The 2016 Fall Classic presents one of the most exciting baseball matchups in recent memory.
The Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians have the two longest active World Series droughts, sitting at 107 and 67 seasons respectively.
There is no doubt that winning the 2016 World Series would be an immensely historic victory for either organization and city, as both possess generations of fans who have never seen their team bring home a title.
Games one and two both took place in Cleveland, and after Game one, the Indians had every bit of momentum. The Indians started their ace Corey Kluber, and the Cubs started NLCS co-MVP and postseason veteran Jon Lester.
In many ways, it felt like a must-win game for the Indians, as they do not have strong rotation depth beyond Kluber, and they certainly did not want to drop their first home game. Kluber definitely delivered, as he became the first pitcher in World Series history to record eight punchouts through the first three frames, and he completed six scoreless innings.
His two-seam fastball was his impact pitch, and in Maddux-like fashion, Kluber pounded that pitch throughout his start over the inside corner to right-handers.
The Indians then handed the ball to ALCS MVP Andrew Miller, whose slider looked unhittable. Miller still has not allowed a run all postseason through 13.2 IP, and his continued success alongside Roberto Perez’s two homers helped propel the Indians to a comfortable 6-0 victory.
Game two carried many storylines as well, as many wondered if Jake Arrieta could return to his early-season form when he matched up against the Indians’ Trevor Bauer, who made headlines in the ALCS after suffering a drone-related injury to his finger. Arrietacruised through the Cleveland lineup on Wednesday night, allowing no hits through his first five frames, while showing glimpses of the dominance that allowed him to post a 2.68 ERA before the All-Star break.
On offense, the Cubs drew eight walks, and Kyle Schwarber inexplicably had two more hits and two RBIs. Schwarber, who tore his ACL and LCL on April 7, is silencing those who were hesitant to start him due to rustiness through a solid two games at the plate.
When interviewed after the game, Schwarber said that he, “might try [playing left field] out” for the first time since his injury. Joe Maddon will certainly try and pinch-hit power-hitting lefty once the series returns to Chicago and the DH is removed, and though some are suggesting that Maddon could try and put Schwarber at LF, he has not yet been officially medically cleared to play in the field.
The Cubs quietly cruised through the remainder of the game following the fifth inning, and the momentum of the series shifted dramatically after the Cubs completed the 5-1 victory over Cleveland.
The pressure is now on the Indians, who now must travel to what will undoubtedly be a raucous Wrigley Field for the next three games, and once there, Cleveland’s lack of rotation depth will start to become apparent.
Game three’s matchup is between NLCS game 6 hero Kyle Hendricks and veteran Josh Tomlin, and Hendricks has the edge over Tomlin by a fair margin.
Terry Francona (whose World Series record fell to a still remarkable 9-1 after Wednesday) will be forced to pitch Corey Kluber on short rest in Game four, and Joe Maddon will have the dilemma of managing Schwarber’s plate appearances for the remainder of the series.
Another key management factor will be bullpen use. Joe Maddon will continue using several relief pitchers to create righty-righty and lefty-lefty matchups, and Terry Francona will continue to pitch Andrew Miller as frequently as possible.
The success or failure of these two dissimilar approaches could ultimately decide the series.
What to watch for moving forward: Can Andrew Miller sustain his high inning count? How will the Cubs use Schwarber moving forward? Will Kluber be affected by short rest in Game four?
Impact Players: Kris Bryant is due for a signature game, and Jon Lester will look to bounce back to top form in Game five.
Francisco Lindor has the x-factor to make a difference in every facet of the Indians game moving forward, and Andrew Miller will be critical to Cleveland’s shot at taking control of the highly anticipated series.