By Shane Nicholson
ABREO RESTAURANT/DOWNTOWN – The Chicago Cubs outlasted the elements, a battle-tested Indians pitching staff, and a tired bullpen of their own, winning a Game 7 classic 8-7 in 10 innings to clinch their first World Series title in 108 years.
The Cubs hit Cleveland ace Corey Kluber early and often, chasing the Indians stopper in the top of the fifth. Dexter Fowler led off the game with a home run to straightaway centerfield, a towering drive that hung high in the Cleveland night sky.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 3, 2016
Kluber was able to settle down after that first leadoff homer in a Game 7 in history, and just the fourth run he’d given up this postseason, but the righthander who had punished the Cubs in two starts earlier in the series rarely looked in control.
His opposition Kyle Hendricks first found danger in the third inning when Coco Crisp led off with a double, coming around to score after a sacrifice and a base hit. Javy Baez’s second error of the game gave Cleveland two on with one out as the Cubs bullpen swung into action.
But Hendricks shut down the Tribe, with Francisco Lindor flying out softly to right before Mike Napoli lined out to Bryant to end the Cleveland threat.
The Cubs responded in the top of the fourth, when Addison Russell with two runners on hit a looping fly ball to center. Cleveland’s Rajai Davis came on but caught the ball flat-footed and fired high to the plate where Kris Bryant slid in under the tag. Willson Contreras doubled home Ben Zobrist a batter later and the Cubs worked the rest of the inning to a 3-1 lead.
Kluber came back out to start the fifth despite Andrew Miller being ready and warm in the Cleveland bullpen. Francona’s faith in his top starter would not be rewarded this time as Baez took the first pitch of the inning and deposited it in the seats in right center. Kluber gone; Miller on; Cubs up 4-1 and in control.
Cleveland’s left handed hammer out of the bullpen was hardly the unhittable force he has been in these playoffs. Three runners ultimately reached and Bryant came around from first to score on an Anthony Rizzo single into the rightfield corner.
Hendricks came out to start the fifth but wouldn’t last the inning. After recording the first two outs, Carlos Santana avoided the hook on a 2-2 changeup that was in the zone. The Cleveland DH worked a walk out of Hendricks and Joe Maddon moved to bring in Game 5 starter Jon Lester out of the bullpen, with David Ross replacing Contreras behind the plate.
A swinging bunt by the first batter that would have been fielded by any pitcher other than Lester was left for Ross, who fired the ball through the baseline at first out of the reach of Rizzo and eventually into the grandstand. Ruled a single with an error, the Indians had runners on second and third with two out.
Lester then bounced a breaking ball in the dirt that bounced off Ross’s face mask as he tumbled to the ground. The ricochet carried the ball near the Cubs’ dugout and both Cleveland base runners came around to score to cut the Cubs’ lead to just two.
But Ross would attest for his and his battery mate’s fobbles, sending a 94 mph fastball on a 1-2 count to nearly the exact same spot Fowler found at the top of the game. The catcher, set to retire following this series, became the oldest player ever to homer in a Game 7 contest.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 3, 2016
Lester would work a scoreless bottom half of the sixth before Fowler led off the seventh with his third hit of the night. After retiring Schwarber, Miller was lifted in favor of closer Cody Allen who struck out Bryant swinging on a fastball before Fowler was gunned down attempting to steal second in a strike’em out/throw’em out double-play.
Lester would make it through two outs in the eighth, throwing three innings before handing the Cubs’ fate off to Aroldis Chapman to work his third game in a row.
The Cubs’ closer entered with one on and two out in the eighth to face Brandon Guyer, who sent a RBI double to the right-centerfield gap to plate Jose Ramirez. The damage was far from done.
In a seven-pitch at-bat, Chapman sent a 2-2 fastball to Davis that the Indians’ centerfielder yanked over the wall in the leftfield corner. An obviously tired Chapman, relying on his slider instead of his blazing fastball, struck out Yan Gomes with a runner on to exit the eighth with the game level 6-6.
A light rain was falling as Ross reached on a leadoff walk to start the top of the ninth, who was lifted for Chris Coghlan as a pinch runner. Jason Heyward rolled over on a ground ball to second but was fast enough to avoid drawing a throw, staying out of the double play.
The final instance of the three-headed monster in the Indians’ bullpen, Bryan Shaw, relieved Allen to face Baez, and Heyward reached third after a throwing error on a steal attempt of second. Baez, having swung at the 3-1 pitch out of the zone that Heyward went on, attempted to lay down a squeeze bunt on the resulting full count. But he chopped at a fastball down the middle, fouling it off for the second out. Fowler would send a soft line drive up the middle that looked like it may plate Heyward but instead played directly into the Cleveland shift.
Chapman came out to start the ninth with Miguel Montero behind the plate, retiring the Indians’ leadoff hitter before Jason Kipnis strode to the plate. The Cleveland second baseman worked a seven-pitch at-bat out of Chapman, still laying heavy on the slider before going upstairs with a 98 mph 3-2 fastball for the strikeout. Lindor would fly out softly to right, Heyward’s glove securing the the third out for the suddenly shaky flamethrower.
The showers that had began in the ninth drove the umpiring crew to call for the tarp before the start of the tenth, but the rain delay was short-lived and grounds crew was back out to clear the diamond for play just moments later.
Schwarber quickly took advantage of the now cooled-down Shaw, lining a 1-0 base hit to right. Albert Almora, Jr. replaced him on the base paths, and the youngster tagged on Bryant’s deep fly ball to reach second with one out and Rizzo due up, drawing a mound meeting out of the Indians.
The choice to walk Rizzo and face the 0-for-4 Zobrist would prove futile, as the Cubs’ ultra-utility man rifled a double into the leftfield corner to bring Almora home. Russell too would be issued the intentional walk only for Montero to send a base hit to left, giving the Cubs an 8-6 lead, chasing Shaw and bringing Trevor Bauer in to stem the tide. The Indians’ Game 2 and Game 5 starter would retire Heyward and Baez to take the game to the bottom of the 10th.
Carl Edwards, Jr., the 25-year-old Cubs’ righthander, retired the first two in the Indians’ half of the tenth before walking Guyer who advanced to second without a throw. Davis would again extend the game, singling on a line drive to center that plated Guyer and forced Maddon to turn to Mike Montgomery with the tying run at first.
On in his eleventh postseason appearance, the lefthander acquired midseason in a trade with Seattle induced a ground ball to third for the final out, sealing the Chicago National League franchise’s third World Series title.
We will have complete coverage of the Chicago Cubs first World Series win since time immortal over the next week on RockRiverTimes.com and in next week’s issue.
“What a f’ng game.” pic.twitter.com/S1TOAgc3Xh
— Chuck Miketinac (@MaxSportsSA) November 3, 2016