Photo: The New Yorker
Are you ready America? The Major League Baseball season has come down to the two most fabulous words in professional sports…Game 7!
Yes, the suddenly surging Chicago Cubs took care of business in Game 6, and now carry momentum into Wednesday night’s winner take all. Did you know that this will be the 38th Game 7 in World Series history & the 3rd in the last 6 years? It seems apropos that a World Series finale, between two teams that have not won a championship in a combined 176 years, will be played in “Progressive” Field. After all, a quick look at definitions for progressive in the dictionary offered: favoring or advocating progress, improvement, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are. Boy, don’t fans of both franchises feel exactly this way? The final out of Game 6 was hardly recorded before we started hearing many of the all-time, big-game, sports-world cliches. You know, ones like: “our backs are to the wall”, and, “tonight is do or die”; “there’s no tomorrow” is popular at this time, as is, “it’s all hands on deck time”. While these are all true and applicable, I think the quote/cliche best suited for a Game 7 in baseball, comes from Baltimore Orioles skipper, Earl Weaver, who is credited with having said: “momentum is only as good as the next day’s starter”.
So, that is where I will start my Game 7 preview.
Cleveland’s Corey Kluber’s postseason numbers (ALDS, ALCS and WS) are, well, STUPID! The winner of game’s 1 and 4 of the Fall Classic, is 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA, with 35 strikeouts and just 8 walks over 30.1 innings pitched. Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks has not exactly been a slouch. While he is only 1-1 over the same time frame (20.2 innings pitched), he does sport a nifty 1.31 ERA. The starters look to be fairly even, but I give the nod to the Tribe because home field advantage helps, and “Klubot”, as he’s referred to by his teammates, is really locked in.
Offensively, neither lineup has really flexed its muscles throughout the first six games. In fact, if you look at the numbers, the teams are basically mirror images of each other at the plate. The Cubs as a team are hitting just .233 with 6 HR’s and 19 RBI’s, whereas the Indians have hit only .229 with 6 HR’s and 18 RBI’s. Tuesday night, Chicago’s big bats did break out (Kris Bryant & Anthony Rizzo went a combined 7-10 with 2 HR’s and 3 RBI’s), and Ben Zobrist continues to heat up. Cleveland’s two best hitters have been Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis, who went 3-5 with a HR Tuesday as well. Bottom line is, offense has come sparingly, and I wouldn’t expect that trend to change in Game 7. However, are we not due for a 10-9 game or something like that? Either way, I give the edge here to the Cubbies.
Looking for an area in which one team has the clear cut advantage Wednesday night? Well, it lies out behind the center field wall, in the Indians bullpen. We all know how good Andrew Miller has been this postseason. In his 9 appearances overall, check out these numbers: 2-0, 1 Save, 17 IP, 8 H, 29 K’s, 4 BB’s, 1 ER, 0.53 ERA. Not to be overlooked is his teammate and closer, Cody Allen. All he has done is post amazing numbers of his own: 6 Saves, 11.2 IP, 8 H, 22 K’s, 4 BB’s, 0.00 ERA. As for the Cubs bullpen, Joe Maddon has zero confidence in anyone not named Aroldis Chapman. It is easy to see why, Chapman has been very good this October/November too (12 appearances, 14.1 IP, 8 H, 19 K’s, 6 BB’s, 2.89 ERA).
Photo: The Salt Lake Tribune
However, in my eyes, there was absolutely no reason for him to pitch in Game 6 with his team leading 7-2. That he was still in the game, even for one batter in the ninth inning (following Rizzo’s 2-run homer making it 9-2), was stunning! Maddon’s excuse that he couldn’t get Pedro Strop up and warm fast enough to get the final 3 outs was just that, an excuse (and a lame one).
Chapman has now thrown 62 high leverage, and of course, high velocity pitches (more than half at 100 MPH or higher) since Sunday night. It is something he is not accustomed to, and I have to think it has taken its toll on him. On the flip side, Andrew Miller has not pitched since Game 4 on Saturday, meaning he could provide Tito Francona with 3 or 4 innings if needed. Game 7 could very well become, extended “Miller Time”, and I am sure Cubs hitters want no part of.
Photo; The New York Times
Even if you are not a baseball fan, do yourself a favor and check out at least the beginning of the game. Unless someone breaks the game open with a few early runs, the drama will build with each and every pitch.
And that is My 2 Sense for this week.