CLEVELAND — One more game. For everything.
Either a 108-year World Series championship drought will come to an end, or another that’s lasted 68 years.
Hysteria for one fan base, more heartbreak for the other.
Cubs vs. Indians in a winner-take-all Game 7.
As it should be.
“It’s just correct and apt that we’d go seven games,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said.
Addison Russell hit a grand slam and tied a Series record with six RBIs, and Chicago took advantage of a huge early misplay in Cleveland’s outfield as the Cubs, their offence finally revving, throttled the Indians 9-3 on Tuesday night in Game 6 to push this tense tug-of-war between baseball’s two longest title drought holders to the limit.
The biggest, most nerve-wracking day lies ahead.
“This is kind of fitting for these two franchises. This is storybook,” Cubs catcher David Ross said. “They’ll make movies about this one day.”
Indians ace Corey Kluber, dominant while winning Games 1 and 4, starts again on short rest Wednesday night at home against big league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.
Cleveland’s hopes will rest with their best pitcher, the one guy they’ve been able to count on all season.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Jason Kipnis, who homered and had three hits. “We knew they’ve got a great ballclub over there. They were lined up with their three-headed monster of a pitching staff. We’re still very confident.”
Kris Bryant homered to spark a three-run first inning, Russell hit the first Series slam in 11 years and Jake Arrieta worked into the sixth as the Cubs, down 3-1 back at Wrigley Field, are now rolling. One more win at Progressive Field would bring their first championship since 1908.
The Indians, trying for their first title since 1948, missed a second shot at closing out the Cubs. Cleveland is now forced to play another Game 7 after losing in 11 innings to the Florida Marlins in 1997 in its last trip to the Series.
Not wanting to take any chances despite a comfortable late lead, Maddon used atomic-armed Aroldis Chapman for one out in the seventh, the eighth and one batter in the ninth. The lefty, who got the final eight outs in Game 5, threw just 20 pitches and will be on call for the season’s final game when both managers won’t hesitate to use any arm they’ve got.
The Cubbies, shut out twice earlier in this Series, brought their clubbies to Cleveland. Bryant had four hits and Anthony Rizzo added three, including a two-run homer.
They hammered Josh Tomlin, who couldn’t get out of the third inning and didn’t get any help from his outfield in the first. The right-hander, who was so effective in Game 3 at Wrigley Field, pitched on short rest for the second time in his career but wasn’t the problem as much as his location.
Everything seemed to be lined up for a massive downtown street party in Cleveland.
On a 71-degree November night, fans came hoping to witness the first championship win at home by a Cleveland team since the Browns took the NFL title in 1964 by shutting out the Baltimore Colts.
With Eddie Robinson ‚Äî the last living member from that ‘48 title team ‚Äî in attendance, and LeBron James and the NBA champion Cavaliers coming over from Quicken Loans Arena after they beat Houston, Cleveland was poised to have a night to remember like the one just 134 days ago in June when the Cavs ended the city’s 52-year championship dry spell.
The Cubs blew through those plans like a wicked wind off Lake Michigan.
Arrieta wasn’t dominant, but he didn’t have to be. Staked to the early lead, he held the Indians without a hit until the fourth when Kipnis doubled leading off and scored on Mike Napoli’s single.
Arrieta worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, and gave up a homer to Kipnis in the fifth but struck out nine.
Maddon came to get him in the sixth, the right-hander got several pats on the back from Chicago’s infielders and Cubs fans saluted him with a standing ovation.
Tomlin was one strike from getting out of the first unscathed when everything fell apart.
He had Bryant down 0-2 when he hung a waist-high curveball that Chicago’s third baseman, who came in just 2 for 17 in the Series but had homered in Game 5, cracked nearly halfway up the bleachers in left field, a 433-foot shot that sent a shockwave through standing-room-only Progressive Field.
There was a bigger one to come.
Rizzo and Ben Zobrist followed with singles before Tomlin got Russell to hit what appeared to be a routine out. However, right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall and rookie centre fielder Tyler Naquin, unable to hear each other over the roaring crowd, looked at each other and let the ball drop onto the grass for a double.
While they scrambled to recover it, Rizzo scored easily and Zobrist beat a relay throw to the plate, bowling over Indians catcher Roberto Perez as a sizeable contingent of Cubs screamed with delight.
“It was just loud at there,” Naquin said. “It was kind of one of those in-betweeners. Lonnie got a good break, I got a break, it’s just one of those deals. In the moment, me being the centre fielder, I need to take charge on that. That’s my mistake.”
Although it was early, with Arrieta on the mound, Chicago’s lead felt more like 30-0 than 3-0.
Russell, who dressed up like a Ninja turtle on Halloween, then put a fright into Indians fans with his shot to deep left-centre.
With two on, Indians reliever Dan Otero placed a 2-0 pitch over the heart of the plate to Russell, who launched it over the wall spent much of his home-run trot howling.
The Cubs were loud all night, and with one more win they’ll be champions.
“I hope it’s not difficult to sleep. It’s every kid’s dream. It all comes down to Game 7,” Russell said.
Bryant and Rizzo became the first 3-4 hitters to combine for seven hits in a Series game. ... Kipnis went 3 for 4 with a single, double and home run. He has two in this Series, joining Willie Stargell and Roy Campanella as the only players to accomplish that. ... Cleveland’s pitchers have 59 strikeouts, tied for the fourth most in Series history. The 2001 Yankees had 70.
The Cubs and Indians each have 0-2 records in Game 7. Chicago lost the 1945 World Series to Detroit and the 2003 NLCS to Florida, both at Wrigley. ... Along with the ‘97 Series loss, the Indians dropped the 2007 ALCS at Boston. . The Series has gone the distance three times in six years. San Francisco defeated Kansas City in the last seven-gamer in 2014. . Home teams are 18-19 all-time in Game 7.
ME AND THE MICK
At 22, Russell became the second-youngest player to hit a grand slam in the World Series. Yankees legend Mickey Mantle was 21 when he hit one on Oct. 4, 1953 against Brooklyn. Russell is the first Cubs to player to connect for a slam in the Series.