The first Wrigley Field World Series game since 1945 will be Friday, October 28, the latest calendar date a baseball game has ever been played in the ol’ ballyard at Clark & Addison. Kyle Hendricks, hero of NLCS Game 6, will face Josh Tomlin.