By Andrew Kahn
For the second time in three years, we’re going to Game 7 in the World Series. The Cubs won in Cleveland last night 9-3 and the two long-suffering franchises will stay there for tonight’s deciding game. One of these fan bases is going to experience tremendous heartache and the other is going to feel the polar opposite, whatever that is exactly.
1. Another early entrance for Chapman
Joe Maddon managed the Cubs to an MLB-best 103 wins and navigated them to the World Series. Really, he did. It’s important to remember that after last night, given the way Maddon handled his bullpen. He yanked starter Jake Arrieta, who had allowed three hits and three walks, with two outs in the sixth. The Cubs led 7-2 at the time, and that was the score when Maddon turned to Aroldis Chapman with two outs and two on in the seventh. Chapman induced a groundout, but was limping after covering first. He faced three batters in the eighth thanks to a double play and, astonishingly, even after a two-run homer made it 9-2, came out for the ninth. The latter decision, according to Maddon’s on-field, post-game interview, was because another reliever needed to get warm. Sure enough, Chapman faced just one batter (a walk) before exiting. The flamethrower has thrown 62 pitches the last two games, and you have to wonder if he’ll be pitching on fumes tomorrow night. Maddon isn’t concerned, saying Chapman is strong and will be ready for Game 7, and it’s possible that we start to believe pitchers aren’t capable of certain things because they’re hardly ever asked to do it. For what it’s worth, Chapman is a free agent after the game.
2. I got it, you take it
There were two outs and two strikes on Kris Bryant in the top of the first when Josh Tomlin hung a curveball that Bryant crushed: 1-0 Cubs. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist followed with singles, but a fly ball to right-center seemed like an inning-ender. Cleveland right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall, who’s had a rough series in the field, came charging in, rookie center fielder Tyler Naquin snuck a peek at him, and the ball somehow fell to the grass. Both runners scored. For an Indians team that desperately relies on getting an early lead and shortening the game with its dominant bullpen, it was a critical blow.
3. Russell is grand
Addison Russell dealt the Indians the knockout punch. (Well, not according to Maddon…OK, I’ll lay off him.) When he came to bat in the third, all eight of the home runs Cleveland had allowed this postseason had been of the solo variety. The bases were loaded and Dan Otero had just replaced Tomlin. Russell greeted him with a grand slam, the 19th in World Series history (just the fourth by a National League player; the last one was also by a Chicago batter, Paul Konerko of the White Sox). The 22-year-old shortstop finished with six RBI, tying a World Series record.
4. Stepping up at the plate
Outside of Francisco Lindor, no Indians batter has been very productive at the plate throughout the postseason. In the World Series, however, Jason Kipnis—who hit his second homer of the series last night—and Jose Ramirez have contributed. But Cleveland’s clean-up hitter, who cranked 34 homers this year, has been very quiet. Veteran Mike Napoli is 9-for-47 (.191) in the playoffs with one home run and four walks. He struck out in three of his four plate appearances last night, but did smack an RBI single in the fourth to get the Indians on the board. The final game of the season would be a perfect time for him to bust out of his slump, because the Cubs’ big boppers already have. Zobrist has been on fire all series, Rizzo has been locked in the past few games, hitting frozen ropes all over the field, and Bryant had four hits last night and homered for the second straight game.
5. Game 7
Tonight’s starters, Kyle Hendricks and Corey Kluber, seem like the perfect pitchers for Game 7. In addition to being incredibly effective, both are extremely calm. It’s The Professor vs. Klubot; don’t expect too much emotion on the mound. Kluber will be on three days’ rest for the second straight start and third time this postseason. He is 4-1 through five starts with a 0.89 ERA, and he’ll have some well-rested relievers behind him: Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen didn’t pitch last night and Andrew Miller hasn’t appeared the last two games. The nine-inning plan for Chicago is less clear. Chapman’s usage was discussed, and Maddon has clearly lost faith in most of the rest of his bullpen. As for starting pitchers, John Lackey has made four career relief appearances including two in previous World Series, and has been good the first time through the lineup this year. Jon Lester is a better pitcher but not a better option: he’s on just two days rest and, more importantly, can’t hold runners on. In a close game for a one- or two-inning assignment, he’s not your guy. The Cubs have had way more fan support than typical in World Series road games, and the visitors are 21-20 in Game 7 of the World Series.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about baseball and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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