The Cubs and Indians played the best game of postseason and one of the most exciting World Series in history. Last night's seventh game gave everything you could want in a baseball game: offense, defense, pitching, quesitonable manager decisions, and a fitting ending. We'll use the Live Scorecaster
to break down the Cubs first World Series victory in 108 years.
The Cubs were favored, led from the first batter of the game, and held control through most of the game. That all changed when Rajai Davis hit a home run to tie the game off of the most dominating closer in baseball, Aroldis Chapman. Let's take a look at the win probability swings throughout the game.
After lineups were announced, we slightly favored the Cubs and Kyle Hendricks to beat the Indians and Corey Kluber 51.5% of the time. A Corey Kluber 3-2 two-seam leaked back over the plate to the leadoff batter, Dexter Fowler, where he hit it over the fence in dead center. The leadoff home run gave the Cubs a 57.4% chance to win that would go up to 62.6% after the Indians were blanked in the first inning.
That 1-0 lead held until the bottom of the third inning. Carlos Santana singled off Kyle Hendricks to score Coco Crisp and tie the game. The Cubs were back towards their original odds of 51.4% to win the game until they added on in the fourth.
Kris Bryant started the inning with a single. Rizzo followed with a hit-by-pitch, his specialty. An eventual sacrifice fly by Addison Russell and double by the rookie catcher, Willson Contreras gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead that left them with a 78.6% chance to win.
Another zero was put up by the reliable Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs would separate themselves even further in the 5th inning. Another youngster, Javier Baez, deposited an opposite field home run into the bleachers, giving the Cubs a 4-1 lead. The MVP of the ALCS, Andrew Miller, was then called upon by Terry Francona, but his workload began to show. Kris Byrant would walk with two outs, and Rizzo singled sharply to right. With Bryant stealing on the play, he would end up scoring. This 5-1 lead would give Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, and Aroldis Chapman a 92.1% chance to win.
However, the Indians' offense woke up in the bottom of the fifth with a little two-out lightning. Carlos Santana worked a two-out walk and Hendricks was lifted from a quality outing after only 63 pitches. Jon Lester, who had been throwing for a while in the bullpen on only two days of rest, entered the game. Jason Kipnis' swinging bunt and throwing error by David Ross on the play gave the Indians life. On one of the stranger plays one would see in baseball, Lester bounced a curveball which came up and hit David Ross in the facemask. The ball would kick away and both Santana and Kipnis would score to tighten the game at 5-3. Nonetheless, the Cubs still had the upper hand at 82.5% chance to win.
David Ross would grab a run back for the Cubs in his last Major League game. The 39-year old connected with a 94 MPH fastball from a tiring Andrew Miller and hit it over the fence in dead-center. The 6-3 lead boosted the Cubs' odds to 93.4% after Lester posted a zero in the bottom of the sixth.
Trading zeroes in the seventh, where closer Cody Allen replaced Miller in the top half, inched the Cubs closer to a World Series title and increased their odds even further to 95.8% going into the eighth. After another scoreless inning from Allen, everything changed in the bottom half of the eighth with only four outs left for the Indians.
Jose Ramirez singled with two outs in the eighth to chase Jon Lester for the game. The dominating closer, Aroldis Chapman, took over for Lester. Chapman would have to face a couple left-handed hitting specialist, Brandon Guyer and Rajai Davis. Guyer produced an incredible 181 wRC+ this season against left-handed pitchers and has made a five-year career in smashing them (144 wRC+). Like Guyer, Rajai Davis prefers to face lefties. His career 78 wRC+ is glaringly different than 112 wRC+ against lefties.
Guyer got a 98 MPH fastball up from a tired Aroldis Chapman, who threw nearly three innings the night before, and drove a double into right-center to score Ramirez. Rajai Davis would follow with a seven-pitch at bat where he looked over matched until the last pitch. Davis got a mistake fastball from Chapman in his sweet spot, down and in. Davis turned it around and tucked it inside the foul pole to tie the game. The Cubs now only had a 54.7% chance to win going into the ninth.
Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw would combine for another scoreless inning in controversy. David Ross walked in his last Major League plate appearance as he was lifted for a pinch runner. Heyward would ground into a fielder's choice and ended up on first with one out. The speedy Heyward stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error from Yan Gomes. The infield was drawn in as the potential game-winning run was just a sacrifice fly away. Javier Baez was now at the plate with a 3-2 count. Baez is a dangerous hitter but is susceptible to breaking balls. With a base open and needing a double play to end the inning, it was obvious Baez would not see a fastball from Shaw. Mysteriously, Baez or Joe Maddon decided to bunt with two strikes and fouled it back, ending his at-bat. Fowler would eventually ground out to end the inning.
All of a sudden, the Indians would be favored heading into the bottom of the ninth for the first time at 62.2%. Shockingly, Aroldis Chapman was put back onto the mound but was able to retire the top of the Indians' order in timely fashoin.
Seemingly, this game would have everything a fan could want or not want including a rain delay heading into the tenth inning. The quick delay, though, didn't slow down the Cubs' bats. Kyle Schwarber singled to lead off the inning and was lifted for pinch runner Albert Almora. Kris Bryant's deep flyout allowed Almora to move up to second. Shaw walked Rizzo intentionally to face Ben Zobrist in hopes of a double play. With a slight shift on, Zobrist was able to slice a fastball just inside the third base line for a double to take the lead. Miguel Montero would add another run with a single to left field. The Cubs were overwhelming favorites holding a 93.2% chance to win.
Guyer and Davis would make it interesting again with two outs. Carl Edwards, a right handed pitcher this time, would enter for the Cubs. Guyer worked a walk with two outs and advanced to second unchallenged. Davis singled in Guyer to make it 8-7 Cubs. Unfortunately for the Indians, Michael Martinez, a defensive replacement, was their last hope. Martinez ground out softly to Kris Bryant and the Cubs were World Series Champions.
As a baseball fan, or sports fan in general, one could not ask for more from this game. There were home runs, a comeback, a couple great defensive plays, a few coaching and player gaffes, and an exciting finish. It's rare in most sports, aside from NBA, for the best team to win the elimination tournament at the end of the year. This MLB season was an exception. The Cubs were the best team during the regular season by a large margin and were clear-cut favorites coming into the playoffs. They've finally kicked the curse and brought home their first title in 108 years. With top young players at every position, the Cubs will certainly be World Series favorites again next year and seemingly for years to come.