It all comes down to one game for the 2016 World Series championship. If you’re a fan of the Cleveland Indians, you should be rooting for history to be made.
I know you’re nervous. I know it seems like a nightmare that the Cleveland Indians watched their 3-1 lead in the World Series evaporate against the Chicago Cubs. I know all the “Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals” jokes are seemingly coming back around on Northeast Ohio.
But history will be made one way or another on Wednesday night at Progressive Field, and all of that nervousness could well transform into jubilation. An epic seven-game Fall Classic between the two franchises with the longest title droughts? It could not have ended any other way.
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This will be the fifth Game Seven of the 21st Century, and the 42nd overall in baseball history. Road teams have actually had the advantage in those games, going 21-20.
But Cleveland has to like its chances to defy that bit of history. Corey Kluber, he of the herculean postseason effort this year, will be on the mound. In his five starts, he’s allowed just three runs in 30.1 innings to this point (0.89 ERA), striking out 35, yielding just a 0.99 WHIP and .200 opposition’s batting average.
"“Who else would you want? That’s our guy. That’s our stud. That’s our bona fide ace. If you ask everybody in here who you want on that mound, you’re going to get Corey Kluber as the answer. We’re pumped about that.”"
Kluber will be making his third start of this World Series, and that is significant for a number of reasons. The last pitcher to do so was Curt Schilling, for an Arizona Diamondbacks ballclub that won it all back in 2001.
To find someone who won three starts in a World Series, you have to go back even farther, to Mickey Lolich of the 1968 Detroit Tigers against the St. Louis Cardinals. Lolich threw three complete games, including a deciding Game Seven against Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.
There’s also more current data that points to this being the Indians’ night. During the regular season, when facing an opponent for the third time, Kluber went 4-0 with a minuscule 1.05 ERA, a full two and a half runs better than when facing a team the first time. If that trend holds on Wednesday night, Chicago will be hard pressed to score.
Finally, there is also the matter of the bullpen, which has been talked about ad nauseum since the Cubs opened up a 7-0 lead in the third inning of Game Six. Such an early deficit meant that the trio of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen were not used, and will be available for extended action if needed in Game Seven.
Those three relievers have given up just one run in 13 World Series innings for Cleveland, and only four in 38 innings total in the postseason. Shaw, Miller, and Allen have been so dominant that they’ve been on the mound for more than 30 percent of the Indians’ innings in the playoffs.
As first baseman Mike Napoli said:
"“Kluber’s on the mound, bullpen is rested. We’re confident. We’re home. We’re going to show up to play.”"
Yes, there are questions of whether or not Kluber can be as good as he’s been for Cleveland while making his second straight start on just three days’ rest, and if the bullpen trio can remain as unhittable, and perhaps the biggest of all, can the offense provide any run support at all?
We’ll have the answers to those questions in a few short hours. Game Seven will be the culmination of perhaps the most exciting period in Cleveland sports history, and we fans should all be grateful for that, savor the moment, and keep in the backs of our minds that what the Indians do on Wednesday night at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario will stay with us for a very long time.