The Major League Baseball season comes to its close Wednesday night in one of the most dramatic events in professional sports – Game 7 of the World Series.
The Cleveland Indians, losers of two straight, will host the Chicago Cubs in the finale of the Fall Classic. Everything is on the line, with the bulk of the focus on the long droughts sustained by both organizations and their respective fan bases. The Indians look to win their first championship since 1948, while the Cubs look to end a dry spell dating back to the 1908 title match.
The Indians have the benefit of being at home, where nine of the last ten teams to host a Game 7 came away victorious. But they have their work cut out for them, facing a scary Cubs lineup that won 103 games during the regular season and has performed well on the road all year.
There is no tomorrow. The season will be over. Only one can claim the crown. Everything is at stake as these two storied franchises battle to be named the best team of 2016. Thanks to both for a memorable World Series and an incredible season.
GAME TIMES and PITCHING PROBABLES
Tuesday, 10/25/16 – Chicago 0, Cleveland 6
Wednesday, 10/26/16 – Chicago 5, Cleveland 1
Friday, 10/28/16 – Chicago 0, Cleveland 1
Saturday, 10/29/16 – Chicago 2, Cleveland 7
Sunday, 10/30/16 – Chicago 3, Cleveland 2
Tuesday, 11/1/16 – Chicago 9, Cleveland 3
Wednesday, 11/2/16 (8:00 PM at CLE) – RHP Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.14)
TV (all games) – FOX
Radio (all games) – Indians Radio Network; 670 The Score (Chicago); ESPN Radio
KLUBER GOES FOR THE KO
Kluber will look for the knockout blow in his third career World Series appearance.
After an 18-9 season, one in which he posted a 3.14 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while making his first All-Star team, Kluber has again placed his name at the top of the list for American League Cy Young candidates, Kluber has carried his strong season on into the postseason – in five outings, he is 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, striking out 35 in 30 1/3 innings. He threw seven scoreless against Boston in the ALDS and was 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in eleven and one-third innings against Toronto in the ALCS.
If Kluber can get the win, he would join nine others to win three starts in a single World Series and would become the first to do so since Detroit’s Mickey Lolich in 1968, when the Tigers starter went 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in three complete game wins versus the St. Louis Cardinals and was named the World Series MVP.
KLUBER NEEDS TO CONTAIN CUBS’ HEART
Kluber will make his third start of the year against the Cubs and the fourth of his career. His battles with Chicago have been impressive regardless of the season, which includes his 2-0 record in the World Series with just one run allowed on nine hits with a walk and 15 strikeouts over 12 innings. He has a 0.75 ERA for the series and a 0.83 WHIP.
The Cubs have had little success against Kluber in their collective careers. Ben Zobrist has 19 plate appearances against him, but is just 3-for-19 with a double and three strikeouts. Dexter Fowler has a double this postseason, but is hitless in his other 13 trips to the plate with seven strikeouts and one hit by pitch. Kris Bryant has been shut down, going 0-for-8 with three strikeouts and one walk.
Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo have had the best luck against him. Heyward is 2-for-5 against him, but has struck out twice. Rizzo is 3-for-8 with a double, a triple, and two RBI, the only two runs driven in by a member of the Cubs roster against Kluber.
HENDRICKS RETURNS FOR GAME 7
The 26-year-old Hendricks was one of the better pitchers in the game this season, going 16-8 with a Major League leading 2.13 ERA and 188 ERA+. He worked 190 innings over 31 games (30 starts), throwing two complete games and one shutout. He struck out 170 batters and walked 44 in that stretch, helping him post a solid 0.98 WHIP for the year in his third season in the Majors.
Hendricks will make his fifth start of the postseason and his second against Cleveland. He took a no-decision in his first start of the playoffs, working three and two-thirds innings against the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS while allowing two runs on four hits. He dominated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, giving up just one run on five hits with four walks in 12 2/3 innings, taking a loss in his first outing before earning the win in the series clincher.
HENDRICKS VS. THE TRIBE
Hendricks started Game 3 for the Cubs in one of the instant World Series classic games. He held the Indians scoreless through four and one-third innings in a no-decision, giving up six hits, two walks, and one hit batter while striking out six. The 20 Indians batters had their way with him, but they could not get the big hit to drive in early runs.
Only Coco Crisp had faced Hendricks before Game 3. He was 0-for-3 in those at bats. Crisp will start in Game 7 for Cleveland.
The left side of the Indians infield delivered the most production against Hendricks his last time out. Both Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez were 2-for-2 at the plate with a pair of singles. Jason Kipnis was 1-for-2 with a hit by pitch and a single, but struck out in his other plate appearance. Carlos Santana drew two walks in three trips to the plate, striking out in the other.
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images