Did the Indians ride Andrew Miller too hard? Did the Cubs use the right hitters? Game 1 offered plenty of chances to second-guess.
There was a wealth of strategic intrigue surrounding Game 1 of the World Series before it even began. Jon Lester started for the Cubs, so there was the now-familiar chatter about how the Indians planned to use his difficulty in controlling the running (if it can even be fairly called that) against him. Kyle Schwarber returned to the Cubs’ lineup after a sojourn of some six months, from an operating table to a grueling rehabilitation process to the Arizona Fall League, but there was some uncertainty as to how ready to return he really was, and where Joe Maddon could place him in his lineup in order to maximize Schwarber’s impact.
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It’s finally here! The World Series kicks off tonight with Game 1, and two long-storied franchises with histories of futility and new-school front offices will face off. There’s narrative aplenty here--if you want more on that, check out Aaron Gleeman’s overall, seven-game series preview, breaking things down from every angle--but now it’s time to talk up the primary actors for Game 1. That starts with the two ace starting pitchers: Corey Kluber and Jon Lester.
In one corner, the immovable object that is the Chicago Cubs’ 108-year championship drought. In the other corner, the unstoppable force that is the Cleveland Indians’ 68-year title-less streak. Something’s got to give!
It took Theo Epstein and company exactly five years to rebuild the Cubs into the best team in baseball.
On October 22, 2011, the Chicago Cubs announced the hiring of Theo Epstein as president of baseball operations. Epstein, only 37 years old at the time, was already considered one of the greatest baseball executives in recent history and a potential future Hall of Famer. Five days later, the Cubs hired away Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod from San Diego as Epstein’s top lieutenants.
Clayton Kershaw threw seven shutout, two-hit innings against the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS, which combined with his starter/closer act in the NLDS convinced even the most stubborn holdouts that his poor postseason reputation was overblown and perhaps just flat out erased. And now, less than a week later, he'll take the mound at Wrigley Field against a 103-win team with the Dodgers' season on the line in an elimination game. Something tells me Kershaw's playoff rep isn't set in stone quite yet.
Chicago breaks through against Los Angeles' bullpen, taking a 3-2 lead back to Wrigley Field.
The Cubs have had a not-so-quiet concern this postseason, an unsure refrain that has been repeated by analysts, fans, and (we can only assume) the team itself, an anxiety to characterize the flipside of baseball’s best regular-season team--namely, what if they can’t hit good pitching?
The Cubs finally broke out of their offensive mini-slump last night, putting up 10 runs against the Dodgers and evening the series at two games apiece. That means this isn’t an elimination game, so there’s no need to consider starting anyone on short rest to save the season. Jon Lester and Kenta Maeda will start in a repeat of the Game 1 pitching matchup.
Chicago finally broke through offensively, evening the NLCS at 2-2.
The Chicago Cubs, facing a potential 3-1 hole against a team with the best pitcher on the planet still in play for one more game, finally drew breath in Los Angeles. For 21 straight innings the Cubs' offense was suffocated by Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw, and the rest of the Dodgers' pitching staff. Then a few soft hits found holes before Addison Russell, who entered the game with a batting average that started with a zero, pierced through the Los Angeles marine layer and Dodgers pitching with one swing. The Cubs would follow with one run in the fifth and five more in the sixth, putting the game out of reach in the series’ first true laugher.
Ryan Merritt vs. Marco Estrada in Toronto and John Lackey vs. Julio Urias in Los Angeles.
Corey Kluber wasn't at his best on short rest Tuesday, but by going five relatively effective innings he did allow the Indians' bullpen to catch its collective breath a bit after Trevor Bauer's abbreviated, blood-filled Game 3 start. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are both rested and presumably able to combine for at least three innings today, and even Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw had light Game 4 workloads. All of which is good, important news for Cleveland, because Ryan Merritt is making just his second career big-league start after logging a grand total of 11 innings for the Indians. Any left-handed pitcher facing the Blue Jays' righty-packed lineup is in a very tough spot, but what Merritt is being asked to do is on a whole different level.
Jake Arrieta's season-long issues continued, Yasmani Grandal did his thing, and the Dodgers are up 2-1.
It wasn’t really a bad pitch that Jake Arrieta threw to Yasmani Grandal. He’d certainly thrown worse. When Arrieta cut loose a 3-2 sinker at 93 miles per hour in the bottom of the fourth inning on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, the Dodgers already led the Cubs 1-0, thanks to a hanging slider righteously thwacked for an RBI single by Corey Seager the inning before.