As they say, “game seven” are the two most beautiful words in baseball. But “World Champions” are even sweeter.
The Chicago Cubs pounded the Cleveland Indians 9-3 to even the World Series at three games each. The Cubs hit three home runs to rout the Indians and force a game 7 after trailing 3 games to 1 after four games.
A lot of neutral observers questioned how good Indians starter Josh Tomlin could be on short rest. To be fair to manager Terry Francona, he didn’t really have a better option. After retiring the first two batters in the top of the first, Tomlin hung an 0-2 curve ball to Kris Bryant, who blasted it 443 feet. 1-0 Cubs.
The next two batters, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist, both connected for hard-hit singles. Then the Cubs caught a break that could end up being the difference between winning the World Series and not. Addison Russell hit a lazy fly ball to right-center field. Rookie center fielder Tyler Naquin didn’t take charge and the ball dropped for a two-run double. The Cubs had a 3-0 lead and Jake Arrieta on the mound.
Tomlin got through the second inning without a hitch, but he got into trouble in the third when he issued a leadoff walk to Kyle Schwarber. After Bryant flew out, Rizzo and Zobrist were right on him for two hard-hit singles to load the bases. At that point, Francona had seen enough of Tomlin. He called on Dan Otero to face Addison Russell.
You know what happened next. Russell took the first two sinkers by Otero that were out of the zone. Not looking to go 3-0 with the bases loaded, Otero got the next pitch over the plate. Russell crushed it to center field for a grand slam. It was the first grand slam ever by a Cubs in a World Series game and Russell was the second-youngest player ever to hit a World Series grand slam, behind only Mickey Mantle.
Meanwhile, Jake Arrieta cruised through the first three innings in a ballpark that used to be known as “The Jake.” He did give us all a scare though in the fourth inning when he gave up a leadoff double to Jason Kipnis. It was the first hit he’d allowed in the game. Kipnis scored two batters later on a Mike Napoli single. Then Arrieta gave us all some heartburn by hitting Lonnie Chisenhall and walking Coco Crisp to load the bases. But he struck out Naquin to end the threat and the Cubs still led 7-1 going to the 5th inning.
The Indians kept crawling back. In the fifth, Jason Kipnis got ahead of Arrieta 3-0 and then lined a 3-1 pitch the opposite way and into the seats. The Cubs lead was cut to 7-2.
Arrieta walked Chisenhall with two outs in the sixth. Arrieta didn’t look bad, but by that time he’d thrown 102 pitches and manager Joe Maddon called on Mike Montgomery. Montgomery got pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer to hit the first pitch to Russell at shortstop to end the inning.
In the 7th inning, Joe Maddon made a move that is going to be forever second-guessed if the Cubs blow a late lead tomorrow. After two were out, Montgomery gave up a two-out single to Jason Kipnis. With Francisco Lindor due up, the Indians had a real chance to get back in the game. But the Cubs still had a five-run lead and even terrible pitchers can protect a five-run lead 90% of the time. But Maddon called on Aroldis Chapman anyway. Chapman got a ground ball to Rizzo and Chapman got over and covered for the out. At least Lindor was out after they went to replay. The inning was over and the threat was ended.
The Cubs retook their seven-run lead in the top of the ninth when Anthony Rizzo clobbered a changeup into the right-field seats with Bryant on first base.
Chapman stayed in to start the ninth inning, presumably because Pedro Strop wasn’t ready yet, and he walked Brandon Guyer. In the end, he only threw 20 pitches. Not bad, but perhaps not necessary.
Strop wasn’t terrific. He gave up a deep fly to Rajai Davis that fell short of the wall and into Zobrist’s glove. He threw a wild pitch which moved Guyer to second and then lucked out after Roberto Perez tried to stretch an RBI single into a double. After walking Carlos Santana (yes, Joe West has a small strike zone), Maddon pulled Strop for Travis Wood to face Kipnis.
Other good news from this game:
- Kris Bryant had 4 hits.
- The Cubs hit 3 home runs for the first time in a World Series game ever.
- Russell had 6 RBI, which tied a World Series record.
- Javier Baez turned a terrific double play in the 8th. He also got a single tonight, snapping his slump somewhat.
- Jason Heyward made a nice catch in right field that prevented the fourth from turning into a big inning for the Indians. He also threw out Roberto Perez with a rocket to second base as he was trying to stretch a single into a double while behind six runs. He still went 0 for 4 though.
- Bryant hit the first November home run in Cubs history.
- The Cubs are also undefeated in their history in November.
So here we go. Game 7. For neutral baseball fans, this is going to be the greatest game in years. Joe Sheehan Tweeted that it will be the most-anticipated game since game 7 in 1986.
For us and Indians fans, it’s going to be a nervous wreck. Especially if the game is close. One team is going to end a long championship drought and the other team is going to have to say “Wait until next year” at least one more time.
Corey Kluber is going to go for the Indians and he’s already beaten the Cubs twice in this series. But he’s going on short rest again and the Cubs have gotten two looks at him already. But the Indians two-headed terror in the bullpen of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are well rested, having not pitched since game 4.
The Cubs will send out Kyle Hendricks. I can’t think of anyone who would be cooler in that situation than Hendricks. A lot cooler than me. He’s this year’s NL ERA Champion and the master of inducing weak contact. The Cubs will have everyone but Arrieta ready to pitch if necessary.
This is what you’ve all asked for. The title is on the line tomorrow night. #FlytheW