Attrition is the word that can best describe what went on last night at Progressive Field in what will go down as one of the greatest World Series games of all time.
The Chicago Cubs won a battle of attrition, and literally outlasted the Cleveland Indians in a classic seventh game to win their first World Series in 108 years.
That’s the narrative but there’s so much more that led up to this epic that will go down as one of the greatest World Series games ever played.
In the first six games, bullpens were being used in unconventional ways and it led to a fatigue factor in game seven.
Indians reliever Andrew Miller was dominant in the early games but the Cubs started to pierce the armor in game four. Miller pitched two innings in a 7-2 win but gave up his first run of the post-season when Dexter Fowler hit a solo home run.
Familiarity breeds good swings. Last night, the Cubs were all over Miller’s slider and they had real good hacks against a tired Cody Allen and especially a gassed Bryan Shaw.
The use of Aroldis Chapman by Cubs manager Joe Maddon during the series came under question. It also gave the Indians hitters a chance to time Chapman who just rares back and fires. He can “light up” the radar gun but he can be hit especially when he’s overworked.
A Cubs’ team meeting during the 17-minute rain delay may have helped their psyche but it didn’t hurt that they were facing a very tired arm in the tenth and had their best three hitters coming up in that inning.
Chicago was a gritty and resilient team this season. The team got a lift when Chapman got through the ninth without his explosive fastball, so even if the game was not delayed, I felt the Cubs were about to score.
I picked the Indians to win in seven partly because they were a fundamentally sound team but they made mistakes at a costly time.
The Indians had two main flaws, their starting pitching and their outfield defense. The Cubs rallied from a 3-1 deficit because they were able to exploit those in the final three games.
In games five and six, Cleveland’s starters could only toss a combined 6 1/3 innings. Even though Cleveland did not use their big guns in the pen in those games, the starters inability to hold the Cubs down demoralized a Indians team that was gritty but not really that good at playing from behind.
Rajai Davis committed a mental lapse in center field in the fourth. Davis did not think Kris Bryant would tag from third so he was not in position to make the throw. The throw was high, which not only allowed Bryant to score but it allowed Series MVP Ben Zobrist to tag and go to second where he scored the third run.
That turned into a pivotal play. If Davis throws Bryant out at home and ends the inning, who knows what direction the game goes in.
In game six, the biggest play of the game was the mis-communication in the outfield between Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall on a routine fly ball in the first that ended up being a hit.
Cleveland ran the bases poorly. Jose Ramirez getting picked off in the second inning last night killed a potential rally. In game three, Davis was thrown out at third on a run scoring play but Cleveland escaped with a 1-0 win.
The Indians did not “lose” the World Series. They got beat by a better team.
In the end, the biggest winner was the sport.
The Cubs were one of the few National League teams to benefit greatly from the addition of the designated hitter. Getting Kyle Schwarber back in the lineup provided a huge boost, both on the field and off.
During the Series you heard this refrain. “They’re revolutionizing the sport with the use of the bullpen”.
The seventh game showed why “you can’t live off your bullpen” in the regular season. Despite the growing sentiment that starting pitchers have been thrust into the back drop, the Cubs got more reliable starting pitching in the Series to provide an edge and give them the ability to rebound from a 3-1 deficit.
Now that Cubs have ended their “curse”, assumptions are already being made that they’re about to go on a championship run, ala the 1990’s Yankees.
It’s true that the Cubs have a terrific young nucleus on their roster but you can’t account for the unexpected.
Except for Schwarber, Chicago went through the season pretty much injury free. There is no way of knowing if that will be the case in the next few years.
Emotionally, the Cubs put a lot into winning this season. As good as they are on paper, they’ll be fighting “odds”, which, in itself, can be a very daunting task.