It comes down to one game and nine innings, maybe more. The 2016 World Series will be decided in a game 7, as the Chicago Cubs take two straight wins into the final game of the season, while the Cleveland Indians will try to avoid becoming a baseball trivia question for dropping a 3-1 lead, something that will turn them into something of a joke.
In game 6, the Cubs finished things early. They were up 3-0 at the end of the first inning after a solo home run by Kris Bryant and a two-run double by Addison Russell. But the big blow to the Indians came in the third inning when Russell hit a grand slam home run off of Dan Otero. Josh Tomlin was taken off at that point because he put the Indians in a bad situation, but it didn’t matter. The bases were loaded and Russell delivered, finishing with 6 RBIs on the day, but most importantly his hit meant the Indians won’t be coming back.
Aroldis Chapman did give up a run in the ninth as the Cubs probably used his relief stint a bit too much in this case, while he also stumbled and possibly hurt his ankle. Overall, the Indians got a couple of runs off of Jake Arrieta but it didn’t matter. Not with the bullpen getting the job done, and Anthony Rizzo hitting his first home run of the series, a two-run homer to put the Cubs up 9-2 at that point, a lead that didn’t really go anywhere despite a longer closing inning than expected.
After the disappointing performance from Tomlin, the Indians will send the best pitcher they have, Corey Kluber onto the mound. Kluber is 2-0 in this series, giving up only 1 run in 12 innings of work, striking out 15 batters to just one walk. If the Cubs have a kryptonite in this series, it’s him. They also have a very well rested Andrew Miller, who might be called into action quickly. Kluber has already appeared on October 25 and October 29, and even though the Indians limited his pitch count to a total of 169, it’s quite a lot asking for three starts within 9 days. If things go well, don’t be surprised to see Miller for 3 innings, maybe more. He was a starter.
The Cubs go to their ERA champion from the regular season, Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks has had one more day to rest compared to Kluber, not giving up runs in the 1-0 loss to the Indians, but taken out after 4.1 innings, giving up 6 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 6. Overall, he’s gotten better and better with each appearance in this postseason (4 games, 20.2 innings). Overall he has a 1.31 ERA in the playoffs, not giving up a single run in his last two games.
The Indians can say they’ve scored runs in every game this series, so it’s only a matter of time before things get “back to normal”. But the Cubs figuring out their starting pitching is certainly an issue, maybe even one the red hot Kluber can solve. The Cubs almost matched their entire offensive production of the world series in one game, and seem to be sending the right kind of combination of hot batters and rested-enough pitchers into game 7. It’s hard to call them favorites after the ups and downs of this series, but with two straight wins and a chance to make history, the Cubs really can’t complain about the situation they’re in considering the bind the Indians had them in a few days ago.