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Cubs 9, Indians 3: And Then There Was One

Addison Russell’s grand slam and six RBI helped lead the Cubs into Game 7.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Sleep much last night?

Think you’ll get any work done today?

At the time this recap of the Cubs’ stunning 9-3 win in Game 6 of the World Series posts, there will be 11 hours until the first pitch of Game 7. Can you wait? Will you make it through today?

Of course you will, because this day is the day all of us have anticipated, even through the tough times of this Series, going down three games to one, knowing somehow that this Cubs team we watched all year would bounce back and tie the Series.

Tuesday night in Cleveland, they did so in grand fashion. Two outs into the first inning, Kris Bryant smashed a home run into the left-field seats at Progressive Field and you could hear the Cubs fans cheer, that’s how many there were on hand in Cleveland (and with Pat Hughes on the call):

433 feet. These are the kinds of home runs we’ve become accustomed to seeing from Bryant at Wrigley Field; at home that ball might have hit the left-field video board.

Did you exhale just then?

The Cubs weren’t done in that inning. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist singled, and that brought up Addison Russell, who hit a fly ball to right-center that should have been caught by either center fielder Tyler Naquin or right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall. But it dropped, untouched, between them for a double [VIDEO], scoring both Rizzo and Zobrist. (And Zobrist likely would have been safe even if catcher Roberto Perez had hung on to the ball, because it didn’t appear Perez gave Zobs a lane.)

We saw a play similar to that happen to the Cubs at Wrigley Field earlier this year. Remember this?

Just a miscommunication between Zobrist and Jason Heyward on that one, and it was likely the same between Naquin and Chisenhall. Of course, the stakes were much, much higher Tuesday night in Cleveland, and the Cubs benefited, big-time.

So Jake Arrieta was staked to a 3-0 lead before he threw his first pitch, and he threw extremely well. Knowing it was his last start of the year, Jake brought his velocity even higher than his usual 94-95 you generally see from him in the early innings. At a couple of points he touched 97.

Jake didn’t give up any hits for the first three innings, and by the time he took the mound for the bottom of the third, the Cubs had extended the lead. Kyle Schwarber walked, and for the second time in the game, Rizzo and Zobrist singled. On Zobs’ single, Schwarber held at third, a wise choice given the score and Schwarbs’ surgically-repaired knee.

Again, it was Russell’s turn, and again, Pat Hughes makes the call:

That ball: Crushed!

It was the first slam by any Cub in a World Series game, the third slam by a Cub in the postseason (Miguel Montero in Game 1 of the NLCS this year against the Dodgers and Aramis Ramirez in Game 4 of the 2003 NLCS), and the first by anyone in the World Series since Paul Konerko in Game 2 in 2005.

Of course, this also brought out seekers of history to see if there had been a lead that large blown in a World Series game. Naturally, there was, and naturally, it was the Cubs (Game 5, 1929, and I’ll spare you the details).

Not on this night, though Jake would allow a leadoff double in the fourth to Jason Kipnis, who scored on a single by Mike Napoli to break the shutout possibility. Later, Kipnis, who is just killing Cubs pitching in this series, hit a solo homer off Jake to make it 7-2. Kipnis is now 8-for-26 (.307) in the series with three doubles and two home runs.

This was all interesting enough, but after that it really got interesting.

Jake issued a two-out walk to Chisenhall in the sixth, and Joe Maddon felt he’d seen enough, with Jake at 102 pitches. (Honestly, I thought Jake could have finished the sixth). On came Mike Montgomery, who got Brandon Guyer to ground into a force play -- but not just any ordinary force play! Russell had to make a somewhat awkward slide to field the ball, then threw off-balance to Javier Baez. Then Javy was Javy, making a perfect grab while keeping his foot on second base [VIDEO] to end the inning.

Nine outs to go! (You’re lying if you say you weren’t counting. I know I was.)

With two out and a runner on first in the bottom of the seventh, there was Kipnis again. He singled off Montgomery, and Joe called for Aroldis Chapman.

Wait, what? In the seventh, with a five-run lead?

Honestly, I can’t argue with this. It’s one of the highest-leverage situations imaginable, not by the score, but because you must win this game or go home. And Joe was not going to let this game be lost.

Chapman got Francisco Lindor to ground to Rizzo on his second pitch. This time, unlike Sunday at Wrigley, Chapman got off the mound quickly. But Lindor runs very well. And so this happened:

First-base umpire Sam Holbrook — who, incidentally, will be behind the plate for Game 7 — called Lindor safe, but given what was shown on that video, the ruling was quickly overturned and Lindor was out, ending the inning. That play was just about as close as any similar play can get — almost literally, out by the length of a spike on Chapman’s shoe:

That was an important out — more so than you might have thought in a 7-2 game. If Lindor’s safe, the bases are loaded with Napoli, someone who thrives in these sorts of situations, at bat.

But the inning was indeed over, and I thought at the time, “Great! Chapman got out of it throwing only two pitches, someone else can finish up!”

Not so! Chapman came out again for the eighth inning, even after appearing to tweak his ankle on the Lindor play — he seemed physically fine. He struck out Napoli and allowed a single to Jose Ramirez. Fortunately, he got out of it with a double play, beautifully done by Russell and Baez [VIDEO]. Baez, as he did for us all year, is putting on a fielding clinic in the postseason.

On we went to the ninth, anticipation already building for Game 7. With two out, Bryant singled, his fourth hit of the game. Then it was Rizzo’s turn to go deep; his two-run homer deep into the Cleveland night [VIDEO] made it 9-2 and unnecessary for Chapman to continue, hopefully saving him for more 100 mile-per-hour throws in Game 7.

But wait! There was Chapman yet again, coming to the mound for the ninth inning. Joe explains his use of Chapman in Game 6:

We have trusted Joe’s thoughts and hunches and seemingly-weird decisions all year. The overwhelming majority of them have worked. I’ll trust Joe to continue to do the right thing.

As Joe says in that video, Pedro Strop didn’t have enough time to get properly warmed up as Rizzo was homering, so Chapman was out there for one batter in the ninth. He walked Guyer, bringing his pitch count to 20. Then Joe brought Strop in, and he promptly wild-pitched Guyer to second. Roberto Perez laced a ball down the right-field line, scoring Guyer — but that’s when we got to see some defense from Heyward. His strong, accurate throw, and an excellent, Javy-like tag by Russell [VIDEO], got Perez trying to stretch his hit into a double.

After Strop walked Carlos Santana, Travis Wood entered and got Kipnis to pop to Russell in foul territory to end it, with easily-audible cheers on the TV broadcast from Cubs fans in Cleveland. (Wish I could have been one of them, but it just wasn’t feasible for me.)

One last, mildly amusing moment before I conclude: What is the TV sound guy doing here? [VIDEO] It looks like he’s trying to catch the ball that was eventually grabbed by Jose Ramirez, who had to avoid the field microphone to make the catch.

A few notes on what individual Cubs accomplished Tuesday evening:

And perhaps most importantly, if you are worried about Chapman’s availability after the 20-pitch outing Tuesday night:

It’s the last day of the season. It’s all hands on deck from the pitching staff for Game 7, with the possible exception of Jake. I’d expect Jon Lester to be available if needed, and if Joe has to go to Chapman for multiple innings, he certainly will do so — these players have three months to rest before they need to prepare for spring training.

And so, here we are. Game 7 of the World Series. One win for the championship. As has been noted so many places elsewhere, one team’s long title drought is going to end Wednesday night.

As Bryant said recently, “Why not us?”

Why not, indeed. This day is the day we’ve all dreamed about as Cubs fans, for all our lives, as no living person has seen what we might see tonight, the Cubs winning the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks, the majors’ ERA leader who has not pitched a single game on the road this postseason, goes for the Cubs.

Corey Kluber, who’s going on short rest for the second time in this series, will start for the Indians.

Do you believe? I do. #LetsGo