CHICAGO – For a World Series like the 112th edition to end in five measly games, to withhold the tension and intrigue that befits a matchup between two teams that have suffered a collective 176 years of pain, would not have been right. Cleveland understands great things do not come easy. Chicago, and particularly the North side, can vouch. Whoever wins this World Series will have earned the championship and celebration that comes with it.
Either way, after the Chicago Cubs’ tension-filled 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 at Wrigley Field on Sunday night, a new champion will be crowned at Progressive Field, where the series will shift for the sixth game Tuesday and, if necessary, a seventh Wednesday.
The sides will take off Halloween following a fitful – and, at times, frightful – performance by Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman, who in the longest outing of his career notched the final eight outs to lock down the first World Series win at Wrigley in 71 years. With a career-high 42 pitches, almost all of which were 100-mph-plus fastballs, Chapman served the role the Cubs anticipated when they traded for him in July – and held up the three-run fourth inning that staked the Cubs their runs for the night.
A second-inning Jose Ramirez home run off Jon Lester had given Cleveland a 1-0 lead, and the Indians hadn’t lost this postseason when scoring first. Title dreams danced through the head of Clevelanders, 2016 the year that may not have erased past misery but certainly did its part in sending it to the trash where it belonged.
That didn’t last too long, Clevelanders being Clevelanders, Cleveland being Cleveland. Kris Bryant homered off Trevor Bauer to tie the game, the first of four consecutive hits that led to the Cubs’ three runs. Cleveland’s bullpen shut out the Cubs over the next four innings, while Chicago bent but didn’t break, sneaking out of precarious situations to preserve its season.
Cleveland, used to clawing and scraping for runs, cobbled one together in the sixth off Lester with a Rajai Davis single, a stolen base and a Francisco Lindor RBI single. After bluffing on the first pitch to Mike Napoli, Lindor took off on the second, trying to thieve a base against Lester, whose yips throwing to first make him particularly susceptible. David Ross’ perfect throw and Javier Baez’s just-as-good swipe tag nailed Lindor and helped Lester out of the jam.
Chapman had a pair of his own. First Cubs manager Joe Maddon summoned him with a runner on first and one out in the seventh, and he stranded a pair after hitting Brandon Guyer with a 100-mph fastball. In the eighth, Chapman forgot to cover first base with Davis running, and he advanced to third with two outs. Lindor stared at a 101-mph fastball for strike three.
Even as Chapman’s pitch count eclipsed his career high, the ninth wasn’t nearly as troublesome, and now the Cubs get a full-rest Jake Arrieta in Game 6 against Josh Tomlin, going on three days’ rest for the first time in his career, with Kyle Hendricks looming for Game 7 against Corey Kluber, the star starter of the postseason for Cleveland, going on three days’ for the third time this series.
It’s a toss-up, really, as are most games at this juncture, where two evenly matched teams get to play at least one more game of baseball filled with the tension and gravitas this World Series most certainly deserves.