8:05 PM EST, FOX – Money Line: Cubs -120, Run Line: 6.5
It all comes down to this folks, as the 2016 World Series will come to it’s history-making conclusion as the Cleveland Indians host the Chicago Cubs in what is just the eleventh Game Seven since 1980. For the second time in three nights the Cubs (103-68, 1st in NL Central) managed to stave off elimination, as their powerful Lineup continued their reawakening as they jumped on the Indians’ Pitching Staff from the jump, chasing Josh Tomlin from the mound after just 2.1 innings of labor. Chicago scored seven of their nine runs in the 9-3 rout during the first three innings, with six of those charged to Tomlin, as Joe Maddon’s charges had no trouble making contact with the Righthander’s pitches. The bleeding started with a Kris Bryant (.292 BA, 39 HR, 102 RBI) solo homer to deep Left Field (his second in as many games), followed consecutive Singles courtesy of Anthony Rizzo (.292 BA, 32 HR, 19 RBI) and Ben Zobrist (.272 BA, 18 HR, 76 RBI) before Addison Russell (.238 BA, 21 HR, 95 RBI) drove both home with a Double to Center Field. However, that wouldn’t be the last we would hear from Russell, who just two frames later pelted a Grand Slam off Reliever Dan Otero (who just replaced Tomlin), becoming the first player in World Series’ History to register six RBIs in a single game before turning twenty-five years of age. From that point it was academic, as the Cubbies rode the arm of Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA), who for the second time in this series shut down Cleveland’s Lineup, tossing a quality 5.2 innings of work, yielding a pair of runs on three hits, while racking up nine strikeouts opposed to three walks. Curiously, Maddon deployed Closer Aroldis Chapman (16 Saves, 1.01 ERA) midway through the Seventh Stanza specifically to combat the middle of the host’s Order, as the Cuban Lefty relinquished a run on one hit with a strikeout and a walk in 1.1 innings before the combination of Pedro Strop and Travis Wood closed things out. Many have questioned Maddon’s decision to utilize Chapman once more for a lengthy duration, particularly given the circumstances; the Closer threw forty pitches in Game Five’s 3-2 victory, followed by another twenty last night, despite the game apparently being well out of hand. With that said, Chicago’s Front Office didn’t ship a fortune worth of prospects to the Yankees for Chapman’s services, just to keep him stashed on the Bench with their season on the brink of devastation. After all, Chapman has pitched on zero days rest 111 times this season, and has actually logged a lower ERA (1.70) and a higher Strikeout/Walk Ratio (5.1) under those circumstances in comparison to a 2.23 ERA and 3.1 Strikeout/Walk Ratio otherwise. Granted, the Manager’s decision probably speaks more to a lack of confidence in the REST of his Bullpen, which was a major problem before acquiring Chapman in the first place. However, you can bet that Maddon has plenty of confidence in tonight’s Starter, Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA). At times this season, the young Righthander was downright unhittable, and brings a fifteen-inning scoreless streak into Game Seven, becoming just the third player in Major League history to do so, and the first since 1967. The National League’s ERA Leader lasted 4.1 innings in Game Three, permitting six hits with as many strikeouts and a pair of walks.
Meanwhile, after taking a commanding 3-1 lead it’s come to this for the Indians (94-67, 1st in AL Central), who are now on their third opportunity to close this Series out, and by doing so end an agonizing sixty-eight year championship drought. After brilliantly traversing through the first four games, Terry Francona has been playing with fire of late, as very little has gone right for the Tribe over the last two contests. In short, Game Five’s 9-3 defeat was a train wreck. As mentioned earlier, Tomlin (13-9, 4.40 ERA) never appeared settled, as the Righthander had absolutely no answer for the visiting side’s power; Chicago made contact with a staggering forty-two of Tomlin’s forty-eight pitches!!! No wonder he was relieved of his duties midway through the Second Inning, though he left the bases loaded for the aforementioned Otero, who served up the Grand Slam to Russell. For their efforts, Danny Salazar, Jeff Manship, and Zach McAllister stopped the bleeding briefly before Mike Clevenger gave up two more runs in the Ninth, including an Anthony Rizzo two-run homer. On the flipside of things, the Lineup did very little Tuesday Night, as Jason Kipnis (.275 BA, 23 HR, 82 RBI) was the only Indian that experienced any real success at the plate. The Second Baseman accounted for all of Cleveland’s scoring, going 3-of-5, with a pair of runs while driving in one himself, while the rest of the Order could muster just 3-of-22 hitting against Arrieta and Co. With all that said, Francona still has two very big aces (no pun intended) up his sleeves in the form of Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller, who together have been the most dominant pitchers in this Postseason. For the second time in this Series, Kluber (18-9, 3.14 ERA) will operate on three days rest, as the Cubs have to figure him out in his two previous starts against them; after overpowering them with his Fastball in Game One, the 2014 AL Cy Young masterfully vexed them in Game Four with his Off-Speed selection yielding one lone run on nine hits in twelve innings of labor, striking out a whopping fifteen opponents compared to one walk. If the 30-year old should begin to show signs of wear, then Miller (4-0, 1.55 ERA) will be the next choice, particularly given he’s well rested. The towering Lefthander didn’t pitch in Games Five or Six, and with the 0ff-day between the two, has now had three days of rest, leaving him fresh for plenty of work in Game Seven. A frightening proposition for the Cubs indeed. Appearing three times in this Series, Miller has relinquished one run (his first of the Playoffs) on three hits, including eight strikeouts and three walks in 5.1 frames of work. He even earned the victory in Game Three’s 1-0 standoff, replacing Tomlin with one out to go in the Fifth Inning, striking out three of the four batters faced en route to the win. Cleveland needs their two biggest arms to continue to perform like they have throughout the month of October, but in the end home field may just be what gives tem the edge; we mentioned earlier that tonight’s contest marks the eleventh Game Seven in World Series History, and home teams have enjoyed a decisive advantage winning all but one of the previous ten games. Yes, yes y’all! Who got the vibe? The Tribe y’all!!!
Predicted Outcome: Indians 3, Cubs 2