CLEVELAND — The first thing you need to know about Game 7, honestly, is that it’s Game 7 and all convention goes out the window. The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, each playing to end decades’ long World Series droughts, will have the all-hands-on-deck approach. Don’t be surprised to see Jon Lester coming out of the bullpen or Andrew Miller in early again.
So much of the game, though, could hinge on one question: What does Indians ace Corey Kluber have left in the tank?
The Indians, despite getting walloped in Game 6 at home, have to be happy that they’ll have their ace back on the mound for Game 7, plus a rested Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw in the bullpen. Kluber is most vital, because he’s already beaten the Cubs twice in this series – pitching six scoreless innings in Game 1, then allowing one run in six innings in Game 4.
He’s going on three days’ rest again, like an old-school ace pitching Games 1, 4, 7. If Kluber keeps up his postseason pace – he has a 0.89 ERA in five starts — it’s going to be a tough day for the Cubs. But if he looks more like the last two Indians pitchers the Cubs faced on three days’ rest, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin, Wrigleyville could be feeling something unlike anything it’s felt in 108 years.
The Indians, though, feel confident with Kluber, whose two previous starts have stayed under 90 pitches.
“That’s a good feeling, and I know they love their guy, too, as they should,” Indians manager Terry Francona said after Game 6. “It’s Game 7. You’ve got two really, really good pitchers, and it will be exciting. Like I said before tonight’s game, it’s an honor to even be a part of it, and we’re going to give it everything we have. I can’t imagine a better group of guys to go through something like this with. I’m looking forward to it already.”
The Cubs send out NL Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks to the mound, who has a 1.31 ERA in the postseason. He pitched the Cubs’ NLCS clincher and he faced the Indians in Game 3, which they won 1-0. He allowed six hits but no runs over 4 1/3 innings. He returns now on regular rest.
WHOSE SIDE IS HISTORY ON?
Let’s be real here, you can parse numbers and facts any which way to get a result you favor, so here’s one fact that Cubs fans will feel good about and one that Indians fans will.
From Jeff Passan’s Game 7 column, regarding the Cubs and their comeback attempt. Essentially, teams that force a Game 7 after being down 3-1 usually win it:
Chicago is trying to do something only the 1925 Pirates, 1958 Yankees, 1968 Tigers, 1979 Pirates and 1985 Royals have done: come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series. An even more heartening note for Chicago: Just two teams, the 1967 Red Sox and 1972 Reds, forced a Game 7 after being down 3-1 and lost it.
According to ESPN’s Stats & Info, the last three pitchers to throw a Game 7 on short rest, like Kluber is doing, their teams all won.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 2, 2016
So, take your pick, Cubs and Indians fans.
The Cubs use the same lineup as they did in Game 6, which worked out well for them. Most notably, they have Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist going 2-5 in the lineup.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 2, 2016
Here’s the Indians lineup, with Rajai Davis starting in center instead of Game 6 goat Tyler Naquin. Otherwise, it’s pretty standard stuff for Cleveland.
Here we go.#RallyTogether
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) November 2, 2016
GAME 7 PARTICULARS
• First pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m ET on the nose, as opposed to 8:08 p.m. like previous games. TV coverage starts on Fox at 7:30 p.m. ET and the pregame show starts at 7 p.m. ET on FS1.
• Pregame activities of note: Indians legend Jim Thome is throwing out the first pitch.
Before Game 7 don’t miss these:
• Game 7 of Cubs vs. Indians will also be a battle of joy vs. heartbreak
• For Indians and Cubs, Game 7 carries a generational burden
• Remembering the five greatest Game 7s in World Series history
• Cubs find their punch at the plate and avoid World Series knockout
• Awesome Bill Murray gives random fan Game 6 ticket for seat next to him
• Best ballboy ever gave Cubs fan the Addison Russell grand slam ball
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports: