CLEVELAND — This is it. Everything that started in early April, or mid-February, really, is coming to a conclusion Wednesday night. The 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians comes to a close with Game 7.
After falling behind 3-1 at home, the Cubs salvaged Game 5 and then crushed the Indians in Game 6 to set the scene for a one-game winner-take-all battle for the elusive World Series trophy.
The Indians will end a drought that goes back to 1948 with a win. If it’s the Cubs, it’s a drought ending that goes back to 1908.
Now stick with us as we live-blog Game 7 of the 2016 World Series …
Let’s dive in on the pitching matchup. It’s a dandy.
Corey Kluber vs. Cubs
Oh, wait, you want more? OK …
Kluber might win his second AL Cy Young award this season and he has been an absolute assassin in the postseason. Through five starts, he’s 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 35 strikeouts and eight walks in 30 1/3 innings.
Kluber had never previously started a game on short (three days off) rest, but this postseason he has started twice on short rest and now he’ll do it in back-to-back starts for the first time in his career.
Will that matter? It’ll be interesting to see. Kluber hasn’t allowed a run this postseason on normal (or more) rest. On short rest, he has given up three earned runs in 11 innings, which is a 2.45 ERA. That’s still incredible.
Kluber says that so far he hasn’t noticed a difference.
“I still get in the same amount of work in between, it’s just a little condensed,” he said before Game 6. “I haven’t, for me personally, I haven’t found much of a difference yet in the way I feel when I go out there on three days’ rest as opposed to four.”
One does wonder if seeing a pitcher three times in a span of nine days helps the opposition. Conventional wisdom in baseball is that if a batter and pitcher have never faced one another it’s an advantage for the pitcher, particularly if he has nasty stuff like Kluber. Take note of how he set a record with eight strikeouts in three innings against the Cubs in Game 1 and they scored a run off him in the first inning in Game 4.
Of course, that’s the only run they got off of him.
It won’t be surprising if the Cubs can put up a modest run total — three or four, maybe? — against Kluber, but it also won’t be surprising to see him shut them down into the late innings.
Kyle Hendricks vs. Indians
Hendricks might win the NL Cy Young, though the hunch is he settles somewhere in the 3-5 range in voting. Still, what a remarkable pitching matchup in Game 7 of the World Series. I don’t think both will win the award, but no Game 7 has ever featured a Cy Young winner vs. a Cy Young winner in the seasons they won.
During the regular season, Hendricks led the majors with a 2.13 ERA. He had an outing in the NLDS cut short due to getting hit in the arm with a liner, but since then he has a 0.53 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in three starts. In the clinching Game 6 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, he outdueled Clayton Kershaw with 7 1/3 scoreless innings.
So he has faced off against a Cy Young winner thus far, though he hasn’t done so in an elimination game. He has never pitched in an elimination game, in fact, though his résumé says that not much really gets to him in the form of pressure.
“I’m just going to embrace the opportunity like I have the rest of this postseason, honestly,” Hendricks said Tuesday. “Approach it like any other game, simple thoughts, the same old thing.”
So has a chance to be the winning pitcher of both the NLCS clincher and World Series clincher.
Hendricks is on normal rest, for those curious.
Against the Indians in Game 2, he allowed zero runs, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings and was getting squared up. Take the conventional wisdom we discussed with Kluber, and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the Indians get even better swings against him this time.
Of course, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him deal as well.
The table is set for a classic pitcher’s duel in Game 7 of the World Series. Oh baby.
CBS Sports predictions
Predicting the result of one game in baseball is generally a fool’s errand, but here we are! Drink it in, man.
Kluber-Miller-Allen shuts down the Cubs’ lineup.
|Mike Axisa||3-0||The Klubot goes into terminator mode and shines even though he’s starting for the third time in nine days. Miller and Allen do what they do in the late innings. Offensive hero: Jason Kipnis.|
|Jonah Keri||3-2||Javier Baez sheds the Pedro Cerrano label with a ninth-inning home run for the ages.|
|Dayn Perry||4-2||Kluber is effective once again on short-rest and Andrew Miller lifts a heavy load after Kluber exits in the sixth. Francisco Lindor hits a big two-out double.|
|Bill Reiter||4-3||Kluber turns over a thee-hit gem to Miller before the wheels come off in the most stunning eighth inning in Cubs — and World Series — history. Bill Murray spontaneously combusts on live television shortly thereafter.|
|Matt Snyder||7-2||They get to Kluber early in Game 7 for three runs in three innings and then destiny takes over.|
When we find out who was right and who was wrong, we won’t have MLB action until next season. Sad emoji.