Cubs

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

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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.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

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."

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

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USA Today

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon’s time with the Cubs may be over, but the memories made in his five years on the North Side will live on in Chicago sports lore forever. No matter how frustratingly his tenure may have ended, the outpouring of support and appreciation from management, fans and players alike throughout the process of Maddon’s departure are evidence of that.

“I love him like a dad,” Anthony Rizzo said

“I personally never could have imagined having such a wonderful partner,” Theo Epstein later added, standing beside Maddon as they delivered joint reflections on the end of the era.

Maddon touched the lives of so many within the organization and without in his time with the Cubs, but not many more so than catcher Willson Contreras, who burst onto the scene as one of the best young sluggers in baseball under Maddon’s guidance. Maddon — a catcher himself in his short time as a player — never shied away from criticizing Contreras in times he thought it earned, but it’s clear that the two forged a real bond over the last four years. 

Sunday afternoon, artist Austin Ploch revealed that Contreras reached out to him shortly after the end of the 2019 season to commission this heart-warming piece, commemorating the mutual respect and adoration between mentor and pupil:

The painting is derived from a photo of the two that Contreras posted to his Instagram account after it was officially announced that Maddon would not return as the Cubs manager:

Ploch has commissioned work for Contreras before, but now Willson will have a tangible memento to remember his first manager (along with his 2016 World Series ring). We’re not crying, you’re crying.

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Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Astros bench coach Joe Espada has two days off before Houston hosts Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, but it looks like some of that time will be spent in Chicago.

According to multiple reports, the Cubs will interview Espada a second time for their managerial opening. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports that the interview is happening on Sunday.

Espada is one of the more sought after managerial candidates this offseason, as he's spent the last six seasons with two of baseball's leading franchises. The 44-year-old has been Astros bench coach since 2018, and prior to that, he spent four seasons with the Yankees — 2014 as a front office assistant, 2015-17 as third base coach.

David Ross was the presumed favorite for the Cubs' opening, when the process got underway. However, by landing a second interview, Espada has clearly given the team something to think about. In fact, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan reported on Thursday the Cubs came away "exceptionally impressed" from Espada's first interview on Monday. 

MLB prefers teams not to make managerial announcements during the World Series. So, it might be a few more weeks before the Cubs announce their decision, unless they do so on Sunday or Monday.

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