By Shane Nicholson
The Chicago Cubs defied the odds, clawing back a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 World Series to force a deciding Game 7 Wednesday night in Cleveland.
The Cubs struck early, with Kris Bryant, re-inserted in the 3-spot in the lineup, smashed a two-out home run to left in the top of the first. A pair of singles from Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist later and Addison Russell came to plate with two on and two outs.
The Cubs shortstop flew to right-center on a 1-1 pitch for what should have been the third out, but Indians’ outfielders Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall (him continuing his wonderful impression of his namesake Lonnie Smith in this World Series) both let each other have the first chance at the third out. The ball settled softly on the Progressive Field grass as Rizzo and then Zobrist both hurried around to score, giving Chicago a 3-0 after the first.
That man Russell would strike again in the top of the third, this time with the bases loaded of Northsiders.
Kyle Schwarber recorded a leadoff walk ahead of a Bryant fly out and another set of base hits from Rizzo and Zobrist. Cleveland manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen even earlier than he would have liked, calling on Dan Otero to relieve starter and Game 3 hero Josh Tomlin.
But Francona’s stroke of luck had run dry. Russell took a 2-0 pitch deep into the Cleveland night, giving the Cubs a 7-0 lead in the Game 6 elimination tie.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 2, 2016
Jake Arrieta was up to the task for the Cubs, working 5.2 innings and striking out nine, giving up two runs, with only the control problems he’s flashed throughout the 2016 season dragging him into rough spots.
He was relieved by lefthander Mike Montgomery, who worked a scoreless inning before being replaced by Aroldis Chapman. The fireballer entered in the seventh inning for the second consecutive game. Thankfully for Cubs fans, he would not be asked to work the rest of the game as he had done in Game 5 when he threw 42 pitches to record eight outs during the Cubs’ 3-2 victory.
In the top of the ninth, Bryant drew a two-out walk, bringing Rizzo to the plate. Chicago’s first baseman launched a Mike Clevinger changeup into the rightfield seats, giving the Cubs a seven-run lead for the second time in the game.
Cleveland would grab one more in the bottom of the ninth but it would not be enough. Russell grabbed a pop out in foul territory to record the final out and send the Cubs to second consecutive World Series Game 7 in as many appearances for the franchise.
Game 7 of the World Series comes to you Wednesday night with the first pitch at 7:00 p.m. on FOX39 and WSCR AM670. Television coverage begins at 6 p.m.
We will have complete coverage ahead of the 38th Game 7 in World Series history right here on RockRiverTimes.com.