Six RBI from shortstop Addison Russell and another strong pitching performance from Chicago’s Jake Arrieta helped the Cubs force a Game 7 in the World Series with a 9-3 win over the Indians at Cleveland’s Progressive Field on Tuesday night.
A return home for the Indians was not enough to clinch the club’s first title since 1948, even with the last living member of that season’s team, Eddie Robinson, in attendance at Game 6 of the World Series. Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin was rocked for six runs in the first three innings and the Indians once again failed to answer the call when opportunity knocked.
The Chicago win forces a winner-takes-all showdown on Wednesday night for the title of World Champions.
The Cubs sucked the air out of Progressive Field in the first, putting up a crooked number with two outs in the inning. After Tomlin had breezed through the first two hitters on five pitches, Kris Bryant sent an 0-2 pitch over the wall in left for a solo shot to give the Cubs an early lead. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist each singled, putting runners on the corners for Russell, who was just getting his big day at the plate started. He lofted a fly into right-center, but center fielder Tyler Naquin and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall proved to be indecisive as the ball landed between the pair, allowing both runners to score and Russell to go to third on a throwing error to the plate by Jason Kipnis. Willson Contreras flied to center to end the inning, but Chicago took a 3-0 lead after just a half inning.
Cleveland worked Arrieta for a lot of pitches in the first, but had just a two-out walk by Francisco Lindor to show for it. Tomlin used just eight pitches to retire the Cubs in the second as it looked as though he had settled in on the mound. After Arrieta struck out two in a quick bottom of the second, the Cubs reopened the wound in the third and ended Tomlin’s night and the Indians’ hopes.
Kyle Schwarber, beloved by Cubs fans and Fox’s Joe Buck, walked to lead off the inning and went to second one out later on a single to center by Rizzo. Zobrist singled sharply to right to load the bases, bringing manager Terry Francona out of the dugout for reliever Dan Otero. The usually reliable relief arm threw two balls to Russell before missing over the plate and the Cubs shortstop sent a long drive to deep center and into the bleachers for a grand slam, ripping the game open at 7-0.
Arrieta had held the Indians hitless until the fourth, when Kipnis got him again for the second time this series to spoil any intentions he had on throwing a no-hitter. His double to center started Cleveland’s best scoring chance of the night, as he came in to score one out later on a single to center by Mike Napoli to make it 7-1. Jose Ramirez lined out before Chisenhall was plunked by a pitch. A passed ball allowed both runners to move up and the birthday boy Coco Crisp drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases for the rookie Naquin. With an opportunity to make amends for his defensive miscue in the field, he instead cut and missed on a 1-2 pitch to leave the bags juiced and end the inning.
Kipnis got to Arrieta again the following inning, going the opposite way with a solo homer to the bleachers in left with two down to make it a 7-2 game.
It was just the third Indians hit of the ball game at the time.
After the grand slam allowed by Otero, the Indians bullpen kept the game close. Danny Salazar struck out four and gave up just an infield single in two innings of work. Jeff Manship allowed a hit in two-thirds of an inning and Zach McAllister finished the sixth and seventh innings unscathed, giving up two singles to start his final inning of work while not allowing the score to increase.
Still down 7-2 in the home half of the seventh, the Indians put two men on against the Cubs bullpen. With one down, Roberto Perez drew a walk and one out later, a single to right by Kipnis pushed a runner into scoring position. Chicago manager Joe Maddon brought on closer Aroldis Chapman for fellow southpaw Mike Montgomery and the flamethrower retired Lindor on a grounder to first to leave two more stranded.
Double plays short circuited the eighth inning for both clubs, but the Cubs tacked on two more runs against reliever Mike Clevinger in the ninth in his second inning of work. Both runs came with two men out, as Bryant singled and Rizzo clobbered a two-run blast into the seats in right to extend the Chicago lead to 9-2.
The Indians did not roll over with the seven-run deficit with their final three outs. Chapman started the inning, walking Brandon Guyer on five pitches before he was hooked for Pedro Strop. Rajai Davis flied to left and after Guyer took second on a wild pitch, he scored on a single into the right field corner by Perez. He was gunned down at second on a strong throw from Jason Heyward, spoiling the Indians rally just as it began. Santana walked on four pitches, bringing Maddon back out of the dugout for Travis Wood, who got Kipnis to pop up to short to end the ball game.
ARRIETA WINS BIGGEST GAME OF HIS CAREER
Arrieta, a Cy Young winner last season and the owner of a no-hitter earlier this season, may consider his win in Game 6 the biggest of his career. His efforts to contain the Indians, even with a giant lead, helped to preserve the victory and to keep the Cleveland fans from getting back into the game.
For the second straight outing, he held the Indians hitless for a stretch and for the second time this series, he worked five and two-thirds innings. He allowed two runs on Tuesday on three total hits while striking out nine and walking three. He gave up just five hits in total to the Indians in his two trips to the mound in the World Series.
CHAPMAN EMERGES IN BLOWOUT
Chapman was a bit of a surprise entry in the seventh inning, as the Cubs had another arm warming in the bullpen and a five-run lead at the time.
The Indians showed a bit more success against him in his inning and a third, as Ramirez got a hit and the team scored a run against him. He walked one and struck out one and threw 20 pitches in the game, but just eleven were good for strikes.
CHICAGO SHOWS HEART
The Cubs made a lineup change, inserting DH Schwarber into the two spot in the order and bumping everyone down a spot. The move worked perfectly, as the heart of the lineup provided more than enough punch for Arrieta and Chicago on the night.
Bryant was 4-for-5 at the plate with three singles and a solo homer. He scored two runs. Rizzo went 3-for-5 with two singles and a homer, driving in two while scoring three times. Zobrist was 2-for-4 with two singles, a walk, and two runs scored. Russell provided the muscle, going 2-for-5 with a double, the grand slam, six RBI, and one run scored as he had a steady stream of runners on base in front of him.
Tomlin started quickly, but the wheels fell off completely by the third as the Cubs ran up six runs against him on six hits. He was aggressive with the strike zone, throwing 32 of 48 pitches for strikes and worked a first pitch strike to eleven of the 14 batters that he faced, but the Cubs were aggressive as well and seemed ready for Tomlin to come back over the plate.
He allowed his first home run since October 2 in the first inning on the Bryant blast. He did not strike out a batter and walked one on his abbreviated night, one that came on short rest for the first time this postseason.
KIPNIS CARRIES TRIBE
Kipnis was the offensive weapon for the Indians on Tuesday night, going 3-for-5 at the plate while coming up the ever-elusive triple short of the cycle. He plated one run himself with his homer and had two runs of the team’s three runs scored on the night.
Former Indians starting pitcher Dennis Martinez, a member of Cleveland’s 1995 World Series roster, threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 6.
THE LAST GAME OF THE YEAR
The game marked “if necessary” for six games has been deemed very necessary, as the Cubs and Indians will meet for a seventh and final time on Wednesday night to determine the champion of the baseball world.
The Indians will go with their ace Kluber, who will throw for the third time this postseason on short rest and the second time in the series. He has held the Cubs (and the Blue Jays, and the Red Sox…) in check this postseason, posting a 2-0 record against Chicago with a 0.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in 12 innings thus far with 15 strikeouts and one walk. In his five playoff starts, he is 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP, and 35 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings on the mound.
The right-hander Hendricks will be tasked with ending the Cubs’ 108-year drought. He held the Indians scoreless in four and one-third innings in Game 3, allowing six hits and two walks, yet was able to prevent Cleveland from scoring in a game ultimately decided by one run after his time on the mound was done. He struck out six on 85 pitches and will pitch on normal rest. This postseason, he is 1-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 17 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings of four starts.
First pitch of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series is scheduled for a prompt 8:00 PM ET start from Progressive Field.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images