If you’ve read this site for any length of time, you know that cherry-picked statistics often do more harm than good when it comes to player evaluation. When used to appreciate the Cubs’ long and tortuous path to their next World Series title, however, they tell a different story altogether.
Game 4 of the World Series went to the Indians in a 7-2 quasi-slugfest that felt long overdue, but not before they helped break some interesting records at Wrigley Field. Nearly every play involved something that hadn’t happened since the Cubs last hosted the World Series in 1945, and while the list is too lengthy to tackle here, a few parallels should suffice.
In the second inning, with the Indians down 1-0 after an Anthony Rizzo RBI single, Carlos Santana rocked the first Wrigley Field home run of the series against Cubs starter John Lackey. Lackey was all fastballs against the Cubs’ offense, and this particular 92 mph heater rocketed into the bleachers at 102 mph to even the game.
Not only was it the first home run for either team since Game 1 of the series, it marked the first World Series home run hit out of Wrigley Field since Detroit slugger Hank Greenberg took Ray Prim deep in Game 6 of the 1945 Fall Classic.
Santana wasn’t the only one with a home run to his name in Game 4. Jason Kipnis upstaged his teammate in the seventh with a monster shot against Travis Wood, while Dexter Fowler smashed one out against Andrew Miller in the eighth.
Kipnis’ three-run jack was the first of its kind since 1932, when Cubs center fielder Frank Demaree plated a three-run home run in the first inning of Game 4 against Yankees right-hander Johnny Allen. Despite a six-run spread from the Cubs’ offense, they went on to lose 13-6 as the Yankees put the finishing touches on their four-game sweep.
Fowler, meanwhile, became the first Cub to hit one out of Wrigley since catcher Gabby Hartnett went up against Alvin Floyd “General” Crowder with a solo shot in Game 4 of the 1935 World Series. (Take a moment to fully appreciate the grandness of “General Crowder” as a bonafide baseball figure.) Here, as in postseasons past and future, the Cubs were not able to pull off a win, and Hartnett’s homer became their only run of the game in a 2-1 loss that set them back 3-1 in the series.
Home runs weren’t the only things keeping the Indians’ championship hopes alive on Saturday night. Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber returned on short rest to pitch through Game 4, allowing the Cubs one run in the first inning and coming back with five shutdown innings to preserve the club’s three-run lead through the sixth inning.
Kluber may not have the chops of a Madison Bumgarner or Bartolo Colon at the plate, but the timeliness of his first postseason knock was all that mattered to the Indians. He worked a full count against Lackey, then popped the first cutter down the middle halfway up the third base line, plating Lonnie Chisenhall after Kris Bryant bobbled the ball at third.
In any event, Kluber entered the history books as the first pitcher to earn a hit during the World Series since Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez hit a line drive base hit off of the Mets’ Matt Harvey in the 12-inning finale of the 2015 Fall Classic. Kluber was also the first pitcher to register a hit at Wrigley Field since Cubs starter Hank Borowy legged out a double against the Tigers’ Hal Newhouser in Game 5 of the 1945 Series.
Perhaps Kluber’s infield hit wasn’t enough to merit the hashtag #PitchersWhoRake, but #PitchersWhoCapitalizeOnErrorsForInfieldHits doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as smoothly.
Andrew Miller had a good thing going, until he didn’t. The Indians’ powerhouse reliever sustained a scoreless postseason streak of 16 innings over nine appearances. In the World Series alone, Miller was rocking 4 1/3 scoreless innings against the Cubs prior to his Game 4 snafu, limiting their offense to just two hits and two walks and striking out six of 17 batters faced.
Dexter Fowler snapped the streak in the eighth inning of Game 4, taking advantage of some location issues to drive the ball over the left-center field fence for the Cubs’ second and final run of the game.
Few pitchers have matched Miller’s dominance in a single postseason run, especially when it comes to strikeouts. After Fowler ran the bases in the eighth, Miller returned to strike out Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist to close out the inning. His final whiff against Zobrist was his 29th of the 2016 playoffs, breaking Francisco Rodriguez’s record 28-strikeout mark for the Angels during their 2002 championship run. Miller might not be untouchable anymore, but it’s difficult to imagine any reliever threatening his legendary postseason status anytime soon.
Should the Indians take Game 5 and clinch their first championship since 1948, it’ll be the first World Series clinch at Wrigley Field since, you guessed it, the 1945 Detroit Tigers broke the Cubs’ hearts 71 years ago. And, if you’ll permit one more comparison with another Cubs World Series loss (not in 1945, but 10 years prior during the Tigers-Cubs Series of 1935), the Lewiston Evening Journal posted an op-ed titled “On ‘Once Around with the World’s Series'" on the eve of Game 6, within which we find this gem:
“We do not know what the fans in American baseball would do without the game. It is the great safety-valve for human emotions. It serves as a narcotic for our woes and a harmless one too. […] So we all wait with no other thought for the World’s Series. We forget that the President is “swingin’ round the circle”; that there are such things as processing taxes, rising or falling markets; high priced pork chops or low priced farm-products and we thrill to the magic words “play ball”. We light up the old dudheen and sigh with joy as the conflict opens.”