With tensions as high as they could possibly get to start a baseball game, Corey Kluber got a called strike one to begin game seven of the 2016 World Series. After two balls, Kluber attempted to get back in the zone, but Dexter Fowler was ready for it and he knocked the pitch just over the wall in center beyond the glove of Rajai Davis for an early 1-0 Cubs lead.
Kluber got ahead of Kyle Schwarber, but the Cubs’ DH hit a chopper between the mound and first that got beyond the pitcher and he was safe with an infield single. Kris Bryant gave another Kluber offering a ride to right, but Lonnie Chisenhall was able to come down with it just in front of the wall. Anthony Rizzo‘s fly ball didn’t go quite as far, but Davis had to range a long way in to his right to come down with the second out of the inning. Continuing with his speed game, Schwarber stole second and was half way there before Kluber delivered the ball, but Ben Zobrist hit the fourth fly ball of the inning and Chisenhall put it away for the final out of the inning.
Carlos Santana came out aggressively against Kyle Hendricks, lining the first pitch he saw out to right where Jason Heyward caught it easily for the first out. Jason Kipnis took the first pitch and quickly fell behind 0-2. He would take one more pitch before striking out swinging for the first K of the game. It looked like the inning would end two pitches later when Francisco Lindor hit a ground ball to the generally flawless Javier Baez, but the second baseman made a poor throw to Rizzo at first and he couldn’t pick it, allowing Lindor to reach with the error. Hendricks pitched around the error and ended the inning one batter by getting Mike Napoli to ground out to short.
Kluber kept them in the air in the second, but with much less authority. Addison Russell and Heyward popped out to short stop to bookend the inning with Chisenhall catching a Willson Contreras fly to right in the middle.
Jose Ramirez worked a full count before hitting one back up the middle off the pitcher for a single. Hendricks got his revenge, however, as he picked off Ramirez at first during the next at bat. As seems to always happen after a runner is tagged out on the bases, Chisenhall singled on the next pitch. He would also be out on the bases, however, as Davis grounded out to Bryant, who was playing in and had time to throw to second for the double play.
Baez started the third with a fly out to Coco Crisp in left, his first play of the game, but the Cubs seventh consecutive out by fly ball. Fowler made it eight by swinging at the first pitch and flying out to Chisenhall in right. Schwarber ended the streak and the inning by hitting a single to right and getting thrown out by Chisenhall while trying to go two.
The most surprising play-off hero for the Indians in 2016 came through again to start the bottom half as Coco Crisp lined a ball down the left field line for a double. Roberto Perez was able to get the bunt down and advance him to third before Santana ripped another pitch to right, this time closer to the line and lower than the first as it dropped in for an RBI single. It appeared that the Cubs would get two on the next play, but Baez made his second error of the night when he tried to barehand the flip from Russell.
Santana was originally called out on the play, but Terry Francona challenged the play and replay showed Baez never had any control of the ball. With two on and one out, Lindor hit one hard to left, but Zobrist made the play for the second out. As he did after the first error, however, Hendricks got out of it. While he hit it a little harder, Napoli still ended the inning with a line out to third.
Bryant had the Cubs fourth hit to start the fourth and he went to second when Kluber hit Rizzo on the elbow. With two on, it looked like Zobrist may have hit into a double play, but this one wasn’t meant to be either as Napoli’s throw to second sailed high and Lindor was just barely able to tag Rizzo for a single out on the play. Russell hit another fly ball against Kluber to center and Bryant tagged up on the play, sliding in under Perez at home for the second Cubs run as Davis’ throw was high from center. Zobrist also moved up to second on the sac fly and he would score as well on a ball off the wall hit by Contreras. With Andrew Miller warming in the bullpen, Kluber was able to get Heyward to pop out in the infield to end the inning, but the Contreras hit and Napoli’s poor throw loomed large as the Cubs left with a two run lead.
With multiple pitchers ready to go if necessary in the Cubs bullpen, Hendricks started the fourth and pitched with much more consistency than the previous inning. Ramirez grounded out to second for the first out, followed by two quick fly outs off the bats of Chisenhall and Davis to end the inning.
Francona stayed with Kluber for the fifth and quickly realized his mistake. On the first pitch of the inning, Baez went deep to right center, extending the Cubs lead to three runs and ending Kluber’s night. Miller was finally brought into the game, but even he couldn’t stop the Cubs hot offense as Fowler singled past Lindor. Shwarber wasn’t able to get his ground ball by Lindor, however, as the short stop turned two as was confirmed by replay. Bryant made Miller work for the next out, but he ultimately walked on nine pitches. After all the innings pitched by Miller against the Cubs, they finally had some success against the lanky lefty as Rizzo hit safely to right, scoring Bryant from first thanks to a great jump on the full count pitch. Zobrist crushed one deep as well, but Davis was able to run it down at the wall in left center to end the half with the Cubs ahead four.
With the increased lead, Hendricks remained in the game for Chicago to face the bottom of the Indians line-up. Crisp hit a routine ground ball to Baez at second for the first out. While he wasn’t bunting this time, Perez still didn’t look ready to swing as he struck out looking. Just as Miller was squeezed by the umpire during Bryant’s walk as he threw three pitches that looked like strikes, but were called balls, Hendricks had a strike three pitch called a ball against Santana, then walked him after the count went full. With this, Joe Maddon went to Jon Lester, who had been warming for the previous three innings. In a separate move, Lester’s personal catcher, David Ross, also came into the game for Contreras.
Lester’s poor fielding immediately came into play as Santana was able to get a good jump off first on a ball hit by Kipnis that dribbled down the third base line. With Lester not making the play, Ross had to field the ball and he threw it down the right field line. Kipnis collided with Rizzo on the play and was given second on interference as Santana reached third. Just needed a single to bring home two, Lester hit Ross on the mask with a pitch that went near the Cubs dug out and scored not only Santana from third, but Kipnis from second as he never slowed down and slid head first into home, bringing up memories of Kenny Lofton scoring from second on a Randy Johnson wild pitch in 1995. If they hadn’t scored on that play, they may not have all as Lindor struck out to end the inning.
Continuing with Miller’s struggles and the story of player’s making up for previous mistakes, Ross took Miller deep with one out, tagging him for the third run in two games after he hadn’t allowed a single run previously in the post season. Heyward grounded out to first and Baez struck out for the first Indians K of the night. The inning was over, but the Cubs had pushed their lead back to three.
Napoli continued his problems making contact as he struck out against Lester to being the bottom half. Ramirez went after a pitch low and outside and grounded out for the second out. Francona then went to his bench to bring in Brandon Guyer for Chisenhall to face the lefty. Not wasting any time, Guyer ripped one into left for a base hit. Davis worked Lester to a hitters count at 3-1, but grounded out in front of second base to Baez to end the inning.
Fowler continued to distress Miller as he singled to right in his second straight at bat against the reliever. After a lengthy at bat that ended with a fly out to left from Schwarber pushed Miller over 40 pitches, Francona went to his second reliever, closer Cody Allen, in the seventh inning.
Focused intensely on Fowler at first, Allen eventually struck out Bryant between pick off throws and Perez was able to just get Fowler as he attempted to steal second for the strike out, throw out double play.
Crisp took a big swing against Lester to start the bottom of the seventh and flew out easily to Zobrist in left. Perez took a few close pitches to work the count full before walking. He was then replaced on the bases by Tyler Naquin. Santana hit into what could have been a double play with any other pitcher on the mound, but Lester simply threw to first for the second out of the inning. With Naquin now on second, Kipnis struck out in his second at bat against Lester.
Allen stayed in for his second inning of work against Chicago and started it off with a swinging strike out of Rizzo. He would continue his run as the best Indians pitcher of the night as Zobrist grounded out to first and Russell also hit one to Napoli, popping out to end the inning.
With Lester still in the game, Lindor got ahead in the count 2-0, but grounded out to short for the first out. Napoli got down 0-2, but worked the count back to even before taking the first pitch that was called a strike despite being outside all night for strike three. Ramirez came up next and hit his second infield single, bouncing one off Russell at short for a two out base runner. This pushed Lester, who had thrown more than 50 pitches on two days rest, as Maddon went to his closer, Aroldis Chapman.
Like Miller, it’s possible that the extreme workload affected Chapman as well. After a lengthy at bat against Guyer pushed the count to full, the Indians lefty masher crushed a ball to the gap in right center that scored Ramirez from first and put another runner in scoring position. This lead to what was possibly the biggest Indians hit in Indians history.
With a 2-2 count on the seventh pitch of the at bat, Rajai Davis hit a 97 MPH Chapman fastball out to the home run porch in left, scoring Guyer from second and tying the game for the first time since prior to the first batter of the game. Chapman stayed in after the bomb and Crisp added another hit to left field, the Indians fourth consecutive with two outs. Gomes had came in defensively after Naquin pinch ran for Perez and he was fooled badly by three Chapman pitches after getting ahead of the count 2-0 to strike out and end the inning.
Allen stayed on for his third inning of work in this series of more extreme relief pitcher usage than any before and couldn’t find the zone against Ross, who walked on five pitches. During this at bat, the rain started as if this game needed any more drama. Madden pulled Ross for Chris Coghlan and he was quickly involved in a controversial play. On a Heyward ground ball to second, Kipnis flipped to Lindor for one out, then Coghlan slid directly into Lindor keeping him from completing the double play. Francona asked the umpires to check the slide and the confirmed that the slide was legitimate, leaving Heyward safe at first with one out. Having obviously spent his whole tank, Allen was pulled by Francona for his third and final relief ace, Bryan Shaw.
With Baez at the plate, Heyward started moving and stole second on Gomes, then took third as the throw bounced off Lindor and into left field. Looking to sneak Heyward home from third, Baez bunted with a full count, but the ball bounced under Gomes for strike three. With Fowler up and the game on the line, he hit a ball up the middle that threatened to untie the game, but with the shift on, Lindor was able to cross to the right side of the infield and make the play, throwing out Fowler to bring on the bottom of the ninth.
Chapman stayed in and Santana pushed the count to full to start the inning, but flew out to short left on a slider. Without his signature fastball, Chapman continued with sliders against Kipnis until he struck him out on a 98 MPH pitch high and inside. Lindor would have the shortest at bat of the inning as he popped out to Heyward on the first pitch he saw.
If there was one thing fans of neither franchise wanted it was to wait even longer for their first World Series title in an extremely long time. Even so, it’s hard to imagine this ending any other way. Davis’ home run forced extra innings and the rain hit hard right before the tenth, further delaying the game. Once play resumed after midnight, Shaw stayed in the game and Schwarber greeted him with a single through the right side. The DH was then pulled for pinch runner Albert Almora.
Bryant crushed a ball to the warning track in center, but it was just a long out, although Almora did tag and move to second on the play. Shaw intentionally walked Rizzo to get to Zobrist, then got ahead of Zobrist, but the Cubs’ most consistent hitter throughout the World Series came through yet again with an RBI double down the left field line that scored the go ahead run from second and put two more in scoring position with just one out. Shaw intentionally walked Russell then as well to load the bases for Miguel Montero, who had came in defensively after Coghlan pinch ran for Ross. The left handed Montero went the opposite way as well and his single snuck through the infield between Lindor and Ramirez to bring home the second run of the inning.
While Shaw did get the two ground balls he was looking for, they both found holes and Shaw left the game with the bases still loaded and just one out. Starting pitcher from games two and five, Trevor Bauer, was then Francona’s go to reliever as his other option who was up, Dan Otero, had given up a grand slam in his appearance in game six. Bauer faced Heyward to begin his appearance and struck him out on a check swing on a ball in the dirt. After getting Heyward with breaking pitches, Bauer went after Baez with straight heat, throwing 95 MPH fast balls to eventually induce the third out of the inning on a fly ball to center.
Carl Edwards Jr. replaced Chapman in the bottom of the 10th, facing Napoli, Ramirez and Guyer as the Cubs looked to win their first World Series since 1908. As he did most of September, the post-season and in this game, Napoli struck out swinging on a pitch well outside the strike zone. Ramirez worked the count and hit a liner that landed just foul down the right side, but ultimately grounded out to short stop for the second out.
Guyer came up looking to get on any way possibly and walked on five pitches. He took second on indifference with the hero from earlier in the game, Davis at the plate. Davis would come through again, singling to center to bring him home. Unfortunately for history and the Indians, this brought Michael Martinez, who had come in defensively for Crisp earlier in the game, to the plate and the minor league utility infielder grounded out to Bryant at third base to end the game and make the Cubs World Series Champions of the 2016 season.