Thursday, 3 November 2016

World Series - Game's 6 & 7 - You Already Know How It Ended, Why Hurt Yourself?

They say a picture tells a thousand words and in this case, it's going to have to. After an epic World Series comeback by the Cubs that the baseball media will eulogise for god knows how long, I don't feel particularly motivated to analyse how the Indians lost. I'm proud of this plucky underdog team, who knocked out the big bad Red Sox and Blue Jays, and so very nearly got the best of the Cubs, who were undoubtedly the best team in the majors this year.  But I can't lie and say it's not incredibly disappointing to fall at the final hurdle.

Nevertheless, the Indians will retool over the winter and look for revenge in 2017. The Cubs will celebrate and they deserve to do so, everyone knows they've waited long enough. Cleveland fans had their moment of glory in 2016, their own epic comeback to remember forever (thank you again Cavs). Now Chicago have theirs. But it would have been nice if Cleveland could have had two parades this year.

Thank you for reading and enjoy the off-season.

Monday, 31 October 2016

World Series - Game 5 - Cubs Stay Alive

The Indians had a chance to make history at Wrigley Field last night but couldn't quite edge the home team, as the Cubs prevailed as 3-2 winners to force a game 6 in Cleveland.

In a closely fought contest, the Cubs' skipper Joe Maddon took a page out of Terry Francona's book and used his best reliever at a time when he was needed most, rather than waiting for the final innings. Aroldis Chapman, the man with the 100mph plus heater, entered the game in the 7th and managed to blank the Tribe for 8 outs as the Cubs held on for the win.

After the Indians took an early 1-0 lead thanks to a 2nd inning home run by Jose Ramirez, the Cubs struck back in the 4th. Tribe starter Trevor Bauer had been pitching well up until that point but he was taken apart by Kris Bryant (home run), Addison Russell (RBI single) and David Ross (sac-fly RBI) as the Cubs opened up a narrow lead.

The Indians closed the gap in the 6th inning when Francisco Lindor lined a single into center field to score Rajai Davis to bring the Tribe within a run but that was all the offense could muster for the rest of the night. The press have been focused on the Indians' stellar pitching this postseason, and rightfully so, but Lindor has been sensational as well. The Indians star shortstop has been playing his usual elite defense but has produced with the bat as well, currently leading all postseason players in total hits with 18.

It's obviously disappointing the Tribe couldn't secure the championship at the first opportunity but there are some positives to having a game 6. First and foremost, both game 6 and game 7 will be played in Cleveland and I always think it's so much better to celebrate success in front of your own fans. Also, last night's game didn't see the Indians use Andrew Miller, so he should be ready to go if called upon in game 6 on Tuesday night. And last but not least, if the Indians can't get the job done tomorrow night, then we'll get to see Corey Kluber work his magic on Wednesday in an epic winner-takes-all game 7. As much as I love watching Kluber pitch, let's hope it doesn't come to that, okay Indians?

Sunday, 30 October 2016

World Series - Game 4 - One Win Away

Indians' second baseman Jason Kipnis grew up just outside of Chicago, less than 20 miles from Wrigley Field. Raised a Cubs fan, Kipnis always wanted to play in a World Series inside the famous old stadium. However, as an adult he seems to have put any feelings he used to have for the Cubs to one side as he is firmly focused on beating his childhood team.

"I have cousins who are full-on rooting for the Cubs... They’re Cubs fans, and that’s fine by me. I hope to have a great big smile during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and have this to hold over their head, and bragging rights every time I see them. I’d love to just have that little grin on my face knowing that I beat their team. That’d mean a lot to me."

Well Kipnis helped the Tribe get one step closer to making his words become reality as he broke open game 4 of the World Series with a monster 3 run homer into the right field bleachers to put the game beyond Chicago and give Cleveland an opportunity to win their first championship since 1948. The Indians ran out 7-2 winners on the night.

Indians' ace Corey Kluber started for the Tribe and despite gifting the Cubs an early lead on a Anthony Rizzo single in the first inning, he soon settled into his usual rhythm. Kluber lasted 6 innings and gave up 5 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk and he struck out 6 Cubs. Kluber now has a 0.89 ERA during the postseason, the second-best postseason mark in baseball history among pitchers with at least 30 innings in one postseason. The Dodgers' Burt Hooton is the only pitcher who bests him, when he posted a 0.82 ERA over 33 innings in 1981.

Here's a photo of my signed Corey Kluber card just because
Kluber turned the ball over to Andrew Miller to start the 7th inning and Miller struck out 2 in his 2 innings of work, setting a single-postseason record for a reliever with 29 strikeouts, beating Francisco Rodriguez's 2002 record of 28 strikeouts. Miller did see his scoreless innings streak come to an end though, when he served up a solo homer to Dexter Fowler in the 8th inning. Terry Francona opted to rest his closer Cody Allen for the 9th and Dan Otero closed it out instead with a scoreless inning for the Tribe.

The real story of the night was the Indians' lineup breaking out to put the hurt on the Cubs' John Lackey and the rest of their bullpen. The Tribe offense had 10 hits, 3 walks, and Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana all picked up RBI. Santana's came in spectacular fashion, thanks to a mammoth home run off Lackey in the top of the 2nd inning. Santana's third postseason homer went against a strong wind, but still nestled deep into the right-field bleachers to get the Tribe back in the game.

Overall it was a convincing performance from the Indians and they are now just one win away from winning the World Series. I still can't get over this fact and it feels strange just to say it. Sunday night's Game 5 will see the Indians send Trevor Bauer to the mound on 3 day's rest and he will face off against the Cubs' lefty Jon Lester. I'm not expecting a miracle from Bauer by any means, and whatever happens Cleveland will be going home after this game. But wouldn't it be nice to take the World Series trophy with them on the flight back?

Saturday, 29 October 2016

World Series - Game 3 - Tomlin Tames Cubs

The first World Series game hosted at historic Wrigley Field in over half a century didn't have the outcome the home fans wanted, but the Tribe faithful can be elated as Cleveland fought hard for a 1-0 win to take back the lead in the series once more.

It was a bitter night in Chicago and Cubs fans were expecting a win to celebrate the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years. But not even Bill Murray singing the 7th inning stretch could save the Cubbies as the Indians' timely hitting and remarkable ability to pitch out of jams gave the home team a loss, and Cleveland a 2-1 lead in the World Series heading into game 4.

The Indians sent Josh Tomlin to the mound, and with his father Jerry watching from the stands, the younger Tomlin delivered in the postseason once again. The 32 year-old Texan battled through 4.2 innings of high pressure, shutout baseball and limited the Cubs to just 2 hits, whilst walking 1 and striking out 1 also. Tomlin has been inspirational this October, and has a 1.76 ERA over 15.1 innings of work in 3 starts. With unfavourably windy conditions at Wrigley threatening to punish a notorious fly-ball pitcher like Tomlin, he never let the moment and the elements get to him. There have been a host of impressive and crucial Indians players this postseason and I don't think Tomlin has received quite enough of the credit. He has been essential to this club's success.

Andrew Miller took over from Tomlin in the bottom of the 5th and got the final out, and then proceeded to strike out the side in the 6th, making the Cubs batters look clueless. Miller added to his legacy yet again and now has 15.1 scoreless innings and 27 strikeouts this postseason. He's now a single strikeout shy from tying Francisco Rodriguez's 2002 single-postseason record of 28 for a relief pitcher and his streak of consecutive scoreless innings is a new postseason record for a reliever. At this rate he'll get a statue outside Progressive Field in no time.

Miller was surprisingly lifted from the game in the 7th inning but for good reason. The Indians had started a rally and looked set to score their first run of the night, so the master strategist Terry Francona made his move. With super-utility man Michael Martinez on as a pinch runner at third base and Rajai Davis at first after a walk, the table was set for the Tribe to take the lead. Miller, known for his wipeout slider and not his hitting, was pulled for the pinch-hitting Coco Crisp and the veteran made the most of another big October opportunity. He has been so clutch in the playoffs for the Indians and lined a single into right field that just dropped in front of Cubs RF Jorge Soler. Martinez never hesitated and crossed the plate to make it 1-0 to the Tribe, with Davis getting thrown out at third for good measure. It didn't matter though as the Indians had finally broken the deadlock and didn't intend to let the Cubs mount a comeback.

Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen combined to pitch the final three innings and despite the Cubs doing their best to put the duo to the sword, they couldn't quite get the hit that counted and the home crowd fell silent as Allen struck out Javier Baez on a high fastball to end the game.

The Indians now have the chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead as Corey Kluber will take the mound tonight on short rest after his game 1 victory. John Lackey, a pitcher accustomed to the World Series after trips in 2002 and 2013, will represent Chicago.