CLEVELAND — Seriously now, how the heck else would you expect a Chicago Cubs-Cleveland Indians World Series to end?

Easily? Quickly? Inauspiciously?

No, no and heck no.

Game 7, Wednesday night, here we come. Standing ovation, anyone?

Game 7 is always a beautiful and lovely concept. This one is an especially thrilling development given the, you know, 176 combined years of drought that will climax in a something’s-gotta-give grand finale hard on the banks of Lake Erie.

“These two teams, why wouldn’t it come down to a seventh game?” asked Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, who you can see pitching in relief Wednesday night. “One hundred and seventy-some years?

“We can’t tie. Somebody’s gotta win.”

From the moment Kris Bryant jacked a solo homer in the first inning to Cleveland’s Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall miscommunicating in the outfield to Addison Russell’s grand slam in the third, it was clear the Cubs were going to do their Houdini-best—just like they did against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers—to wiggle out of a near-death experience.

They laid it on early, rode closer Aroldis Chapman late and drilled the Indians 9-3 to even this World Series at three games each.

They can’t tie.

As the great Cleveland radio man Tom Hamilton said during a subdued seventh-inning stretch at Progressive Field, “The Cubs have taken the fun out of what the Indians hoped would be a celebratory party.”


These 20 or so hours from the time Game 6 ended near midnight until Wednesday’s 8 p.m. ET Game 7 start will seem to take 108 years for Cubs fans. And they will no doubt seem to last 68 years for those Indians fans who hoped to witness that celebratory party Tuesday and now will be chewing their fingernails throughout the day Wednesday.

Please, don’t let this end. Can MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred invoke his best-interests-of-the-game powers and declare this a best-of-nine series?

Cubs starter John Lackey, who also could become a reliever for Game 7, started Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie for the former Anaheim Angels against the Giants. Much as people will be telling Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks it is just another game, Lackey offers a more truthful response.

“People try to tell you it’s just another game. They’re lying to you,” Lackey said as the Cubs digested their latest escape.

Not since 1985 has a team trailed 3-1 in the World Series and come back to force Game 7. Then, it was the Kansas City Royals, and they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals that year in part due to umpire Don Denkinger’s miscall heard ’round the world.

Might Joe West, or Sam Holbrook, or any of the others in this umpiring crew, suffer the same fate Wednesday?

Not since 1979 has a team trailed 3-1 in the World Series and stormed back to win it all when Games 6 and 7 were on the road. The Cubs are trying to pull off what the old Willie “Pops” Stargell and Dave Parker Pittsburgh Pirates did to the Baltimore Orioles in 1979.

“‘We Are Family,’ right?” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, correctly identifying the Pirates’ anthem, Sister Sledge’s smash hit that year. “I remember the song. I loved their hats.”

Funny what we remember. And who knows what we’ll take forward from the Cubs-Indians Game 7? Maybe it will be another dominant performance by Indians ace Corey Kluber, who will take straight aim at the record book: My Bleacher Report colleague Danny Knobler looked it up, and only one pitcher in history has started and won Games 1, 4 and 7 in a World Series. It was St. Louis’ Bob Gibson, against Boston in 1967. Chew on that for a while.

The last pitcher to start and win three World Series games, period, was Detroit’s Mickey Lolich against St. Louis in Games 2, 5 and 7 in 1968.

“I don’t think any team could draw up a better starting pitcher for a Game 7 than Corey Kluber,” Indians relief ace Andrew Miller said. “And fortunately, we’ve got him.”

Miller surely will factor into a key part of Game 7, as will Chapman. They’re the two dominant relievers the New York Yankees effectively traded into this World Series in July.

But, when? Kluber and Hendricks were two of the best starters in the game this summer. Someone joked that maybe Miller and Chapman should start the game, and Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo stopped his smile long enough to reply, “If two Cy Youngs weren’t pitching tomorrow, then I’d say they should start the game.”

The biggest question will be how long the Cubs can ride Chapman if they need him, because his entrance into a 7-2 blowout in the seventh inning of Game 6 provoked a fierce debate from the living rooms of America all the way to cyberspace, where seemingly half of the people said good for Maddon for using him because the Cubs needed to lock down Game 6, while the other half countered with the argument that using Chapman’s fuel was dumb and will only reduce his effectiveness in Game 7. Especially because he worked a career-high 2.2 innings Sunday night in Game 5.

So we invited Cubs catcher David Ross to wade into the debate. One day, Ross will be a major league manager. He is that sharp, and he follows all of Maddon’s moves closely. But Tuesday was not a day he was interested in managing.

“That’s why Joe gets paid a lot more money than I do,” said Ross, who acknowledged he was surprised Chapman pitched. “He gets paid to make the tough decisions. He’s got to answer to you guys.

“That [move] probably was not what I was thinking, but, hey, I’m just a backup catcher.”

Maddon’s thinking? The middle of the Indians lineup was coming up, and there was no way he was going to risk losing this game. No way.

“The meaty part of their batting order, if you don’t get through that, there is no tomorrow,” explained Maddon, who pulled Chapman in the ninth at 20 pitches.

Plus, Chicago’s bullpen will be deeper for Game 7 than it was for Game 6. Though Pedro Stop pitched Tuesday, he wobbled, and it’s clear Maddon has about as much faith in him and Hector Rondon as an atheist has in the beliefs of the church.

So you bet Lester and Lackey will be on call if Hendricks staggers or Chapman fades Wednesday.

“They’re jacked,” Ross said. “They’re as competitive as it gets. Lack was talking about it today, saying you just let me know when and I’ll run down to warm up. He can’t wait.”

And Lester?

“I hope it’s null and void,” he said. “I hope it’s not an issue. That’s my plan. I’m not planning on anything. I’ll see what Skip wants, and hopefully nothing weird is needed.”

Translation: Lester has full faith in Hendricks.

But if something weird is needed?

“I’ll pitch until he takes me out,” Lester said. “If we’re in that weird situation and he brings me in, we have three months to rest.”

Two years ago in a similar situation, San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner started and won Game 5, and then, after Kansas City pounded the Giants 10-0 in Game 6, he was asked in the clubhouse how many pitches he could give manager Bruce Bochy in relief during Game 7.

“Two hundred,” he said without hesitation.

When I relayed that to Lester, he repeated: “We have three months to rest. There really are no rules tomorrow. There are no guidelines, no boundaries. We’ve played 170-some games, and now it’s down to this one game.”

Miller, one of Cleveland’s biggest weapons, hasn’t pitched since Saturday night, so he should be good for three or four innings if needed. Bryan Shaw and closer Cody Allen both worked Sunday night, so they’ve each had a couple of days’ rest.

“I don’t think we need to tell everybody who is going to pitch tomorrow,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “That’s probably a competitive thing.”

Probably is, so bring it on. Game 7, Cubs-Indians, surely the most highly anticipated Game 7 since New York Mets-Boston Red Sox in 1986. It’s only the seventh time in the last 28 World Series, going back to 1988, that it’s been extended to Game 7.

Yes, it is all hands on deck. No, they cannot tie.

May the best drought win.

“I think if you love baseball,” Rizzo said, “this is the best thing that could happen.”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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