Cubs Push Series to the Breaking Point; Dominate Game 6 to Force Game 7

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on Wednesday, November 2.

Yes, we’re playing baseball on a date that was Election Day in 1920 when a few radio owners heard KDKA tell them that Harding had beaten out Cox for the Presidency.  The Indians had won the World Series but it had been played nearly a month earlier and was a distant memory to anybody outside of Cleveland.  Now, the Cubs who looked utterly  hopeless on Sunday morning are poised to shock the world by coming back from being down 3 games to 1 as game 7 creeps arthritically closer.  After an intense game 5 on Sunday, last night’s 9–3 Cubs’ win  was no contest.  Josh Tomlin had nothing and the Cubs were all over him.  He got the first two outs but that was his high water mark.  Chris Bryant uncorked a tremendous home run that made the stadium which should still be Jacobs Field sound like Wrigley sounded two nights ago. It was the first of 4 hits he would collect before the night was done. But the real offensive hero was Addison Russell.  The kid of 22 tied a World Series record with 6 RBIS on his first two atbats. After Bryant’s home run, the next two Cubs reached and Russell drove them in with a double that shouldn’t have been.  Neither Indians’ center fielder Tyler Naquin nor right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall called for it, so as a result neither one caught it.  It was a play out of the 1962 Mets’ playbook which put the Cubs ahead 3-0.  Two innings later, Russell became the second youngest man to hit a grand slam in a World Series.  Mickey Mantle, at age 21 did the deed in 1953 for the Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers.  When Russell dialed long distance it made the score 7–0 and ended any hopes for game 6 as far as Indians’ fans were concerned.  Jake Arrieta did his bit, striking out 9 men before leaving in the 6th.  The Cubs got 4 outs from Aroldis Chapman but pulled him so he might be available yet again in game 7 should he be needed. Might_ is the word since he’s never thrown so many pitches in so few days since defecting from Cuba in 2012.

The starting pitching matchup is as good as you could want for a game 7 in any man’s World Series.  They don’t have the experience of Jack Morris and john Smoltz, but tonight’s starters can carry the mail with the best of them.  Corey Kluber won a Cy Young award for the Indians in 2014, the year he led the  league in wins.That’s nice work for a player who has two surgical screws in his elbow thanks to an operation he underwent while he was a high school student.

This was_ Danny Salazar’s year to be the Indians’ number 1 starter until injuries reduced him to an ineffectual relief pitcher and set the Indians scrambling for starters.   Kluber stepped up like the Cy Young winner he had been  two years ago. He  shut the Cubs out cold in game 1 and also claimed victory in game 4. The man called the KluBot has a 4–1 record and a tiny 0.89 ERA this postseason.  At age 30, the righty from Birmingham, Alabama wants to be a champion like Deontay  Wilder, the Alabama native who is world heavyweight boxing champion at this writing.     The Cubs counter with Kyle Hendricks who has put his name up there with the best during this postseason. He has been beaten just once by a 1-0 score and has a 1.31 ERA in the postseason. He will be 27 on December 7. His teammates call him “The Professor,” because he was a Dartmouth boy. Ivy Leaguers are a lot more commonly found working at  law firms than on baseball teams. Lou Gehrig and Ron Darling are two of the relative handful who have made it from the Ivy League to the top of their chosen profession, baseball. In game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Columbia’s Gene Larkin, the Twins’ DH who had broken all Lou Gehrig’s records hit the scoring fly ball to win the game in extra innings.   As a rookie in 2014 Hendricks  was 7-2, then 8-7 a year later.  Nothing could prepare the Cubs for what he has done in 2016. He won 16 games while losing just 8 and led all of MLB in ERA. No Cub had done that since 1938 thanks to the small dimensions and strong prevailing winds at Wrigley Field. No Cub had even led the National League in ERA since 1945.  Hendricks was 9–2 after the All-Star break, far better than at any time since his rookie year. On Oct. 22, his brilliant pitching launched the Cubs into this World Series, and now he’s the man to try and bring victory to the city for the first time since 1908, the year double-sided records were introduced.  Yes, they played at 78 RPM but they had songs on both sides, which couldn’t be said of records made before 1908. A man with 75 cents that wasn’t working too hard could go buy a record of “Mother Hasn’t Spoken to Father Since,” or the baseball hit “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Scott Joplin wrote “Figleaf Rag,” and ‘Pineapple Rag.” But ragtime music was looked down on by the kind of people who look down on hip-hop today. (Only this time they’re right.) A month after the Cubs won their last World Series, newspapers carried the headline that William Howard Taft would be President the following March. The gigantic Taft began the 7th-inning stretch tradition.  Legend has it that he stood up in the middle of the 7th at a game in Washington,  and the people around him thought if the President stood up they should do the same.  The singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the stretch would be added later. What few Americans read books in 1908 were just getting over the national bellyache caused by the release of Upton Sinclair’s book “The Jungle,” the first book to give a nation an idea how its food was being prepared. You think modern bologna is bad? Take a look at that book-if you dare! It’s still around. Children learning to read in 1908 saw the new book “Wind in the Willows,” by Kenneth Graham that was still popular 70 years later. Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote “Anne of Green Gables” in 1908. Almost a century later one of my nieces enjoyed that book enormously. The writer of a myriad Westerns, Louis L’Amour was born early in 1908. So was Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. Bond lives on though his creator met an early death in 1964. Such was the scene when last the Cubs took the World Series which itself was relatively new, having first been played in 1903.

The last truly great game 7 was in 2001 when the Yankees faced the Diamondbacks.  Alfonso Soriano hit a home run in the 9th which, by the laws of averages should have won the game for the Bronx Bombers.  After all, Mariano Rivera was coming in for the save.  But the impossible can happen.  Rivera made an error on a bunt play, setting up the D-Backs with the game winning runners. Luis Gonzalez singled ending the Yankees’ dynasty. Before that it was the Morris-Smoltz matchup of 1991, then the 1975 Red Sox-Reds game 7 where the Big Red Machine broke a tie in the 9th to win 4–3 in Boston.  1967 and 1968 were both before my time, but baseball stories come down through the generations.  In 1967 An unstoppable Bob Gibson beat the Red Sox and a gassed Jim Lomborg as he had done to the Yankees 3 seasons earlier. Lomborg would tear his ACL not two months later and never be close to his old self.   In 1968 Mickey Lolich was the game 7 hero, quieting the Cardinals in St. Louis.  No game 7 will ever match 1960 when the Pirates hosted the Yankees at Forbes Field. The Yanks had destroyed the Pirates 3 times while the Buckos had won 3 tight games from the Yankees.  The Yankees had a 7-4 lead going to the last of the 8th when Tony Kubek took a bad hop to the throat off of Forbes’ Field’s notoriously rocky infield.  That ignited a 5-run Pirates rally featuring a 3-run home run by Hal Smith to make it 9-7.  The Yankees tied it at 9, setting the stage for an early iconic TV moment in the World Series.  Now it would be called a “Sports Center moment’ and a “walk-off home run,” but both expressions were 30 years away.  Bill Mazeroski, the last Pirate you would expect to launch one out of spacious Forbes Field managed to do just that, propeling the Pirates to a 10-9 win. That game 7 was played in the afternoon.  Fans around the country have to wait until 8 PM for tonight’s game 7 to begin and probably until well past midnight for it to end.

 

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