World Series: History on deck for one set of fans

By Cat Garcia 

Tonight, Cubs fans and sports fans alike will witness something that has not happened in 71 years – the Chicago Cubs playing in a World Series.

WS_scheduleThe spectacle will include everything from the Cubs having their first black player step up to the plate in a World Series game in Dexter Fowler, to seeing the return of injured slugger Kyle Schwarber, and it’s everything a baseball fan could have hoped for.

“I’ve been waiting my whole life for this, I just wish my dad could have lived to see it,” said Ryan Jones, 42, a fan from Chicago’s western suburbs who wiped tears from his eyes while celebrating with his two sons outside of Wrigley Field Saturday night.

“But as amazing as this feels, the Cubs still have a lot of work to do to win this.”

For Cleveland fans, they’ll be witness to their own historic moments, as the Indians make their first World Series appearance in nearly 20 years and search for their first win since 1948. Just across the street from Progressive Field, the Cavaliers began the 2017 NBA with the ring ceremony that officially broke the Cleveland Sports Curse.

This series will certainly be electric for both teams and their fans, but for Cubs fans, this is certainly a completely different level of electric. Cubs fans are witnessing things that their parents and perhaps even generations before that were never able to see.

“I hope they enjoy this,” Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. “They have been waiting a long time for it. Best fans in the baseball, most dedicated fans, and they deserve a lot more of these, that’s for sure.”

Due to the American League winning the All-Star Game this past season, Cleveland has been awarded home-field advantage and will host tonight’s Game 2 before a scheduled travel day for the teams as they head back to Chicago to give the city their first World Series in 11 years. This time, though, it’s on the championship-hungry North side of Chicago.

In a surprising and exhilarating move that simply will make this series all the more exciting, the Cubs announced yesterday afternoon that after a small stint in the Arizona Fall League after a long and tedious rehabilitation process for a torn ACL and LCL, that Kyle Schwarber had been officially added to the World Series roster. Schwarber will continue to serve as the DH in the games hosted at Progressive Field, though his status for games at Wrigley Field over the upcoming weekend under NL rules is unclear.

As a rookie in 2015, Schwarber played in his first ever postseason last October and belted five home runs (which, for better or worse, stands as the Cubs career playoff record) over 31 plate appearances, seeming to make him the perfect fit for the DH role in this situation. If Schwarber is able to continue the magic, he could serve as a large contributor to the Cubs’ push for the championship.

Chicago will take the field in Game 1 behind lefthander Jon Lester, winner of two World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox. Lester is 2-0 in three starts this postseason, with a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings of work. He’ll be countered by Corey Kluber, who is 2-1 with a 0.98 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18.1 innings.

The series continues Wednesday with reigning NL Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta taking the mound for the Cubs in Game 2.

The Indians have suffered a tumultuous October with a bevy of injuries to their starting rotation, making much of their run hinged either on selecting starters late in series or using their bullpen to piece together starts.

Trevor Bauer, who suffered a laceration on his pinky finger from an incident with a drone and was removed after just two-thirds of an inning from his last start, will be scheduled to start either game two or three along with Josh Tomlin. Suffering a forearm issue and missing the month of September and the entire postseason, the Indians announced that starting pitcher Danny Salazar was added to the World Series roster and will likely make a start at Wrigley Field this weekend.

Newcomer Ryan Merritt, who served as the Game 5 hero during the ALCS for the Indians, securing their victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, will likely also be slated for a start in this series after making the roster. Merritt made his first postseason start and pitched 3.1 innings in Toronto October 19th. He allowed just two hits, no runs, and surrendered no walks during his start.

Jason Kipnis's disgusting ankle.
Jason Kipnis’s disgusting ankle.

And Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, who injured his left ankle in the celebrations after clinching the ALCS, said Tuesday that he would try to play through a sprained ankle. Pictures of the injury were posted online ahead of Game 1 showing a joint that appeared to be roughly the color and size of a ripe eggplant.

The Cubs will finish up Game 2 of the series at Cleveland tonight before heading to Wrigley Field to host the Indians for Games 3 and 4 (and possibly 5) this weekend. Probables include Hendricks and John Lackey for the first two games of the weekend.

Questions abound in both clubhouses but one thing is certain: decades of pain and hardship will come to an end for one fanbase with the closing act of this World Series.

Cat is a Staff Writer for BP Wrigleyville and BP Southside, Baseball Prospectus’ blogs covering Chicago baseball, and a Contributor for Follow her on Twitter: @TheBaseballGirl.

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