2017 All-Star Game: Millennial take-over

For a city so synonymous with aging Boomers and the height of a young Gen-X, it seems like it got a bit of a makeover, filled with Millennial who weren’t even born while iconic Miami-based shows like Miami Vice (1984-1990) were still on the air. Well, maybe a few during the run of Golden Girls (1985-1992), but that would be generally less than ideal comparison for a group of competitive 20-something young ball players. They would probably prefer shows like the more recent action spy show Burn Notice (2007-2013) which was sometimes referred to by fans as the 21st century version of Miami Vice (but without Don Johnson’s floppy hair and those hideous pastel suits on the lead heroes).

So it was the National League (and their reserves) against the American League (and their reserves) to face off for the 88th All-Star Game. And despite the ridiculous show of power 8 key players put on last night, tonight’s game was a pitcher’s game from the start to finish. Each team put up 9 pitchers who each threw about 15 pitches per inning and struck out a total of 22 batters overall.

But it wasn’t like the batters weren’t hitting, as they racked up 17 total hits (and 6 walks) over the game, but they just weren’t exactly given much chance to do much with those hits thanks to the defense. Again, it was an All-Star Game, and for the first time in a really long time, it felt like both teams were fairly evenly matched in every aspect of the game — pitching, batting, base-running, and defense. And tonight’s game proved that.

No one got close to scoring until the 5th inning with the AL up at bat. With 2 outs, Schoop (Orioles) doubled and then scored on Sano’s (Twins) single. A nice bit of redemption for the power-hitter after falling short to Judge last night, responsible for the first run scored of the night. The National League answered back in the 6th when their veteran catcher Molina (Cardinals) hit a long home run into the corner of the AL bullpen to tie up the game.

And the game ended up being played into extra innings thanks to all those aptly named all-star players. So when NL manager Joe Maddon sent in his lone Cubs pitcher and closer Davis, he unfortunately didn’t count on Cano (Mariners) liking the third pitch, sending it into the AL bullpen for the winning home run.

Only fittingly so, AL interim manager Brad Mills (filling in for a recovering Terry Francona, who made an “appearance” in the AL clubhouse) sent in his own closer Miller (Indians) who got out of the 10th inning and saved the game for the AL with a final strikeout.

Final score: 2-1 in 10 innings, American League over National League

Robinson Cano, of course, got the All-Star Game MVP award thanks to that 10th inning, game-winning homer. And after accepting the glass bat trophy, he was asked to choose between a red Chevy Colorado pickup truck and a special Transformers edition blue Chevy Corvette. Cano wisely chose the Corvette.

Okay, Yankee Universe, you’re wondering how our 5 All-Stars did. Aaron Judge started the game in right field and batted third in the lineup, but he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Judge later admitted he was a bit tired after last night’s Derby and nervous and excited about the game tonight. Gary Sanchez came on for the second half of the game as the back-up catcher and ended up batting 8th, and he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Starlin Castro was present but unable to play due to his lingering wrist injury, so he spent time in the dugout cheering on his teammates and the American League.

In pitching, Dellin Betances showed the world what it felt like when he wanted to throw in some drama in the 3rd. He gave up a lead-off single, then struck out 2 batters, a wild pitch moved the runner to 2nd before he walked the batter, another wild pitch moved runners to scoring position, another walk loaded up the bases (and had everyone but Yankee Universe biting their nails), and a dribbling ground out ended the threat and the inning, getting Betances out of the jam… as usual.

Luis Severino would have pitched in the 11th inning had the NL tied up the game, and while he was disappointed not to see any play time in Miami, he really just wanted to see the AL win the game. Wish granted.

It is worth noting that the All-Star Game no longer counts for much of anything in the long-run more than bragging rights. As of this year, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and the league, the home field advantage goes to the team that has the best record between the AL and NL champions (which was always a much better idea). Full disclosure: the players of the winning ASG team do get a $20,000 bonus check; so I guess it’s a bit more personal than bragging rights.

Okay, the millennial invasion of Miami was never more apparent than at what became one of the most talked about moments in the game. Mariner’s designated hitter (and one of the oldest guys, on either roster) Nelson Cruz came up to bat in the 6th innings and walked over to the home plate umpire Joe West and asked for a picture with him as he pulled out his phone from his back pocket. NL (and Cardinals) catcher Yadier Molina (also one of the older players) took the picture for Cruz as West seemed both confused and amused at the concept. While not technically a selfie, it went around the internet quickly that Cruz wanted a selfie with West (who is just called his 5000th game last week and is often one of the least liked umpires in the business, which may explain Cruz calling him a “legend”).

In a touching tribute before the game tonight, the league honored Latin-American baseball legends and Hall of Famers in an on-field ceremony — Roberto Alomar, Luis Aparicio, Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez, Tony Perez, Ivan Rodriguez (who was part of the 2003 Marlins’ championship team), and the late Roberto Clemente (who was represented by his wife Vera). Then, they all threw out the ceremonial first pitch to current All-Star players of Latin-American birth. It was a great way to “pass the torch”, as it were.

We’re back after a couple of days rest in Fenway to restart the season with the rivalry series in Boston on Friday. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Go Yankees!

Game 29: NYY vs. CHC — Endurance means a sweeping victory

Six hours and five minutes. It’s not often you see a game go that long, which is about twice the length of an average game. Yes, even big rivalry games, Joe West, tonight’s home plate umpire who famously once complained that Yankees-Red Sox games were too long with some choice words. Of course, it didn’t help that tonight’s first pitch was thrown when the weather read at 43° and over the course of the game, the temperature bottomed out around 39°. And impressively enough for a Sunday night game, those parka-clad fans stuck it out for a good portion of the game, though admittedly by the end it was down to a handful of Wrigley loyalists (from the 40,585 sell-out crowd) to see the final out.

Anyway, the Yankees came into tonight’s game looking for a sweep against the reigning champion Cubs going into their short series in Cincinnati. And things were certainly going that way for a good portion of the regular game. Luis Severino threw 111 pitches in his 7 innings, giving up just 4 hits, a walk, and a run, and striking out an impressive 9 strikeouts. That run was a 2-out solo home run in the 3rd to get the Cubs on the board.

Meanwhile, the Yankees slowly worked their way into a win position. With 1 out, Aaron Hicks worked a single, moved to 2nd on Holliday’s single, ended up at 3rd on a double steal, and then scored on Starlin Castro’s ground out to start tonight’s wild ride. The game was tied for most of the regular game. In the 7th, Castro reached on a throwing error and then scored on Aaron Judge’s big triple to put the Yankees in the lead. And in the 8th, Gardner led-off with a single and then scored as part of Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2-run home run to double the Yankees’ score.

After Dellin Betances closed down the Cubs’ threat in the 8th inning, the Yankees just needed 3 outs to get out of the game and go home with the sweep. Unfortunately, Aroldis Chapman wasn’t having a good control day. Right away, he gave up a walk and single before getting a strikeout. Two more singles scored 2 runs for the Cubs, putting them within 1-run. After another strikeout, Chapman intentionally walked the next batter before hitting the next guy and giving up the tying run.

Wrigley was alive with hope as Clippard closed out the inning with a ground out, sending the game into extra innings. Just how many, however, became the stuff of weird internet statistics as the game trudged on into the night.

After Chapman’s blown save, Clippard continued into the 10th and started the parade of the bullpen, who to their credit gave an amazing night and pushed through until the very end. We really don’t ever give enough credit to the bullpen guys who come through in cases like this, so I will: Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder, and Chasen Shreve did an amazing job of working their way through the extra innings, a grand total of 9 of them.

And while there’s clearly a problem with the 10 allowed walks by the Yankees’ pitching staff tonight, they did manage to hand-deliver 26 total strikeouts. Anyway, the final four guys that stepped on the mound certainly contributed more than their fair share to help maintain the Yankees until they could break through. Which, of course, wasn’t until the 18th inning.

Aaron Hicks led-off with a bunt single and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error. He then moved to 3rd on Torreyes’ sacrifice bunt. And when Castro reached safely on a fielder’s choice, Hicks came running home to score the winning run. Just in case, the Yankees put runners into scoring position but couldn’t get that insurance run.

So it was up to Shreve to push through the bottom of the 18th to ensure the Yankees’ win. But he had a bit of struggles. With 2 outs, he walked one batter and then intentionally walked the next, but then got a final strikeout to close out the game and get the well-fought win.

Final score: 5-4 Yankees in 18, Yankees sweep Cubs 3-0.

There are so many little stories about this game –Matt Holliday playing 1st base for the first time as a Yankee, all the little game stats and quirks (like they set a MLB record having 7 pitchers with multiple strikeouts in the same game), or that despite it being the longest game so far this season, it doesn’t even come close to the longest game the Yankees have played. But really, to endure a long game, then hop on a flight (even a short one) the next morning to play a game the next night (now, tonight) says a lot about the professionalism of these guys.

And they’re headed ironically eastward to “The Queen of the West” for a short series against the Reds this week. And because of the marathon that was tonight’s game, you can expect a few roster moves to help freshen up the roster, especially the bullpen.

Go Yankees!

Game 28: NYY vs. CHC — Early heroics pays off

Another chilly day in Chicago, and while arguably not as cold as yesterday’s day game, once that sun set over the Second City, the cold kind of settled in and enveloped Wrigley and all its inhabitants tonight. It seemed to have differing effects on the starters in this middle game of the weekend series against the Cubs.

Jordan Montgomery got the start for the Yankees tonight, and once again, had a rather strong outing. He threw 100 pitches into the 7th inning, giving up just 3 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs (only 2 earned), and struck out 3 Chicago batters. Actually, the rookie pitcher sailed through the first 4 innings and only found some trouble in the latter part of his outing.

In the 5th, a lead-off walk moved to 3rd on a double, and then 1 out later scored on a groundout play. The next runner scored on a throwing error (the unearned run) to get the Cubs on the board. And with 2 outs in the 7th, a walk ended up scoring on a deep triple into the left field corner. That would be the final pitch for Montgomery tonight, handing the ball over to Tyler Clippard who threw exactly 1 pitch tonight and got the necessary 3rd out of the inning.

It would be reliever Tommy Layne that would have the most trouble for the Yankee pitchers tonight. With 1 out, a batter hit a triple (same troublesome corner) and then gave up a walk. A fielder’s choice out at 2nd kept runners in the corners before a single scored the lead runner. A passed ball moved runners into scoring position, which they did on a 2-RBI single (though it could arguably have been a fielding error). That would be it for Layne tonight (no thanks to the defense in this inning).

And despite giving up a double to kick off his night, Adam Warren then got the next 4 outs to close out the game, 3 of them were strikeouts. In comparison, the pitcher for the Cubs’ 9th inning was a catcher (due to exhausting their bullpen), of which the Cubs’ fans were well aware and cheered on every strike as if it were a World Series Game 7. (more in a moment)

The Cubs’ pitchers had a really awful time against the Yankees tonight (oddly, except that final pitcher). The starter didn’t even make it out of the 1st inning. Gardner led-off with a double and then scored on Aaron Hicks bunt single and a throwing error. Hicks then scored on Starlin Castro’s double. And then it was Castro’s turn to score on Gary Sanchez’s 1-out double. Then with Gregorius on base with a single, Chase Headley’s double scored both runners, landing Headley at 3rd on the throw.

And with just 23 pitches, the Cubs pretty much handed the game to the Yankees with those 5 runs. But they had to spend the rest of the game ensuring they would win. A new reliever had better luck against them for the moment. In the 3rd, with 1 out and Sanchez and Gregorius on base with singles, Chris Carter reached on a fielding error and failed force attempt, scoring Sanchez. Hicks hit a 1-out double in the 4th and scored as part of Starlin Castro’s big 2-run home run.

The Yankees would hold off their scoring until the top of the 8th. With 1 out, Refsnyder walked and Gardner singled, only to score both on Aaron Hicks’ monster 3-run home run to push the Yankees into double digits on the scoreboard. So, it was a bit of a surprise the 9th inning reliever walked 2 batters but didn’t allow a single run (maintaining his perfect ERA of 0.00).

Final score: 11-6 Yankees.

The Yankees have one more game, the finale of this series tomorrow night at Wrigley before heading over to Cincinnati for a short series against the Reds.

And this is your reminder to go vote for your favorite players to start the All-Star Game this summer in Miami. You can vote up to 5 times per day, up to 35 times total. So vote your 5 times today! Voting ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 29, 2017. But don’t wait!

Go Yankees!

Game 27: NYY vs. CHC — Windy, chilly afternoon game with Clutch Gardner

So, it was 45° at the first pitch this afternoon at Wrigley, with 25 mph winds (and up to 35 mph wind gusts) bringing the wind chill down to around 37°. Yes, the calendar may read May 5, but Chicago clearly hasn’t gotten that memo yet. Sure, the skies cleared to a beautiful, crisp, clear blue, but the Chicago fans packed Wrigley in a sold-out crowd as the Yankees came in for the rare Friday afternoon game to kick off their weekend series there.

The Yankees were looking to continue their strong season so far, facing off the reigning World Champion Cubs today, behind Michael Pineda on the mound. Pineda threw 90 pitches in his strong 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 6 batters. The runs scored were simply solo home runs in the bookend innings of his outing today — a 1-out solo shot in the 1st and a lead-off solo homer in the 6th. In fact, the other allowed hit and walk were in that 6th inning. This means that Pineda held the Cubs off the bases for the majority of his outing.

The Yankees bullpen continued that strength and upped it to include a scoreless final third of the game. Shreve, Holder, and Chapman each took an inning to make sure the Cubs weren’t going to add any more to their score.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were given many opportunities, 8 hits and 2 walks from the starter and his first 2 relievers, but they were unable to turn any of those into viable runs (though they certainly gave it their best shot). It wasn’t until the 9th inning that the Yankees saw their clear path to victory.

With 1 out, Headley singled and ended up at 2nd on a wild pitch. After a strikeout, Ellbury came on to pinch-hit and worked a walk. So it would be down to Brett Gardner — an out meant the Cubs shut them out, while a hit could mean the Yankees get on the board. Of course, there was another option that no one thought of. And Gardner picked door #3 — a big 3-run home run into the upper seats in right field to give the Yankees a slim lead.

And that would be enough thanks to former Cub closer Aroldis Chapman’s great 9th inning (despite a fielding error to kick off the inning), earning his 7th save of the season on a foul tip strikeout that no one realized was an out for a few seconds.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees.

Before the game, former Cubs pitchers Adam Warren and Aroldis Chapman were presented with their 2016 Championship rings. And Cubs fans proved that they don’t forget their former stars, giving Starlin Castro a standing ovation on his first at-bat.

Fun fact about this particular trio: Warren was with the Yankees a very long time, but the Yankees traded him to the Cubs to get long-term Cub Castro to fill the much-needed 2nd base slot before the 2016 season. Chapman was signed in the same off-season. Then at the trade deadline, the Yankees traded Chapman to the Cubs for a few players (including Warren). And then of course, they got Chapman back after his stint in Cubs’ pinstripes at the World Series. All former Cubs and proud of their contributions that led to their championship last year, but now hoping to translate that into some Yankee championships.

And in roster moves: as expected, the Yankees activated Gary Sanchez from the DL and sent back-up catcher Kyle Higashioka to AAA Scranton. Sanchez didn’t have much success in the batter’s box today, but his time behind the plate was certainly part of why the Yankees found victory today. Higashioka never did find his first major league hit, so perhaps time back with the RailRiders can help him find that swing again so when he does hit the Bronx again, he’ll be swinging for the fences.

Go Yankees!

World Series 7: CHC vs. CLE — The drought, the Goat, whatever, it’s over for a century

My social media is pretty divided, and it’s not about the election. I have to say I think I’m most upset by the fact that my postseason bracket looks worse than Bauer’s finger after it met with a drone. But as I don’t gamble or anything, it’s just my pride or whatever that’s hurt. All this because I kept guessing wrong, so I went with the opposite of my head and was wrong. And I have to say, for once, my heart was actually wrong. Logic told me the Cubs would win.

But truthfully, they almost didn’t. And truthfully, neither team really played “exceptionally well”. I mean, the Cubs racked up 3 errors, 2 of which allowed unearned runs. This really could’ve gone either way. It wasn’t obvious until the very end who had this game, and it made things a bit more interesting in the long run.

Neither starter, Hendricks (Cubs) or Kluber (Indians), had a stellar night, both pitching only into the 5th inning. Kluber failed to get a single strikeout, something he’s not done all season in any game. And collectively, both pitching staffs allowed far too many hits and runs to be called “good” in any manner. Only those relievers who can on for only a couple batters came out fairly clean, and that’s not really a fair assessment of statistics.

But unlike most of the games this postseason, tonight’s game wasn’t about the pitching (which somewhat explains the MVP award, more later), but rather the offense. The Cubs struck first when Fowler led off the game with a big solo home run straight up the middle to get things started. The Indians answered back in the 3rd when Crisp led off with a double, moved to 3rd on Perez’s sacrifice bunt, and then scored on Santana’s single. But with 2 runners on base and just 1 out, the Indians couldn’t do much to turn that into more runs, the story of the night for them actually.

In the 4th, the Cubs broke the tie with some small ball. Bryant led-off with a single, moved to 2nd on Rizzo’s hit-by-pitch, then to 3rd on Zobrist’s fielder’s choice, and finally scored on Russell’s sacrifice fly. Zobrist then scored on Contreras’ double to give the Cubs that insurance run. And Baez led off the 5th with a solo home run for one more.

Miller came on to relieve Kluber at this point, but couldn’t find that postseason momentum from earlier games. After an allowed single, Miller got a nice double play (upheld, thanks to a Cubs’ challenge), but then an allowed walk scored on Rizzo’s deep single.

But the Indians’ offense chipped away on the Cubs’ lead in the bottom of the 5th in a play very indicative of this game. With 2 outs, Santana walked and the Cubs pulled both Hendricks and catcher Contreras for the battery team of Lester-Ross (significant because this was Ross’ final game ever, as he’s retiring following this game). But Lester gave up a single, and Ross’ throwing error moved both runners up to scoring position. Lester’s wild pitch then scored both runners to keep Indians’ hopes alive and within 2 runs.

But Ross’ 1-out solo home run, a big shot over the center field wall, pushed the Cubs into what they felt was a comfortable lead. (It would be Ross’ final home run ever, by the way.) But there’s a trick in any professional sport — don’t get too comfortable.

In the bottom of the 8th, with 2 outs, Ramirez singled and the Cubs called on Chapman to make a 4-out save. Except he didn’t. Guyer came in and doubled to score Ramirez, and then Davis hit a 2-run home run to the left field seats. A friend of mine in the southwest asked online whether the sound he was hearing outside was thunder or the cries of disappointment from thousands of people in Illinois.

Progressive Field already had a strong Cubs’ presence in its stands, but when Davis hit that home run, the stands were literally shaking. The cheering outside the field in the plaza where it was standing room only for local fans was deafening. In that single play, Yogi proved once again to be the wisest man in baseball history. It wasn’t over. In fact, it felt like the entire game hit a reset button at that point. It was finally time for some real baseball.

And extra innings apparently. The game went into the 10th, after a bit of a rain delay, with both teams on opposing lakes praying for their respective players to be the ones who would break the tie and end their drought. As it was an offense-based game, the Cubs got the opportunity first. Schwarber led-off with a single and was pinch-run by Almora. After an intentional walk to Rizzo, Zobrist saw that opportunity and doubled home Almora. (For this reason, Zobrist was awarded the MVP of the World Series.) The Indians decided to load the bases with an intentional walk to Russell to go after the back-up, back-up catcher Montero. But then Montero did the improbably and singled home the insurance run.

Two outs later, and it was the Indians turn to make it turn in their favor. So they did what they did best — got two outs to put the pressure on everyone. Guyer worked a walk and moved to 2nd on defensive indifference before scoring on Davis’ single. This put the Indians within 1 run of the Cubs. So they weren’t taking any chances and called for a new reliever. Two pitches later, Rizzo pocketed the ground out ball as he made his way to the infield for the celebration.

Final score: 8-7 Cubs, in 10. Cubs win World Series 4-3.

Of course, the immediate jokes following the Cubs’ win tonight was something about meeting up in the next 108 years (which would be 2124 if you don’t feel like doing math). Now, I distinctively remember similar jokes about the Red Sox following their 2004 win, and it took them only 3 years to be World Champions again (and then 6 more years to do it again).

Like I said before, I think the Cubs as a franchise have a potential to be in the conversation as “good teams” for a bit now, much like how we refer to other “lovable underdogs” like the Mets. I don’t expect the Cubs to just drop in momentum, unlike say the Giants in odd years this decade or Red Sox following their 2013 win or the Royals this season after last year’s championship.

Not that I think they’ve somehow started a dynasty. I have a hard time believing in dynasties these days. Players move teams a lot now, even more than when they first introduced free agency. And front office executives are constantly on the look out for the newest young talent to break out and change the landscape of their team (like Sanchez this year with the Yankees). A dynasty needs consistency, and that’s not really something you see a lot in the game any more.

Maybe this is just a sentimental Yankees’ fan talking, but I think it’s okay to remember what was every now and then. It doesn’t make today or the future any less special. It’s just different. And sometimes, different is okay.

Go Yankees!

World Series 6: CHC vs. CLE — November baseball continues…

For the 38th time in World Series history (apparently, depending on how you count) there has been a “Game 7”. In fact, both teams have a history of losing in Game 7 — the Cubs in the infamous “Goat” series of 1945 (against the Tigers) and the Indians in the tragic 1997 series (against the Marlins). The only thing is that tomorrow night, one of these teams will actually win this year’s “Game 7”.

I try to be positive on this blog for several reasons. The first of which being that there’s a lot of terrible and negative stuff out there already, and there’s no reason for me to waste my time and energy only to get lost in the vacuous void that is all that. And second, because there’s got to be something that is positive in every scenario, a silver-lining if you will, that reminds you why it’s worth moving forward and why you fell in love with this game in the first place.

So, the positives for this game clearly were in the Cubs’ favor. They showed up to play baseball, knowing this could be the end of their season, and they played hard. And it paid off. They took advantage of the Indians’ sloppy defense and off-night of pitching and made it work for them. Meanwhile, the Indians’ attempt to come back never fully materialized and always seemed to fall short at those crucial, key moments.

I said this going into tonight’s game: the Cubs’ starter Arrieta, being the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, is a really good pitcher. And he showed that in so many ways tonight — throwing into the 6 inning, giving up just 3 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 9 Indians batters. He kept things close and allowed the stellar Cubs defense to shine through at those key moments.

In the 4th, Arrieta showed a bit too much of his hand. Kipnis led things off with a double and then scored on Napoli’s 1-out single. Arrieta then loaded up the bases with 2 outs, a hit-by-pitch, and a walk, but got that all-important strikeout to end the Indians’ rally. Kipnis also got one by Arrieta in the 5th, when he laced a big 2-out home run into the left field seats. (Worth noting: Kipnis hit 3 of the Indians’ 6 hits tonight and scored 2 of their runs.)

But here’s the thing: all that would be amazing and great if not for the fact that the Cubs were already way ahead. Like light-years ahead in the score at this point. You see, Indians’ starter Tomlin just had a terrible night, and really had a hard time with consistency, right from the beginning.

In the 1st, with 2 outs, Tomlin gave up a solo shot to Bryant to get the Cubs on the board first. Rizzo and Zobrist then singled and scored on Russell’s double. But that ball should’ve been caught in the outfield, except neither fielder “called it”, instead letting it drop between them. A “Little League” play, if you will. It made the entire Cleveland area and its fans around the country groan and actually wish they were watching election coverage.

After a quick 3-up, 3-down 2nd inning, Tomlin looked to be righting himself and came back for the 3rd, but instead, he fell back into the rough pattern — loading the bases with a walk and 2 singles. Tomlin’s night was over, and the rotating door of the bullpen began. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on the Indians’ side tonight — Russell saw a pitch he liked and sent it sailing straight up the middle for a big, beautiful grand slam home run. And yes, that makes 7 Cubs runs scored at this point.

The Indians’ bullpen had better luck keeping the Cubs from expanding their significant lead, while not dipping into their reliable three backend relievers (perhaps, knowing they’d need them for tomorrow night?). With no strikeouts from Tomlin, the bullpen alone tallied up 6 strikeouts in its tenure, though they also allowed 7 hits (adding to Tomlin’s allowed 6). But the Indians’ defense showed up to play through most of the game and kept things stalled for the Cubs.

The Indians, however, clearly didn’t have much luck in the offense department tonight, to chip away at that hefty lead. After Arrieta came out, Montgomery took over to shut things down for the 6th and into the 7th inning. And for some weird reason, the Cubs called on Chapman to finish the 7th and pitch into the 8th. Several times, the Indians loaded up the bases, but always failed to do anything to help their score.

In the 9th, the Indians relied on their reliever to finish his 2 inning out, after a fairly clean 8th. With 2 outs, Bryant singled and then Rizzo hit a nice 2-run home run to edge the Cubs a bit further, and left the entire Indians franchise and fan base praying for an 8-run home run in the bottom of the 9th.

They got a partial answer to that one. For reasons that left everyone scratching their head, the Cubs sent Chapman out for another inning, where he promptly allowed a walk to Guyer. So they sent in Strop. With 1 out, Guyer moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on Perez’s single. Perez would then be thrown out trying to make it a double. After Santana worked another walk, the Cubs went to their bullpen again and called on Wood to throw just 2 pitches for a pop-up out to close out the game.

Final score: 9-3 Cubs, series split 3-3.

So, now we have a Game 7. It’s on. It’s still very much anyone’s game, anyone’s championship, anyone’s season. And isn’t that just a bit more interesting when all is said and done?

Go Yankees!

World Series 5: CLE vs. CHC — “Cautiously optimistic with a hint of terrified”

For the first time in the last 96 hours, Wrigleyville had something to cheer about other than just optimism and hope. While the Indians were looking at wrapping up the series tonight, the Cubs were desperately needing to send it back to Cleveland on Tuesday. One reporter called the atmosphere correctly:

For the last night of actual October baseball, the Cubs took that desperation and turned into what they call “flying the W”. Literally, the Cubs raise a flag with a W on it on the poles over the center field scoreboard when they win to alert the neighborhood of their victory. (As if the thousands of people celebrating in the streets wouldn’t tip them off to that tonight.)

But really, for the Cubs, it was a single inning that made all the difference. It wasn’t like it was a consistent dominance tonight. I’ve said before that I’m pretty sure the MVP of this series will be a pitcher, and that’s because every night there seems to be one standout pitcher after another.

Don’t get me wrong, both starters did a pretty good job overall. I mean, without the 4th inning, Cleveland’s starter Bauer would’ve wrapped up the win in a heartbeat. It was his only bad inning. It was also his last one. Up until that inning, Bauer was cruising through the Cubs’ roster. Bryant led-off with a big solo home run, followed up by Rizzo’s double. Zobrist’s single put runners on the corners, and Russell’s single scored Rizzo. All this before a single out was recorded that inning.

But the Cubs weren’t done. A sloppy 1-out bunt single still loaded the bases, and Zobrist then scored on Ross’ sacrifice fly. (By the way, that would be Ross’ last RBI at Wrigley, as he will be retiring at the end of this season.)

Technically, the Indians struck first against the Cubs’ starter Lester, with Ramirez’s 2-out solo shot in the 2nd. But once the Cubs took the lead in the 4th, the Indians couldn’t seem to find anything more until the 6th inning, Lester’s final inning of the night. Davis hit a 1-out single, stole 2nd, and then scored on Lindor’s 2-out single to double the Indians’ score.

And then it became a bullpen battery duel. And neither side was willing to surrender much ground. The Indians split their final 4 innings between 3 relievers, adding 7 more strikeouts to Bauer’s outstanding 7 (in his 4 innings, by the way) to bring the Indians’ total to 14 tonight. Meanwhile, the Cubs’ first reliever took 10 pitches to get through 2 batters, and Maddon went to what he considers a “sure thing” — Chapman. Yes, Chapman the closer was called on to make an 8-out save. And he did it, in 42 pitches with half of them his trademark nasty strikeouts.

Final score: 3-2 Cubs, Indians lead series 3-2.

So, two things about this. First, the series is headed back to Cleveland. Which means if the Indians do win this, they’ll be in front of their home crowd, always a better way to win. Second, we’ll be playing “November baseball”. Yes, Games 6 (and tentatively Game 7) are scheduled for November 1 (and 2). It kind of removes the specialness that was all the “Mr. November” hype back in 2001.

It’s interesting to get into some conversations about this series. It seems that people have very different ideas of what extent “rooting for the underdog” means. Some people, specifically those who feel the Indians were “robbed” of World Series victories in 1997 or 2003, feel like it’s the Indians who deserve this. And I can see that. They’ve been fairly consistent since Spring Training, staying at the top of their division and slowly building momentum to only break out once they hit the postseason.

Other people, especially the fair-weather Cubs fans (read: “hey, the Cubs are in the Series, let’s root for them even though I’ve not watched a single regular season game and have no idea who’s on the team” kind of fans), feel like the Cubs have been “robbed” of even a chance at the series for over a century and thus they should get the ring. Basically, they feel that they might not get another chance in this century and need to grab it now while it’s within reach. Of course, the truer Cubs fans believe this is the first of many postseason opportunities, and while they’d prefer their dynasty to start this season, they get that they may lose it.

And I get both those mentalities too. I mean, the Cubs haven’t really had much in the way of chances at the World Series, lastly in 1945. I think some fans are tired of rooting for their perpetual “lovable losers”. And I can get behind the belief that this is going to be one of many winning seasons for the Cubs because to me, this is the second consecutive season they’ve been this postseason good in recent years. I don’t think they’re as “loser-esque” as the stereotype suggests. I do think that we’ll be talking about the Cubs as a winning franchise for years to come (much like the Giants, the Blue Jays, even the Mets).

The reality is that one team will break their life-long championship drought and the other will regroup and try to do so next year. I don’t think either team is going to just disappear from the conversation anytime soon. I mean, this isn’t like the 2013-2014 Boston Red Sox teams. (Had to. I’m a Yankees fan, after all.)

Go Yankees!