Whatever curse-related weight you attach to the Chicago Cubs and the World Series, a bit of it was chipped away last night with the Cubs’ 5-1 win over the Indians in Cleveland. I don’t think too much about any of that hocus pocus, but I do think it was a really big win.
There weren’t as many as at Wrigley Field, naturally, but the “W” flag was flying high everywhere you looked at Progressive Field:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) October 27, 2016
The Cubs left 13 runners on base in the game, and went just 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position. In a previous life, those would have been the things to which you pointed about the Cubs’ eventual implosion in a game they led for the duration. In this life? With this team? It’s barely a footnote.
Those 13 runners were left on base, of course, in large part because the Cubs’ lineup relentlessly ground down every single Indians pitcher who entered the game. Not coincidentally, three of the only four available Indians pitchers who did not make an appearance might be the only three Indians pitchers in whom the team has supreme confidence at this point – Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen. If they are to win any games in this series going forward, it’s going to require heavy leaning on that trio. With Kluber slated to start games four and seven, it’s clear the Indians know what’s up.
For the Cubs’ part, Jake Arrieta struggled with his command, but the stuff was never in doubt – the Indians didn’t notch a hit until the sixth inning. Mike Montgomery came in and quietly did what he’s been doing all postseason, which is gobble up multiple innings without giving anything up. Aroldis Chapman finished things off, and even did so in a non-traditional, non-save situation. Last night was all Cubs.
We’ll have more on the specifics of the game later today – including, obviously, the unbelievable freak of awesomeness that is Kyle Schwarber – but I just wanted to note upon waking up this morning that the Cubs are really in an enviable position right now.
Sure, you’d like to win every game in a series, but a split in Cleveland, where the loss came at the hands of those three aforementioned pitchers, isn’t too shabby. Combine that with the fact that the Indians are planning to pitch Kluber twice more on short rest, last night’s starter Trevor Bauer on short rest, and Friday’s starter Josh Tomlin on short rest after Friday’s start. I can’t argue with the Indians’ plan – it’s all they’ve got at this point – but I can point out how hard it is going to be for those pitchers to be successful against this lineup when (1) pitching on short rest, and (2) facing the same guys in such a short succession. If Kluber is able to dominate the Cubs again like he did in Game One, I’d be shocked. Pitch well? Sure, maybe. But dominate? Can’t see it.
There are games left to play, of course. There is no sense of overconfidence here. But, for the first time in 71 year, the Chicago Cubs have won a World Series game. And the rest of the series is looking pretty bright.