Indians Head Back to Cleveland Still One Win Away

After witnessing the Indians dominating game one of the World Series and the Cubs coming back to take control of game two, you knew game three was bound to be exciting.

With the series tied at a game apiece, each team would kylecome out wanting to take control of the series and give them the advantage of heading into game four of the first World Series games to be played at Wrigley Field since 1945.

That was certainly the case from the first pitch on Friday night, as the two starters — Josh Tomlin for the Indians and Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs — were absolutely terrific the first time through the opposing team’s order, despite neither being power-pitchers and the disadvantage of having the wind blowing out.

While games one and two failed to live up to the billing of a pitcher’s dual, game three turned out to be the game everyone had been waiting for, as neither starting pitcher allowed a single run over the first four innings and essentially were breezing through every batter they faced.

The first struggles of the game for Hendricks came in the fifth inning, when the bases became loaded with just one out. Due to the situation, Hendricks was removed from the game, and was replaced by Justin Grimm, who promptly got Francisco Lindor to ground into a double play; despite having gone 5-9 previously in the postseason, and being the first player age 22 or younger to start a World Series 5-9 since Mickey Mantle.

Tomlin was replaced in the sixth inning by Andrew Miller, who once again was untouchable, doing his part in keeping the game scoreless through the seventh inning, and punching the new record for scoreless innings by a reliever in the postseason, with 15 straight. It was also in that inning when the Indians would finally put something together.

millerA pinch-hit single from Coco Crisp, who had previously gone 3-18 in the playoffs, scored pinch-runner Michael Martinez from third, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead in the late innings. With the way this game was going, you quickly got the feeling that it was going to be difficult for the Cubs to rally back.

Although Bill Murray attempted to get the Cubs motivated before their at-bats in the seventh with his Daffy-Duck-edition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, it wouldn’t do much good in the end, despite getting the crowd in a lightened mood late in the ballgame.

The Cubs would set themselves up nicely in that very inning, as well as several more times in the game — including the ninth inning, where they had runner on second and third with two outs — but they weren’t able to come through and ended up losing the close game and falling behind the Indians two games to one in the series.

With the win, the Indians marked their fifth shutout pitching performance of their postseason thus far (a new MLB record), and also secured just the 25th time in the 649-game history of the World Series that a game ended with a final score of 1-0. In addition, the last time the Cubs were shutout in the World Series 1-0 came way back in 1918, seeing Babe Ruth throw a shutout against Chicago, leaving little doubt that this series is something historic.

Although the game was thrilling for baseball fans, it was obviously a disappointing loss for the Cubs and their fan base, as it guaranteed they could no longer win the series at Wrigley Field in front of their home crowd. Furthermore, falling one game further away from finally breaking their 108-year World Series championship drought, the Cubs would have to come back the next night and even up the score if they wanted to avoid sitting just one loss away from elimination altogether. You began to get the feeling that game four was going to be another absolute battle.

Game four began just that way, with John Lackey going up against Corey Kluber, who had been terrific in game one. But this time around, it was Lackey who began strong, with Kluber giving up a run in the first, after allowing a drop-in double to Dexter Fowler, and a single up the middle from Anthony Rizzo, making the score 1-0 Cubs.santana

But before the Cubs fans were able to settle back into their seats, Lackey gave up a run of his own via a solo home run to Carlos Santana in the second, marking the first home run by a first baseman in the World Series at Wrigley Field since Lou Gehrig in 1932. Then, following an error by Bryant which allowed Lonnie Chisenhall to reach first — he was moved to second by Perez with two outs — the next batter, Tyler Naquin, was walked to get to the pitcher.

But Kluber proceeded to hit a weak tapper that was thrown wildly by Bryant for his second error of the game, allowing Chisenhall to score and give the Indians a one-run lead. Once again, the next inning, after a leadoff double by Kipnis, the Indians would score when Lindor singled him home, giving the Indians a 3-1 lead.

Neither team would score again for the next two innings, but the Indians were back at it again in the sixth. Mike Montgomery, the reliever for Lackey, gave up a leadoff walk to Lindor, a single to Santana, and a ground out that made it first and third with one out. The next batter Chisenhall then blasted a ball deep enough into the outfield to allow Lindor to score and make it 4-1.

The Cubs would attempt to answer back in the bottom half when a leadoff double from Rizzo got the crowd amped up, but yet again the Cubs couldn’t make it count, failing to get another hit in the inning.

kipnisThe Indians, however, couldn’t stop hitting all night long. Leading off the seventh with a double was Coco Crisp, who advanced to third on a wild pitch with no outs. Rajai Davis was then drilled with the next pitch, and Jason Kipnis ended up launching a three-run bomb to push the lead to six runs.

With that hit, the fans went absolutely silent, especially with Andrew Miller entering the game. But Miller proved that he was in fact human, giving up a homer to Fowler in the eighth inning. Still, the Cubs weren’t able to get anywhere close to threatening the Indians 7-2 lead, as Cleveland was victorious for the second straight night and moved just one win away from winning it all.

Down 3-1 in the series, Sunday night’s game was a win or go home game for the Cubs. If they had any shot at extending their season, they would quite simply have to start getting big hits in game five or they wouldn’t stand a chance against the Indians. Though the odds were against them, the majority of the baseball world was with them, hoping they could find a way to keep the season going just a little while longer.

Jon Lester certainly gave the Cubs’ fans plenty to cheer about in the very first inning, looking sharp and striking out the side to begin the game — the first National League pitcher to do so since John Smoltz in 1996. Equally sharp, however, was Trevor Bauer, who kept the Cubs off the board as well to begin the ballgame.

The second inning was deja vu for the Cubs, as it saw the Indians once again taking an early lead off of a Jose Ramirez solo shot — the youngest player to hit a World Series homer at Wrigley Field since Joe DiMaggio in 1938. Citing thebryant fact that the Indians had won their last fifteen games in which they had hit a home run, going back to the regular season, the odds were slowly falling away from a Cubs victory.

But then the fourth inning happened. Despite Bauer being terrific through the first three innings, his second time through the order proved troublesome. The Cubs bats absolutely came alive, as following a Kris Bryant leadoff home run, Anthony Rizzo proceeded to double off the outfield wall and later scored after a couple of well-placed singles. The bases would quickly become loaded after an out was recorded, and the veteran David Ross would deliver a sacrifice fly, scoring the Cubs’ third run of the inning, making it 3-1.

Despite Wrigley Field hopping following the breakout inning, the Indians would cool things down a bit, leading off the fifth inning with a double from Carlos Santana, who was moved to third with just one out. But a terrific job of pitching by Lester kept the Indians from scoring a single run.

That would only last through the sixth inning, however, when a two-out drop-in single by Francisco Lindor scored the second run of the contest for the Indians. After finishing out that inning, Lester’s night was done. His replacement, Carl Edwards Jr., was shaky to begin, giving up a single to Mike Napoli and allowing him to advance to second withchapman no outs on a passed ball. But Chapman was brought on, who kept things from getting out of hand.

Chapman would stay in for the eighth inning, and although he would allow a runner to make it all the way to third with two outs, a 102 mile-per-hour heater got the strikeout he needed to escape the inning untouched. After little getting through the eighth, Chapman was entrusted with the ninth inning as well, getting the job done in quick fashion, and securing the victory for Chicago with a lengthy eight-out save performance.

With the win, the Cubs move to 3-2 in the series. Although still at a disadvantage heading back into enemy territory down a game, you know the Cubs are at the very least going to be very competitive and not go down without a fight. History is still in the process of being made. After 108 years of disappointment, the Cubs are by no means done in their attempt at achieving baseball glory.

Cubs Just One Win Away from the World Series

Any doubt the baseball world had about the Cubs throughout the entirety of the NLDS against the Giants and the first three games of the NLCS against the Dodgers is slowly beginning to fade away. Despite their offense all but shutting down over the javier-baezcourse of the playoffs to this point, the Cubs have been able to post 18 combined runs over their last two games, once again making them the heavy favorites in this postseason.

Sitting now just one win away from their first World Series appearance since 1945, the Cubs are on the verge of a season not seen in over seven decades. With the team to win game five of the NLCS going on to the World Series nine out of the last ten seasons, it’s all but assured — baring another Steve Bartman incident — that the Cubs will be celebrating big time come either Saturday or Sunday night.

But in order to make the World Series and have any amount of success in it, the Cubs will obviously need to continue hitting. Their pitching has been only decent to this point — other than Jon Lester, who has been phenomenal — and their offense has been far worse. Javier Baez has been tremendous to this point, as has Kris Bryant, but their other stars during the season of Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell are all hitting well under .200 thus far.

However, despite their struggles, I am with the majority of baseball fans who still believe in the Cubs and their ability to get the job done. Perhaps the past two games of the NLCS have given them enough confidence to keep the hit-parade going in the next dozen days or so. Although they must face Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, having to win just one of the final two games at home, the Cubs should make the World Series when all is said and done, even if it takes a full seven games.

How far beyond that they go is yet to be seen, but the Cubs have come much too far to stop now. Even if their pitching and offense aren’t on the levels they were over the length of the 162-game season, they still stand a good chance of giving the overachieving Indians a run for their money.

We very well could be just days away from it being 1908 all over again.

Recap of My Votes for the 2016 MLB Major Awards

Over the past week, or so, I’ve been typing up individual posts on who I feel most deserves the awards of American votingLeague and National League Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. I decided to post them in pairs, with Rookie of the Year coming back-to-back (A.L. then N.L.), followed by the same for Cy Young and MVP.

Some of the choices were easy, while others took a great deal of debate. But in the end, I went with my gut of who I feel deserves each award the most.

In case you missed a few (or all) of my Major League Baseball award posts, I wanted to do a brief recap of each of my picks. Although there are a couple of selections that people will likely disagree with, this is just the way I would vote if my vote had any say.

Here are my picks that I made for each category:

American League Rookie of the Year: Gary Sanchez

National League Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager

American League Cy Young: Justin Verlander

National League Cy Young: Max Scherzer

American League MVP: David Ortiz

National League MVP: Kris Bryant

Feel free to click the links associated with each award to be taken to my post on it, giving the full reasoning behind my picks. I’m planning to post a blog entry covering the winners of each award when they’re announced towards the middle of next month, comparing my original picks to the winners and giving my overall thoughts, so be sure to check back for that when the time arrives.

My Vote for 2016 N.L. Most Valuable Player Award

As I stated in my American League post, choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player bryantsometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.

With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rizzo were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the National League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.

Joey Votto had a somewhat under-the-radar superstar season, after getting off to a horribly slow start. When all was said and done this season, Votto wound up hitting .326 with 29 home runs and a .440 OBP. Playing for a sparsely talented Reds club, it’s easy for Votto to get overlooked, but he was in fact very valuable.

Equally as valuable was Daniel Murphy. This season for the Nationals, Murphy hit a staggering .347, virtually getting a hit every night. Also hitting a career high 25 homers to go along with 104 RBI’s, the year Murphy had is certainly one to remember, but not one to award with the MVP.

One of the brightest stars in baseball at the moment, Anthony Rizzo, also placed in the running for MVP in the National League. With his 32 homers and .385 OBP, Rizzo helped propel the Cubs to the postseason for the second straight season. But regardless, the numbers simply aren’t there for him to win the award.

Once again, I made the very difficult decision of placing Nolan Arenado as runner up in the voting for MVP. Despite him having hit 41 homers with a mammoth 133 RBI’s on the season, I find it hard to give him my vote. Even so, there should be nothing taken away from the season he had. Arenado is in a class all his own.

With the second-place finish of Nolan Arenado, that leaves Kris Bryant on top for the Most Valuable Player in all of the National League. Although he recorded 31 fewer runs batted in than Arenado on the year, his performance day in and day out, including two five-for-five performances, helped cement the Cubs with the best record in all of baseball, subsequently giving Bryant the edge in the MVP voting.

My Vote for 2016 A.L. Most Valuable Player Award

Choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While ortizit’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.

With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, David Ortiz and Mark Trumbo, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the American League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.

The first player I’m forced to knock from this group is Mark Trumbo, who lead all of baseball in home runs this season but won’t lead them all in MVP voting. Despite smacking 47 big flies for the O’s and driving in 108 runs, helping to keep the Orioles in contention, Trumbo didn’t quite do enough to earn the honor.

Next off the list for me is Jose Altuve. For such a small player, Altuve has huge impacts each and every season, and this year saw more of the same. Playing in all but one game this season, Altuve hit a career high 24 homers and came up just shy of 100 RBI’s, all while batting .338. Even so, he didn’t do enough to make him the most valuable.

Also not the most valuable in my mind is Mookie Betts, but it’s not because the stats weren’t there. Betts hit .318 for the Red Sox and slugged 31 homers in addition to scoring 122 runs. If not for a couple of other players who had superstar-level seasons, Betts would be the easy pick for MVP. But he’s not this season.

Finishing second in MVP voting for the fourth time in his five year career is Mike Trout, as I’m seeing things now. He had the highest WAR — if that’s a stat you like — yet again of any player around baseball, coming from his great defense and .315/.441/.550 slash line. He was the most valuable Angels player by far, but not quite the most valuable American Leaguer.

That distinction goes to Boston’s David Ortiz. In this his final season in Major League Baseball, Ortiz posted stats never before seen by any player age forty or older. Hitting .315 while slugging a superb .660, Ortiz was able to record a 38 home run and 127 RBI season, pushing the Red Sox to another division title. With this being David Ortiz’s final campaign, it would be fitting to see him go out in style with the Most Valuable Player award.

My Vote for 2016 N.L. Cy Young Award

As I stated in my American League Cy Young post, each season there are usually several pitchers from each league who have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year was no different. Max Scherzer, Jose Fernandez, Tanner Roark, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, scherzerNoah Syndergaard, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks all had years worthy of recognition, but in the end only one can with the National League Cy Young award.

Admittedly, there are a few others with unbelievable stats from 2016 in the National League not included on my list, but I decided to begin the discussion with Tanner Roark, who is one of the eight pitchers in the NL with an ERA below 3.00. Roark’s 2.83 ERA over the course of this season is quite remarkable, but with so much competition, it quickly leaves him on the outside looking in.

Another pitcher in Roark’s position is Johnny Cueto, who had an unbelievable year but still didn’t do enough to earn the Cy Young. Even so, Cueto’s 18-5 record with a 2.79 ERA helped get the Giants into the postseason once again, despite some offensive struggles, and he will be a big part in their success moving forward.

Jose Fernandez is the next pitcher I’m taking off the list, which is truly unfortunate. With the stunning news of his untimely death coming back in September, it would be fantastic to see him win the award. However, while I’m all for honoring his memory, there are other candidates who deserve the award more when you take a close look at the stats.

Despite getting the Mets into the postseason for the second straight season, Noah Syndergaard won’t wind up with the Cy Young award when all is said and done. But his 2.60 ERA and 218 strikeouts certainly stand out on a pitching staff that saw a plethora of injuries, and Syndergaard will likely continue to be the ace of Queens.

Three-thousand miles away, out in San Francisco, Madison Bumgarner had yet another great season of what has become a great career to this point. Bumgarner managed to strike out 251 batters over the span of 34 starts this season, and combined with Johnny Cueto to make on of the best one-two punches in all of baseball, but won’t take home the award when the voting is revealed.

Speaking of one-two punches, John Lester made up one half of perhaps the best duo in all of baseball for the Cubs. His 2.44 ERA was second best in all of baseball, and his .211 opponent batting average definitely jumps out, but so does Lester’s less than one strikeout-per-inning, making him fall short of the Cy Young award.

It came down to a couple of aces this season. But while Kyle Hendricks and his MLB-best 2.13 ERA initially makes him the heavy favorite, I couldn’t select him to pick up the award. His strikeout numbers are subpar at best, and while that isn’t always a deciding factor in the voting process, it is in this case.

For that reason, I went with Max Scherzer to win the National League Cy Young. He has the worst ERA of all the players on my list, at a dismal 2.96, but it’s his strikeout numbers that give him the edge in my mind. The Cy Young award is about utter dominance, and Scherzer’s 284 K’s (including a 20-strikeout performance this season) makes him the number one choice. Striking out 114 more batters than my runner up Kyle Hendricks, I made the tough but correct decision for the award this season.

My Vote for 2016 A.L. Cy Young Award

Each year there are usually several pitchers from each league who have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year is no different. The American League saw Rick Porcello, Zach Britton, Corey Kluber, Masahiro Tanaka, Aaron Sanchez and Justin Verlander all having great seasons.verlander However, in the end, only one player can take home the Cy Young award.

Although Rick Porcello had a great season that helped carry the Red Sox into the postseason, I don’t feel he’s one of the top few candidates for the Cy Young award. His 3.15 ERA on the year is really good, and his 22 wins — given, wins aren’t as big of a deal as they used to be — stand out, but Porcello didn’t quite do enough all around to earn my vote.

Holding the same fate, Masahiro Tanaka also had a fantastic year, posting a 3.07 ERA over the course of nearly 200 innings pitched for the Yankees. However, his all around stats don’t really hold up when compared to the others in the running. Even so, Tanaka looks to be the ace of the staff moving forward.

Aaron Sanchez’s season was also something special, recording an American League best 3.00 ERA, and virtually taking the Blue Jays to the postseason. With that said, he still didn’t do enough to win the award, as he made a handful of starts fewer than the frontrunners, leading to his strikeouts being lower.

Finishing third on my list is Corey Kluber, who had an amazing year despite it not being on the level we have seen before from Kluber in the year he won the Cy Young. Kluber struck out 227 batters over 215 innings pitched, and held opponents to a .216 average on the year, but likely won’t win the award when all is said and done.

Happening only a handful of times in baseball history, I’m not completely against a reliever winning the Cy Young award, but they have to have posted an unbelievably historic year. Zach Britton certainly fits that category, recording a 0.54 ERA on the season while notching 47 saves, but I don’t see him as more worthy than a certain Tigers’ ace.

The deserving winner of the American League Cy Young — even if he doesn’t wind up being the one to win it — is undoubtedly Justin Verlander. Having a bounce back season, Verlander lead all of the American League in strikeouts, with 254 on the season, and recorded a mere 3.04 ERA while holding opponents to a .207 average. All combined, Verlander is the rightful winner of the top honor for pitcher in the American League.