Bring on Game 7: Cubs force winner-take-all conclusion to World Series with offensive explosion


Bring on Game 7: Cubs force winner-take-all conclusion to World Series with offensive explosion

CLEVELAND — It wasn't quite "we will see you tomorrow night," but Addison Russell delivered a similar moment for the Cubs franchise in Game 6 Tuesday night.

Kirby Puckett's blast clinched a walk-off victory in Game 6 for the Minnesota Twins back in 1991 when Jack Buck made the iconic call.

Russell's was just a third-inning homer, but it had the same effect with another Buck generation (Joe, Jack's son) on the FOX game broadcast.

Russell delivered the knockout blow to the Indians, a grand slam to give the Cubs a seven-run lead as they forced a Game 7 with a 9-3 victory in front of a raucous crowd at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

The grand slam was the first in Cubs World Series history and Russell's six RBI tied for most in a World Series game in baseball history.

The last World Series grand slam came when Russell was just 11 years old — Paul Konerko's shot in 2005 during the White Sox championship run.

Kris Bryant got things started with a two-out homer off Josh Tomlin on an 0-2 pitch in the first inning. 

Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist followed with singles and then the Indians outfielders let Russell's liner drop, plating Rizzo and causing a collision at home plate where Zobrist jarred the ball loose for another two-out tally.

Kyle Schwarber led off the third with a walk and after Bryant flew out, Rizzo and Zobrist singled again to load the bases and setting the stage for Russell's heroics.

Russell may have the biggest hits of the postseason for the Cubs, as his emergence in Games 4 and 5 in Los Angeles changed that entire National League Championship Series around.

"Yeah, I feel like that was the hit of the night there. Anytime you get four runs on one swing, and to go up, I think it was 7-0, that was huge," Bryant said. "He's had a lot of big home runs this postseason. That might have been the biggest.

"So just watching him, he's unbelievable, man. He's 22 years old, Gold Glove, hitting homers in the World Series. He's a pretty special player."

Rizzo added on with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to increase the lead.

Jake Arrieta was near-dominant again, allowing just two runs (both scored by Chicagoland native Jason Kipnis) in 5.2 innings with nine strikeouts.

Aroldis Chapman used 20 pitches to record four outs in the seventh and eighth innings before Pedro Strop and Travis Wood combined to nail down the final three outs.

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The Cubs took Monday off to recharge after a stressful, pressure-packed weekend in Wrigleyville.

"I think it helped for today," Rizzo said. "Having that day off was nice for us to be able to dissect how we just won that game."

The Cubs hoped getting to Cleveland would take the pressure, anxiety and weight of the fanbase off them and put it squarely on the Indians fans.

For one day at least, it appeared as if that worked, as the Cubs scored almost as many runs Tuesday night as they pushed across in the first five games of the World Series (10). They hammered out 13 hits and three walks against six Indians pitchers, only going down in order in two of the nine offensive innings.

"It’s just the way baseball is," Schwarber said. "You’re feeling sexy about yourself. You’re feeling confident in yourself. 

"When you come to the field and you got a couple knocks under your belt or a homer under your belt, you feel sexy about yourself."

The Cubs and Indians now square off in what is probably the most highly-anticipated baseball game in American history — two teams with the longest active championship droughts (108 and 68 years, respectively) playing a winner-take-all Game 7 featuring what may be the game's two Cy Young winnters (Kyle Hendricks vs. Corey Kluber).

It doesn't get much better than that.

"There's no tomorrow after tomorrow," Rizzo said. "It's an elimination game. You lose, you go home. You win, you're a hero. Thats' just the way it is."

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

The last time Jake Arrieta pitched at Wrigley Field, his night ended with Cubs fans giving him a rousing standing ovation. The former Cubs right hander tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, leading the Cubs to victory in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS—their only win against the Los Angeles Dodgers that series.

Arrieta returned to Wrigley Field as a visitor on Monday night, making his first start against the Cubs since joining the Philadelphia Phillies last season. Ironically, Arrieta’s counterpart for the night was Yu Darvish, who ultimately replaced Arrieta in the Cubs starting rotation.

Despite now donning Phillies red, Cubs fans once again showed their love for Arrieta, giving him a lengthy standing ovation ahead of his first plate appearance. Darvish even stepped off the mound in respect for the moment.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters postgame. “[I’m] very happy that our fans would acknowledge him like that. Yu stepped away from the mound nicely. Jake deserved it.”

Arrieta tipped his helmet in appreciation for the crowd, taking in the moment for more than 30 seconds before stepping into the batter’s box. After the game, he told reporters that moment brought back memories of his time with the Cubs.

“That was something that really brought back great memories of getting that same sort of ovation pretty much on a nightly basis,” Arrieta said. “[I’m] very appreciative of that. I can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago, I really can’t.”

Arrieta took fans back to his Cubs tenure on Monday, throwing six innings of one run ball in the Phillies’ 5-4 10-inning win. Although the 33-year-old didn’t pick up the victory, he matched Darvish—who threw six innings of three-run ball—pitch by-pitch.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler noted how well Arrieta handled his emotions throughout the night.

“I thought he handled the emotions really well. I thought he was in control of the game even when we were down,” Kapler said to reporters. “He always maintained his poise and he just got stronger as the outing went on and that’s why we were able to have him take down the sixth inning for us.”

It’s well-documented how Arrieta’s career improved for the better after the Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013. When the Cubs acquired him, Arrieta held a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts). He finished his Cubs career with a 2.73 ERA in 128 regular season starts. He also won five postseason games with the Cubs, including Games 2 and 6 of the 2016 World Series.

Despite moving on in free agency, Arrieta spoke highly of his time with the Cubs, their fans and the city of Chicago.

“Cubs fans all across the country, all across the world, they really respect and appreciate what guys are able to do here for them,” he said. “It means a lot, it really does.

"I’ll never forget this city, the fan base, the organization, everything that they did for me. It was 4 1/2 incredible years of my career.”

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Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish was one pitch away.

Holding onto a 1-0 lead with two outs in the sixth inning, Darvish threw Phillies catcher JT Realmuto a 2-2 cutter. It made sense - Darvish had been spotting that pitch well all night, and the Phillies were averaging a paltry 79.8 mph exit velocity against it.

With one strike standing between Darvish and a 6-inning shutout, Realmuto took Darvish’s cutter and sent it back up the middle for a game-tying RBI single. A 2-RBI triple from César Hernández followed. In the blink of an eye, what was shaping up to be one of Darvish’s finest moments in Chicago was instead reduced to yet another start spent searching for silver linings.

“Really good. He was outstanding tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He pitched really well.

“He had really good stuff. He had command of his stuff, he had command of himself. I thought he was outstanding - even better than what he looked like in Cincinnati. I thought that was probably his best game for us to date.”

Darvish has continued to lean heavily on his cutter this season, more so than any year prior. After throwing it 13 percent of the time last season, he’s going to that pitch almost 25 percent of the time now. If that holds, it’d beat his previous career-high, set in 2013, by six percentage points.

All things considered, that pitch has actually been good for him this season. It’s his go-to offering when he needs to induce weak contact, and batters are hitting .125 against it so far. He gets batters to chase cutters 29.5 percent of the time, the most of any pitch he throws. While he has admitted in games past that he relies too heavily on his fastball, Maddon sees no issues with the new trend.

“I have no concerns with that whatsoever,” he said. “There’s different ways for pitchers to attack hitters, and if it's successful, I really would not change a whole lot.”

Though the night was dedicated to celebrating one of the franchises most beloved pitchers, it was one of their most maligned that continued to show signs of figuring it out. He’s put together back-to-back starts with three or less walks for the first time this season, and has allowed two or less runs in three of the last five.

The pitcher even stepped off the mound during Arrieta’s first at-bat, in order to let the standing ovation continue on.

“He’s is a legend in Chicago,” Darvish said after the game. “And I pitched against him and pitched pretty good, so it makes me confident.”

The bullpen again struggled on Monday night, as the trio of Mike Montgomery, Brad Brach, and Kyle Ryan allowed two runs on five hits, including the game-winning solo home run from Realmuto in the 10th. For a moment it looked like the Cubs had a win wrapped up when Brach got outfielder Andrew McCutchen to bite on a two-strike slider, but was (probably incorrectly) called a checked swing.  He would eventually draw a walk, leading to Jean Segura’s game-tying single.

“On the field, I thought for sure [that McCutchen swung],” Brach said. “Looking at the first base umpire, I was a little taken aback. That’s why I went off the mound - just to regather myself, because I didn’t want to let the emotion get to me there.

“It’s a 50-50 call, and unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”


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