The Indians didn’t rediscover their winning ways back home, as the Cubs took Game 6 of the World Series 9-3, forcing a Game 7 on Wednesday night.
It didn’t take long for Game 6 to feel like it was over. Kris Bryant hit a solo shot off of Josh Tomlin in the first inning, and the Cubs followed that up with two more runs off the bat of Addison Russell — all because Tyler Naquin didn’t call or attempt to catch a routine fly ball in center.
That, and Jake Arrieta, was a good start for securing a win and forcing Game 7, but Russell and the Cubs piled on with a grand slam in the third off of Dan Otero, who had just entered the game in relief of Tomlin. Then it was about Arrieta and the Chicago bullpen holding off the Indians the rest of the way — Arrieta struck out nine with two runs allowed in 5-2/3, Mike Montgomery threw a scoreless inning, then Joe Maddon once again went to his closer in a win-or-go-home situation.
Aroldis Chapman would end the threat in the seventh, but at a potential cost. As he slammed his foot down on first base in a foot race with Francisco Lindor to avoid loading the bases, Chapman’s knee buckled, and he gingerly walked off the field at the end of the inning. He would come back out for the eighth, though, and managed to hit triple digits without giving up a run.
Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run shot in the top of the ninth to make it 9-2, but Maddon didn’t immediately remove Chapman. On the one hand, his pitch count was 20, so he should have plenty left for Game 7 if need be. Well, probably — Chapman has thrown 62 pitches in the last two games, albeit with a day off in between.
The 3-1 lead the Indians held no longer means a thing. All we know for sure is that Cleveland’s ace, Corey Kluber, will be starting Game 7, and doing so after two relatively easygoing World Series starts in which he threw just 88 and 81 pitches. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are both rested, thanks to consecutive Cubs wins and a day off in between, and Bryan Shaw is also rested should Kluber need to exit earlier than usual.
The Cubs will counter with this year’s ERA leader, Kyle Hendricks, after avoiding elimination twice, and while they might have to worry about Chapman’s knee maybe stiffening up once the adrenaline wears off, you have to imagine that their ace, Jon Lester, is available to pitch in relief on short rest with an entire offseason ahead of him to recover.
The Indians are going to blow a 3-1 lead, or the Cubs are going to get as close as possible to ending baseball’s lengthiest championship drought and fail to do so. These are the two options, and we’ll see which one baseball has chosen for us on Wednesday night. Either way, there is going to be heartbreak.