Monday, October 31, 2016

Cubs Survive Extinction, Will Play a Game 6 in World Series

CLE leads 3-2

The Chicago Cubs avoided elimination on Sunday night by defeating the Cleveland Indians at their own game, by sending out their closer for two-plus innings in order to nail down a Game 5 win, and send this best-of-seven World Series back to Cleveland.

In what has already been a tremendous fall classic, full of tense moments, and clutch pitching at the most opportune times, it was time for Chicago to finally let loose. Their backs to the wall down 3-1, they needed this one in the worst way. Had the Cubs lost Game 5 at home, at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, it would have spoiled all the good they had accomplished in winning 103 games this year.

The Cubs faithful had waited four games to finally have something to truly cheer about, and when Kris Bryant's 387 foot home run to left just cleared the wall to tie the game up at one, cheer they did. The fans had seen their beloved Cubs get shutout twice against the Indians, and had just seen Cory Kluber shut them down in Game 4. Bryant's home run was the turning point of Game 5. Whether it is the turning point of the series is yet to be determined.

The home run spark the Cubs to a 3-run fourth inning, with Addison Russell driving in Anthony Rizzo on an infield grounder down the third baseline, and David Ross driving in another run on a sac fly to deep left.

Now it was up to the pitching staff of the Cubs, and they were up to the challenge. John Lester did his part over six innings, allowing only two runs on four hits and striking out five. It was a nice comeback for the lefty who struggled in a 6-0 Game 1 loss back in Cleveland. Once Joe Madden turned to his bullpen the question was how long would the Cubs wait before bringing in their closer Aroldis Chapman. Unlike the Indians who are three deep in the bullpen with Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and Bryan Shaw, the Cubs are a one-man show in the pen.

That is what made Sunday's effort by Chapman so amazing. He came in relief of Carl Edwards Jr. in the top of the seventh inning with a man on and one out, and gutted out the rest of the inning, striking out Jose Ramirez and getting Roberto Perez on a ground ball.

The eighth inning was not easy for Chapman, because Rajai Davis would put a tremendous amount of pressure on him when he singled, and stole both second and third base to put the potential tying run just 90 feet away. Give Chapman credit here. He jammed Jason Kipnis on a fly ball out on 3-1 for the second out, and later struck out Francisco Lindor to get out of the inning.

Gutting out the eighth inning the way he did, Chapman was in cruise control in the ninth.  He blew away the final three hitters of the game, including Ramirez, whom Chapman struck out a second time.

Ball game over, and for the first time the song "Go Cubs Go!" blared over the sound system at Wrigley Field on the night before Halloween. It was a grand moment for Chicago -- they kept their slim hopes alive. Now, they get to play in November for Game 6, and maybe Game 7 for all the marbles.

Should the Cubs force a deciding Game 7 on Wednesday night, we will remember the Bryant home run in the fourth inning and the gutty effort by Chapman as turning points. For the Indians, they get to head home --- still trying to nail down the hardest win of the entire baseball season -- the fourth win of a World Series.

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