'Dream' series continues as local product Jason Kipnis homers in Indians' win over Cubs

'Dream' series continues as local product Jason Kipnis homers in Indians' win over Cubs

One of Jason Kipnis’ most conflicted friends, a diehard Cubs fan, couldn’t help but celebrate his buddy’s big October triumph on Saturday night.

Shortly after the conclusion of Game 4, a contest Kipnis put out of reach with a piercing, late three-run homer, the second baseman’s childhood pal attempted to disrupt his postgame interview by repeatedly yelling “Kip, you’re a legend.”

A Glenbrook North High School product, Kipnis said the interaction perfectly encapsulates what has been an overwhelmingly positive response from family and friends as he battles the team he once rooted for in his first World Series appearance. Courtesy of Kipnis’ blast and a stellar outing by Corey Kluber, the Cleveland Indians are only one win away from a title after they downed the Cubs 7-2 in front of 41,706 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs and Indians play Game 5 at 7:08 p.m. on Sunday night.

“That’s one of my best friends,” Kipnis said. “That guy’s an idiot. That tells you what kind of friends I’ve got. They’ve been here the whole time and they’re making it that more fun and easier for me.

“You can't draw this up. Everyone makes that situation -- T-ball or whiffle ball in the backyard -- and I just got to live it. You can imagine what kind of high I'm feeling right now.”

You can’t imagine how conflicted Sean Wallis must feel right now.

He has season tickets down the right-field line and considers himself a huge Cubs fan. The company he works for is affiliated with Cubs owner Tom Ricketts.

But Wallis — the senior point guard for Glenbrook North’s 2005 state championship varsity basketball team — has played sports with Kipnis since they were 8. He’s followed his career from high school to Arizona State to the minor leagues, where he also once disrupted a postgame interview at Triple-A Columbus.

This is a scenario none of Kipnis nor his friends and family could ever have imagined. Yet here it is playing out in front of all of them at Wrigley Field as the Cubs make their first World Series appearance since 1945. And on Saturday, Kipnis made his biggest contribution of the postseason, going 3-for-5 with a double, two runs and three RBIs.

“It’s crazy,” Wallis said. “It’s unbelievable.”

“No one ever could have imagined this happening. We joked about it during the course of the year -- Who would you root for in a Cubs-Indians World Series? But no one ever imagined this type of outcome.”

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Earlier in the week, Kipnis talked at length about his love of all things Cubs. His favorite players were Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace and Sammy Sosa. He doesn’t think his former neighbor, Steve Bartman, deserves any of the flack he’s received from Cubs fans all these years. And he can’t believe that his first foray into the World Series is up against the Cubs’ first appearance in the Fall Classic in 71 years.

But Kipnis said he had “zero conflict” extending the Cubs’ World Series title drought another year. Even though that victory might crush the dreams of his friends and family, Kipnis said nobody has given him any grief.

“To be put into a situation like this and actually have something happen like that is, for lack of a better term, it's a dream come true,” Kipnis said.

It’s a pretty cool moment for his friends, too.

Just ask Wallis.

His team could be headed home for yet another disappointing winter. But it might sting just a little less if it involves his friend.

“No matter what was going to happen it was going to be an enjoyable series,” Wallis said. “If the Indians are going to win, I wouldn’t have it any other way that it’s him that is hitting the big homer and getting the double in the first inning.

“It’s incredible. For him to play in a World Series is unbelievable. But for him to get to do it here and play as well as he has is remarkable.”

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

The Cubs and Braves got through roughly one inning of Stranger Things Night at Wrigley Field before Willson Contreras made the evening his own. 

The catcher went 2-4 with three RBI, and provided the most notable moment from the game: a 2nd inning solo homer that caused both benches to clear. Contreras had taken issue with a few of the called strikes earlier in the at-bat, and said something to home plate umpire John Tumpane about it. Contreras continued to make his feelings known as he left the box, drawing the ire of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.

“To be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” he said. “[Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that, and he jumped into the conversation. 

Contreras then proceeded to shout in the direction of Atlanta’s dugout while rounding first base, and the two catchers exchanged more words as he crossed home plate. The benches quickly emptied, and after a few moments of posturing, returned to their dugouts. 

“It was a lot of emotions together,” he said after the game. “I was having a conversation with the umpire, and it ended up with [Flowers], so that’s all I can say. I just basically told him to do his job and I’ll do mine. I don’t know why he got pissed off because that’s all I said - you do your job and i’ll do mine.”

“I was kind of amused by the whole thing,” Joe Maddon added. “I don’t really know Mr. Flowers - we had a nice conversation, walked away, and it was over. It really wasn’t worth more than what happened.

The confrontation was just one of a few testy moments between these two teams. In the top of the 2nd inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was caught on cameras shushing the Cubs dugout: 

Two innings later, it was Javy Baez who returned serve by blowing the Braves a kiss after stealing second on Flowers: 

“It’s fun because they’re good,” Maddon said. “And we’re good - that’s the fun part. Monday night, at 7:05, to have that kind of attitude and atmosphere is outstanding. That’s what baseball needs.” 

On the mound, Jon Lester bounced back from a run of three straight underwhelming performances. June hasn’t been kind to Lester, as the lefty had allowed 14 runs over the last 23 IPs prior to Monday’s start, good for a 5.93 FIP. He threw 94 pitches against the Braves, lasting six innings while allowing two runs -- both unearned, though -- and striking out seven. He only threw 94 pitches, but his control (0 BB) was excellent. Lester spotted his strikeout pitch well all night, getting four of his six right-handed K’s on the low outside corner:

“I just tried to stay down there, and had the backdoor cutter to those guys,” Lester said. “We were able to kind of exploit that, and then when we felt that guys were reaching out there a little bit, I ran the cutter in on some guys too. I was just able to command both sides of the plate tonight, which is huge against an offense like that.” 

“Great job by Jon,” Maddon added, “Jon had great stuff. Coming off of [throwing 114 pitches], he’s been throwing a lot of pitches on regular rest, so I wanted to limit that tonight. He was lobbying to go back out, but I didn’t feel good about it based on the longevity of the season and we had a rested Kintzler.

“But Jon was really good, and really good against a tough lineup.”

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Live from Wrigley it's Cubs Authentic Fan Night


Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Live from Wrigley it's Cubs Authentic Fan Night

Ozzie Guillen and Doug Glanville join Leila Rahimi to talk all things Chicago baseball as the Cubs take on the Braves and the White Sox look to get a win in Boston.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: