Colton Swanson, Online Reporter
The upcoming World Series is going to be one for the ages. The Cleveland Indians haven’t won the World Series since their title in 1948. That’s nothing compared to the Cubs, whose last World Series ring came in came 108 years ago in 1908. For one team, this drought will finally come to the end. For the other, at least one more year of suffering awaits.
The Cleveland Indians, nicknamed “The Tribe” and managed by Terry “Tito” Francona, finished the season 94-67, good for the second most wins in the American League behind the Texas Rangers. After their last A.L. pennant in 1997, the Indians went all in during this year’s trade deadline by acquiring shutdown lefty Andrew Miller from the Yankees. With an injury to catcher Yan Gomes, the Indians also agreed to the trade with Milwaukee that would send Jonathan Lucroy to Cleveland. Lucroy then vetoed the trade and was eventually shipped to Texas instead. The Indians were also without star centerfielder Michael Brantley due to a shoulder injury.
Because the Indians won the American League Central Division, they were set to host the Red Sox in the American League Division Series. The Red Sox were heavily favored in this matchup and were also looking to send David “Big Papi” Ortiz out on top before his retirement following the postseason. The Indians had other plans, however, as they swept the series 3-0 and clinched a spot in the A.L. Championship Series. Right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer took the ball for the Tribe in game one and went 4.2 innings before handing the ball to Miller. Miller, primarily a closer, gave the Indians two innings with four strikeouts in what was the beginning of a historic postseason for the lefty. While the score of game one was only 5-4 in favor of the Indians, Cleveland took game two in a much more convincing fashion. Ace Corey Kluber went seven strong innings of shutout baseball and led the Indians to a 6-0 win. In game three of the series, the Indians again threw Miller for two innings where he gave the Tribe three more strikeouts while recording a hold in the 4-3 win. Not to be lost in the fray was the work of closer Cody Allen who recorded two saves while not allowing an earned run.
The ALCS between the Indians and Toronto Blue Jays painted a similar picture to the previous series. In the best of seven series, Cleveland took the first three games of the series and shut down the powerful Toronto lineup that featured the likes of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson. The Andrew Miller story continued as the lefty struck out ten of the first eleven batters he faced in this series. The Blue Jays took game four by a score of 5-1 and behind the pitching of rookie ace Aaron Sanchez and the bat of Donaldson. The Blue Jays kept their postseason hopes alive but they were then shut out in game five and were knocked out of the postseason. The Indians were headed to the World Series and awaited the winner of the Cubs and Dodgers series.
The Chicago Cubs journey to the postseason included the most wins in baseball in 2016 at 103. Led by manager Joe Maddon and General Manager Theo Epstein, the Cubs look to end the longest World Series title drought in baseball history. Known as “The Curse of the Billy Goat,” Cubs fans have suffered during the last century due to bad performances and misfortune. The curse was said to be placed on the franchise by the owner of “Billy Goat Tavern,” Billy Sianis in 1945. The owner had brought his goat to the game but was asked to leave the stadium due to the odor. This was during the 1945 World Series. Sianis claimed, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more” after leaving the game. He was right. The Cubs had not played in the World Series since Sianis said that. This year however, people believe the curse has finally been broken. Oddly enough, the Chicago Cubs advanced to the World Series following their win on Saturday, Oct. 22. Forty-six years prior to that date, on Oct. 22, 1970, Sianis died in his sleep. The Cubs clinched their first National League Pennant since 1945 on the same day that the man who cursed them had passed away. Coincidence or not, the correlation is there.
Theo Epstein knows all about curses. In fact, Epstein was with the Boston Red Sox when they won the World Series in 2004 after their 86 year drought known as “The Curse of the Bambino.” The curse was named after the great Babe Ruth who had been sold to the Yankees from the Red Sox and went on to become one of the greatest and most well-known players of all time. Epstein, now with the Cubs, took over in 2011 as the President of Baseball Operations after his tenure with the Red Sox. The young Cubs team sat at the bottom of the N.L. Central for a few years until they made the postseason in 2015. Falling just short last year, the Cubs came into this year with high expectations and were the favorites to win their division.
Making it to the World Series for the Cubs was no easy task. In the best of five Division Series, Chicago had to face the San Francisco Giants, a team that had won the title in every even year (2010, 2012, 2014) this decade. The Cubs won the first game after a tight pitching matchup between Jon Lester and Jhonny Cueto 1-0. They proceeded to win game two by a score of 5-2 before losing in the 13th inning of game three, 6-5. The Cubs were down early in game four and faced a 5-2 deficit going into the 9th inning but then shocked the baseball world with a four run top of the 9th that led them to win the series and a trip to the National League Championship to face the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Game one of the NLCS went to the Cubs by a score of 8-4. However, their bats fell silent in games two and three where they lost 1-0 and 6-0. They became one of only a handful of teams to have ever been shut out in back-to-back games in the Championship Series. “The Curse of the Billy Goat” loomed in the back of people’s minds but Chicago did not disappoint. First baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Addison Russell both hit home runs in the Cubs 10-2 win over L.A. in game four followed by their 8-4 win in game five. On Oct. 22, the Cubs returned to the famous Wrigley Field and clinched their first World Series berth in 86 years in front of their hometown crowd by a score of 5-0. Second baseman Javier Baez and starting pitcher Jon Lester took home Co-NLCS MVP awards for their performance in the series.
The World Series began at 5 p.m. Oct. 25 in Cleveland. The Indians bested the Cubs in game one after Kluber pitched six shutout innings while striking out nine. The Cubs tied the series at one after a big game from designated hitter Kyle Schwarber who was returning from a knee injury. The series now shifts to Chicago to host their first World Series game since 1945. Since the American League won the All-Star game back in July, Cleveland will have home field advantage over the best of seven series and will return home for games six and seven if necessary. Josh Tomlin will take the ball for the Tribe while Kyle Hendricks will toe the rubber for Chicago. Both Chicago and Cleveland are ready to end their respective droughts. Both teams are led by potential Hall of Fame managers and a young core of players. Both teams have their own storybook ending that they’d like to write, but only one team can be crowned the champions. For one city, the wait is almost over.
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