Cubs

Cubs roll over Indians to even up World Series

Cubs roll over Indians to even up World Series

CLEVELAND - The Cubs called their shot again.

The week after showing no sense of panic after being shut out by the Los Angeles Dodgers in back-to-back NLCS games, the Cubs once again exuded a calm confidence after running into the brick wall of the Cleveland Indians pitching to start the World Series.

From Joe Maddon to Anthony Rizzo to David Ross, the Cubs felt they had some nice at-bats against the Indians' best pitchers - Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen - but just couldn't score and predicted runs would be coming.

They were right, getting men on base early and often to win their first World Series game since 1945, a 5-1 victory over the Indians in front of 38,172 fans at Progressive Field Wednesday night.

"It's huge. We know that we needed to win this game," Ben Zobrist said. "It seems like every time our team has had our backs against the wall a little bit, we've risen to the occasion. Hopefully we can keep doing that.

"We've done a good job not letting the moment get the best of us and just focusing on passing the baton and having quality pitches, quality at-bats, both sides of the ball. That's what you have to do, just stay in the moment and get that 'W' and we were able to get it tonight."

The Cubs continued the trend of winning when scoring first as Rizzo drove home Kris Bryant with an RBI double in the top of the first inning.

From there, the Cubs added a solo tally in the third on Kyle Schwarber's RBI single and then broke out for three in the fifth on a Zobrist triple, another Schwarber single and then an Addison Russell bases-loaded walk.

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The Cubs could've had more, leaving 13 on base in the first seven innings against starter Trevor Bauer and the Indians bullpen. The Cubs didn't go down in order until the top of the eighth. 

It was still all the offense Jake Arrieta needed as the reigning National League Cy Young winner took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Jason Kipnis doubled with one out.

Kipnis was the only Indians run of the game, scoring on a wild pitch two batters later.

Arrieta struck out six in 5.2 innings, surrendering only two hits, three walks and the solo tally.

The outing lowered Arrieta's 2016 postseason ERA to 3.78 and gave him his first victory this October.

Game 2 was moved up an hour because of impending rain and the move by Major League Baseball paid off as the Cubs and Indians didn't have to worry about any suspended game drama.

The two teams travel to Chicago for Games 3, 4 and 5 at Wrigley Field over the weekend.

Kyle Hendricks and Josh Tomlin will go in Game 3 Friday evening with the World Series now tied.

The Cubs understand what these three upcoming games mean for the fanbase and the entire city of Chicago.

"I can't imagine [what the fans are feeling]," Zobrist said. "They're probably just as excited - if not more excited - than we are to see that game played there. It's been a long time. They've been waiting patiently and they deserve to have these games played there.

"Hopefully we can get some Ws there for them. We know it's gonna be electric and a really fun atmosphere."

Yu Darvish finally has his first win at Wrigley

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USA TODAY

Yu Darvish finally has his first win at Wrigley

Yu Darvish blew a 98 mph fastball by Yasiel Puig, pumped his fist emphatically twice and let out a primal yell as he walked off the mound while 37,260 fans at Wrigley Field backed him up with maybe the loudest "YUUUU!!!" chant of the season.

It was the final pitch he threw on the afternoon as he completely dismantled the Reds lineup in a 4-2 Cubs victory.

Since the All-Star Break, Darvish leads Major League Baseball in ERA — he hasn't allowed a run in 12 innings while striking out 15 and giving up only 4 hits and a walk. 

Oh yeah, and he finally picked up his first Wrigley Field win in a Cubs uniform...in his 28th start.

In both outings to start the second half, he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and they're also the only two scoreless starts he has as a member of the Cubs (he gave up 0 earned run April 27 last year against the Brewers, but was charged with an unearned run).

The Cubs are now 5-1 since the All-Star Break and will carry a 2.5-game lead in the division into action Friday when the San Diego Padres come into town.

Cole Hamels, Alec Mills and the Cubs' short-term rotation picture

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USA TODAY

Cole Hamels, Alec Mills and the Cubs' short-term rotation picture

Just a few weeks after utilizing a six-man rotaiton, the Cubs are considering dropping back to a four-man starting staff for a bit.

Cole Hamels threw a bullpen Wednesday morning at Wrigley Field and reportedly felt great, but he's still at least a week or so away from returning to the Cubs rotation.

Couple that with the four days off for the All-Star Break last week and regular off-days coming up (three more still in July), the Cubs don't have an actual *need* for a fifth starter more than once between now and Aug. 3, as their four mainstays will be able to go on regular rest.

"We're gonna discuss that internally — things we want to do," pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. "We have the ability to go with a four-man [rotation] for an extended period of time with those off-days."

Hottovy acknowledged a four-man rotation is the Cubs' preference rather than keep Alec Mills in the rotation long-term, but there are many factors to consider.

"Our guys are feeling good, so we don't want to push the envelope with all these off-days and [tell the pitchers], 'you're still gonna be on a five-day rotation,'" Hottovy said. "So we gotta all talk and communicate about how guys are feeling and make that decision."

The Cubs have been cautious with their pitchers coming out of the break, too, given they've all been thrown off their normal rhythms and routines. It's also worth noting that Kyle Hendricks is still working his way back up to full strength after a shoulder injury cost him much of June.

When the Cubs opted to go with a six-man rotation last month, the whole idea was to rest these guys and make sure they're feeling fresh for the second half and down the stretch. The team had a pretty brutal stretch — 52 games in 54 days — before the All-Star Break.

But if everything continues to progress with Hamels and his oblique injury, the Cubs may not need a four-man rotation for long, even if they opt to go that route. 

After Wednesday's bullpen, the Cubs are going to give Hamels a couple days to recover and will plan another bullpen for this weekend (likely Saturday). Just like with Hendricks' recovery, the first bullpen is more for a gauge to see where the guy is at physically and then the second one will be more of a normal routine and getting back into rhythm mechanically, etc.

Following that weekend bullpen, the Cubs don't know yet whether they're going to have Hamels throw a simulated game or go on a rehab assignment as the next step. They'll evaluate all that this weekend and thanks to the regular time off coming up, they know they don't have to push it.

"If he feels good, we also don't want to slow-play Cole Hamels," Hottovy said. "He's a guy we want in the rotation."

The Cubs are off Thursday but then play six straight games and they will need a fifth starter for that stretch (next Tuesday in San Francisco).

As of right now, it sure looks like that guy could be Mills, who rebounded nicely after a rough first inning during Tuesday night's victory. 

Mills — a 27-year-old right-hander — has only pitched 11 career games in the big leagues, but he's been a nice depth option for the Cubs the last couple years. Including Tuesday night, he has a 4.13 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 24 big-league innings for the Cubs the last two seasons.

"I have a lot of confidence [in him]," manager Joe Maddon said. "He's definitely a big-league caliber pitcher. I don't think he's a 4-A guy; I think he's more than that. He just needs opportunity."

Both Maddon and Hottovy mentioned Mills' last start with the Cubs last August when he gave up a first-inning grand slam to the Mets before settling in to throw 4+ innings of solid ball from there.

Tuesday night, Mills got two quick outs (thanks in large part to Albert Almora Jr.'s defense) and then served up a solo homer to Eugenio Suarez, who absolutely kills the Cubs. From there, it was back-to-back hit batters and then a groundball basehit that went right to where third baseman Kris Bryant would've been standing had he not broke for the bag to cover on a steal attempt.

Mills was inches away from getting out of the first inning with only 1 run allowed, but he also only eventually escaped the jam when Almora threw a runner out at home plate on a double off the wall — or else there could've been even more damage.

After that, Mills held the Reds scoreless for the next five innings to notch the first quality start of his career.

"He regrouped well," Hottovy said. "Millsy's a pro. The guy's been mostly a minor-league guy, but I still consider him kind of one of those veteran guys. He's smart, he's poised. He comes in after that inning and he's like, 'Yeah, I thought I did this well, I didn't do this well.' And then we talked through it and he's able to wipe it clean and then reset. 

"It was such a good job by him to be able to do that with a good hitting team — to come back and set the tone. It's easy to have that inning and then kinda let things keep escalating. He was able to go right back down the next inning and shut 'em down and that really set the tone."