The Indians won one. The Cubs won one. Then, the Indians won two. Then, the Cubs won two. Now, we’re left with one game to determine the 2016 World Series Champion as we get the 37th Game 7 in World Series history.
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The Indians were up three games to one and had the series all but locked up, but the Cubs have clawed all the way back. The momentum is in the Cubs’ court even though the venue is Progressive Field in Cleveland.
The Cubs have won two of the first three games played in Cleveland, taking advantage of the DH by getting Kyle Schwarber several at bats per game. He gives the lineup a completely different look.
In Game 6, Schwarber hit second, bumping everyone else down the order. It was those others that did the damage, however. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell hit in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth spot respectively. The four busted out, each with a big game.
The Cubs offense had a similarly slow start in the NLCS as they did in this World Series, but rebounded with a strong few games to close out that series. Could this be the same scenario? Can those hot bats from Game 6 carry over to Game 7 or was that more a product of a big first inning and pressure being lifted as a result?
The one thing the Indians have that the Dodgers’ didn’t was a lock down bullpen with the big guns rested and ready to go.
It comes down to Corey Kluber against Kyle Hendricks in the last game of the 2016 season.
For Kluber, the postseason couldn’t have gone any better. The veteran right-hander and former Cy Young winner is having a postseason to remember.
In five starts since the end of the regular season, the ace is 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA and 0.989 WHIP spread over 30.1 innings. He’ll be asked to go six if he can before turning the ball over to some combination of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. That formula has worked quite well for the Tribe.
There is some concern around Kluber as he starts on three days of rest for back-to-back starts. He wasn’t fazed in Game 4, allowing one run in six innings, but he was a bit less dominant in his Game 4 start on short rest in the ALCS. Still, you cannot complain about three runs in 30.1 innings.
On the other side, Hendricks held the Indians scoreless in his Game 3 start, but he did so in just 4.1 innings. He worked his way out of trouble—and the bullpen bailed him out, too—as he allowed six hits and two walks.
Over the course of the postseason, he’s been a bit less consistent than Kluber, but he did look very good in the NLCS against the Dodgers and overall has 2.45 postseason ERA in six starts between this season and last.
While the last month of pitching tells an interesting story, the regular season cannot be ignored. We have two pitchers that pitched well enough to get serious Cy Young consideration in their respective leagues.
Kluber went 18-9 with 3.14 ERA while Hendricks went 16-8 with an NL leading 2.13 ERA. Both Kluber and Hendricks, led their leagues in ERA+.
Joe Maddon went to Aroldis Chapman in the seventh inning of Game 6 while up 7-2. Yes, there were two on with Francisco Lindor at the plate, but it was a curious move given the five run lead.
We saw Chapman tweak his knee on the play that retired Lindor at first. He came back out and pitched the eighth and to one batter in the ninth before Pedro Strop and Travis Wood combined to finish the game.
Chapman should still be a full go for Game 7, but using him was still a curious move that could have an impact on how deep he can go on Wednesday or at least how effective he will be.
An ace on short rest, the NL ERA leader, the Cubs’ offense clicking, the best bullpen duo in the game and a never ending supply of story lines thanks to two historic franchises makes for great drama and a great betting opportunity.
When push comes to shove, pitching wins championships and while the Cubs have the better rotation, the Indians have the pitching advantage in Game 7.
Kluber has been flat out amazing in the postseason, even on short rest. The same can be said for Miller and Allen who are the biggest reason the Indians are even in this position. Both Miller and Allen could each could give a couple of innings on Wednesday.
As for the bats, we’ve seen the Indians score one more run this series than the Cubs, but we’ve seen the Cubs shutout twice while the Indians have always been able to scratch across at least a run or two. Look for them to scratch across a couple more and take what figures to be another low scoring game.
MLB Odds: Indians 4, Cubs 3