We Need More Schwarber
In this World Series of have nots, the Cubs and Indians split the two games played in the city that used to be known as ‘The Mistake By the Lake’. The Cubs misfortunes, of course, have been widely dissected here and afar. The Cubs haven’t played in a World Series game in 71 years. As for the Indians, they haven’t won anything since 1948 and have also had their share of misfortune over the years. As far as all of Cleveland professional teams is concerned, up until this summer, when the Cavs won the NBA championship, they had a collective professional team drought that dated back, to well, 1948, when the Indians beat the then Boston Braves 4 games to 2.
The sports landscape today in Cleveland is not as barren this October. The Cavaliers, led by King James, pulled out a historic comeback when they defeated the Golden State Warrior in June to make up a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals. The Indians just simply won’t face the pressure to win in order to bring relief to the beleaguered city. On this opening night of the World Series, the Cavaliers played their NBA opener and collected their championship rings.
Cleveland entered the World Series after having faced minimal resistance in the American League. They swept Boston in the ALDS, and promptly took care of a very good Toronto Blue Jay team 4-1 in the ALCS. Their skipper, ex Boston manager Terry Francona, was perfect in the World Series, having gone 8-0 with the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox, the 2004 edition being the team that finally conquered the curse of the Bambino.
In Game 1, Cleveland started their ace Corey Kluber and he delivered. The Cubs countered with John Lester, their most experienced pitcher (Lester was 4-2 in the post season including the Game 4 clincher against the Rockies in the 2007 World Series). By the end of the 3rd inning, Kluber struck out 8 Cub batters. Lester on the other hand, struggled from the get go. Cleveland scored two runs with two outs in the bottom of the first. Lindor singled and stole second (Lester can’t throw to first base). A couple of walks and an infield hit later, and Cleveland had drawn first blood and led 2-0.
Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez hit the first of his two home-runs with a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth to put the Indians up 3-0. Kluber, meanwhile, continued to stifle the Cubs, scattering 4 hits in 61/3 innings before being relieved by Andrew Miller. The next batter, the recently activated Kyle Schwarber, singled to add to his earlier double. Jorge Baez singled to load the bases. Miller, who had been so effective all post-season, was in an immediate jam of his own doing. He managed to get out by getting Contreras to fly out and striking out Addison Russel and David Rloss.
Perez cracked his second homer (a 2 run shot) in the bottom of the eighth to seal the victory. (Perez became only the second catcher other than Yogi Berra to catch a shutout and hit two home runs in a World Series Game.) The Cubs Contreras doubled in the ninth but was stranded on second. The Indians had their victory, and Francona undefeated streak in the World Series continued.
The only positive sign for the Cubs was that they had made Miller throw more than 50 pitches, thus making his availability for Game 2 questionable. Moreover, and more importantly, the Cubs made him work harder than he wanted to, and they got a good look at his stuff. I think Francona would have been better off leaving Kluber in the game, as dominant as he was.
With rain in the forecast, Game 2 started an hour earlier than normal. Cubs ace Jake Arrieta was paired against the Trevor Bauer. Apparently the Cubs couldn’t wait long enough, as they came out swinging and scoring, early and often. In the top of the first, Rizzo doubled to right, scoring Bryant from first. In the 3rd, with two outs and two strikes, Rizzo worked a walk. After a Zobrist single, Schwarber continued his amazing comeback from ACL surgery in April by singling to center, driving in Rizzo.
By the time he had pitched 3 2/3 innings, Bauer had thrown over 80 pitches, a much different story than Game 1, when Kluber used that many pitches to pitch twice as many innings. What Kluber did to the Cubs in Game 1, Arrieta returned the favor in Game 2. He had a no-hitter going into the sixth, when gave 2 hits after retiring in 5 1/3 innings (both hits in the fifth) worked before turning it over to the bullpen.
The Cubs went wild in the 5th, scoring three runs. It was Rizzo and Zobrist again (single and triple respectively). Schwarber singled, scoring Zobrist. Contreras was then safe on an error by Indians second baseman Kipnis. After Jorge Soler walked to load the bases, Russell walked scoring Schwarber.
Aroldis Chapman got his 4th save of the postseason by retiring Game 1 hero Mike Perez to close the door on Cleveland.
The surprising story of the World Series so far has been the amazing play of Kyle Schwarber, who 2 days ago, was playing in the Arizona Fall League. In two days at the World Series, he has gone 3-7 with 2 RBIs, showing a remarkable patience at the plate for someone who hasn’t seen major league pitching in 6 months. For example, even when he has struck out, he has made Cleveland pitchers work deep into the count. He is one of the reasons why Miller had to throw so many pitches in the Game 1 victory.
Rizzo has also come alive, drawing key walks as well as coming through with timely hitting. And what can you say for Zobrist, who is hitting .325 and has been Chicago’s most consistent hitter of the entire post season.
The Cubs used the formula that had made them so successful this season in producing the baseball’s best run differential: lots of walks (8) and lots of hits (9). But this statistic best illustrated the Cubs approach at the plate: 37 foul balls, 22 on two strike counts. The Cubs simply wore the Cleveland pitching out tonight.
So now it’s back to Chicago for the middle three games. The Cubs got the much desired split and now have recaptured home field advantage. Holy cow, don’t look now, but they can close this baby out at home.