The 2016 World Series will go the distance. After being on the brink of elimination just a few days ago, the Chicago Cubs have evened things at three games a piece, and seem to have all the momentum. Tuesday evening, the Cubbies put a 9-3 beatdown on the Cleveland Indians, forcing the Series to its seventh and final game. Jake Arrieta pitched a strong 5.2 innings, and Aroldis Chapman once again gave the Cubs multiple innings of relief. But the real story is the Cubs suddenly red-hot offense.
Cubs Demolish Indians, Force Game 7
Cubs Offense Comes Alive
After struggling for much of the Series, and indeed much of the playoffs, the Chicago bats are finally awake. In Game 5, it looked as if some of the slumping Cubs were close to finding their grooves. Game 6 proved that to be true.
Kris Bryant, the guy who got the three-run rally started with a homer in Game 5, kicked things off again with a two-out solo blast in the first inning. From there, the Cubs never looked back. Bryant and friends rocked Josh Tomlin, who stymied them in his first World Series start, for six runs in 2.1 innings. Bryant’s home run was the first of his four hits over the night, and he scored two runs as well.
The only man who might have outdone Bryant in the game is teammate Addison Russell, who put up a historic night at the plate. In the third inning, with Dan Otero on in relief of Tomlin and the bases loaded, Russell sent an absolute rocket of a shot over the Progressive Field left-center fence for a grand slam. The homer was just the second grand slam of Russell’s career. With that hit, Russell also entered the World Series history books. He is now the only shortstop to hit a grand slam in the World Series, and the first player in history to record six RBI through the first three innings of a World Series game. Just 22 years old, he is also the second-youngest player to hit a grand slam in a World Series.
Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo had good nights as well. Zobrist recorded two hits and scored two runs. Rizzo finished the night 3-5 with two RBI and three runs scored. He added the Cubs third homer of the game when he launched one with a man on base against Mike Clevinger in the ninth innings. The Cubs bats are officially hot, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for them.
Arrieta Dominates Again
As a follow up act to a strong start in Game 2 of the Series, Arrieta turned in another solid performance with his club facing elimination. Over 5.2 innings, the reigning NL Cy Youn Award winner allowed just three hits and two runs. While he did also issue three walks, his nine strikeouts far overshadowed any negatives from his start.
Arrieta did run into trouble in the fourth inning. Jason Kipnis got the frame started with a double, and Mike Napoli then singled to drive him in. After that, Arrieta’s command seemed to abandon him. He proceeded to load the bases and, with two outs, the Indians had a rally going. However, a key strikeout got Arrieta out of the frame with minimal damage done. While he did allow another run in the nest inning, a Kipnis homer, the end of that rally brought things back under control for Arrieta and the Cubs.
Maddon Overuses Chapman?
With the Indians once again threatening in the seventh inning, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to his closer, as he did in Game 5. While Chapman did end the threat, he seemed to tweak his knee in the process, though he did return to the mound for the next frame. Overall, Chapman recorded four outs after throwing 42 pitches just two days ago. He only threw 20 pitches in Game 6, but 62 pitches over a three-day span is a lot to ask of a closer.
Though he will undoubtedly be available to pitch in Game 7, that workload could lower his efficacy. If that affects the outcome of the game, Maddon will get some questions, to say the least. However, Jon Lester will also be available out of the pen, which could mitigate any negative effects of Chapman’s heavy usage.
Game 7 Preview
It all comes down to this, and baseball fans could hardly ask for a better finish. In the conclusion to what has been a great Series, Kyle Hendricks will do battle against Corey Kluber. Hendricks and Kluber could very well end up being the Cy Young Award winners for the American and National Leagues.
Hendricks, the exciting youngster, will be looking to finish Chicago’s comeback from a 3-1 Series deficit and secure the city’s first title since 1908. On the other side, the veteran Kluber, who has been rock steady for the Indians throughout the postseason, will pitch on short rest for the second time in the Series and the third time in the playoffs. If he continues his outstanding run of starts and the Indians bats show up, he could bring Cleveland it’s first World Series Championship since 1948.
No matter what happens next, this has been a series for the ages, and it’s gearing up for a historic finish. Game 7 is scheduled for Wednesday, November 2, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern in Cleveland.