CLEVELAND — Of course, this World Series matchup could end no other way.
The Chicago Cubs have been waiting since 1908 for another title. The Cleveland Indians last captured the Fall Classic in 1948.
So, it is quite fitting the two franchises would go the full seven games before deciding the winner of the 2016 World Series.
Game 7 is set for Wednesday night with major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks starting for the Cubs against Indians ace Corey Kluber, who looks for his third win in the series, at Progressive Field.
The Cubs forced the winner-take-all game Tuesday night by winning their second straight game, a 9-3 pasting of the Indians in Game 6.
“It’s been a very well-contested series,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Both sides have played really good baseball. (The Indians have) been outstanding pitching. All of a sudden, our offense is having a resurgence, which we need. We want to be the group that breaks the string, but it’s just correct and apt that we’d go seven games.”
Though his team has now missed two chances to close out the Cubs, Indians manager Terry Francona maintained his sunny disposition following Tuesday night’s loss.
“It will be exciting to come to the ballpark,” Francona said. “Shoot, I might just wear my uniform home. I might get ice cream on it though, so maybe I better not.
“Like I said before (Game 6), it’s an honor to even be a part of it, and we’re going to give it everything we have. I can’t imagine a better group of guys to go through something like this with. I’m looking forward to it already.”
This will mark the 38th time the World Series has gone the distance, including 1912 when a Game 8 was necessary following a tie in Game 2. The road team has won 19 of the previous 37 games, but the home team has been victorious in nine of the last 10.
“Game 7, it’s a kid’s dream,” said Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, whose six RBI on Tuesday night tied the World Series record.
Hendricks pitched 4.1 scoreless innings in Game 3 but did not factor in the decision as the Cubs lost 1-0. He is 1-1 with a sparkling 1.31 ERA in four starts during this postseason following a regular season in which had a 16-8 record and 2.13 ERA in 31 games, including 30 starts.
“I’m just going to embrace the opportunity like I have the rest of this postseason, honestly,” Hendricks said. “Approach it like any other game, simple thoughts, the same old thing.”
Kluber has pitched six innings in both starts against the Cubs, allowing no runs in Game 1 and one run in Game 4. Game 7 will mark the final outing of what has been an amazing postseason for the 30-year-old as he has gone 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA in five starts.
During the regular season, Kluber went 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA in 32 starts. His record was identical to 2014, when he won the American League Cy Young Award.
“First and foremost, it’s been a blast,” Kluber said of pitching in the postseason for the first time in his six-year career. “We’ve all really enjoyed ourselves. We can take a lot from the way we approached it, and not treating it more than just each game is another game and trying to go out and win that day.
“Not trying to look too far ahead or things like that. I think there’s value to taking that approach throughout the course of a season, too.”
However, now it comes down to a one-game season. In a series in which bullpens have dominated, the Indians seemingly have the edge.
Closer Cody Allen did not pitch Tuesday and lockdown left-hander Andrew Miller did not appear in either Game 5 or Game 6.
Meanwhile, Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman has pitched a combined four innings in the last two games over a three-day span, including being called on in the seventh inning Tuesday night despite the Cubs holding a 7-2 lead.
Chapman, though, said he would be able to pitch in Game 7 for “as long as they need me.”
Maddon and Francona will be willing to go to the bullpens early and often. After all, neither team will have another game until late next February when the Cactus League season beings in Arizona.
“You always want to win the game, but the next best thing, and we’ve talked about this before we even started, was try to make (the Cubs) use pitching even in a loss,” Francona said. “So we hung around enough, at least Chapman had to pitch. You never know, maybe that helps us.”
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