Baseball’s two longest championship droughts, so one is about to end. While the Indians seek their first World Series title in 68 years, the Cubs haven’t won it all since 1908.
What is the big picture for both teams in this final matchup?READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Is Another Relief Payment Coming?
Cubs: World Series favorites since opening day, Chicago (103-58) finished with best record in majors and entered playoffs with a large, excited fan base hoping against hope that the first championship in more than a century was finally around the corner.
Now, the Cubs need just four more wins to make it happen. Chicago jumped out to 25-6 start on the way to a runaway title in NL Central. Knocked off playoff-tested San Francisco in tense NL Division Series and took out Dodgers in NLCS after getting swept by Mets a year ago.
Cubs rebounded from back-to-back shutout losses against Los Angeles by scoring 23 runs over final three games.
Hendricks pitched two-hit ball over 7 1/3 innings to beat Clayton Kershaw 5-0 in clinching Game 6 at rollicking Wrigley Field. … Rizzo broke out of 2-for-26 slump by going 7 of 14 with two homers and five RBIs over final three games of NLCS.
Cubs pitchers led the majors with a 3.15 ERA. They gave up the fewest runs (556) and hits (1,125).
Indians: Hoping to deliver a rare double championship for Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers won NBA crown in June.
Cleveland is making its sixth World Series and first since 1997, when Indians lost Game 7 in extra innings to Marlins.
Francona has pushed all the right buttons in postseason and masterfully maneuvered his stellar bullpen, led by the incomparable Miller.
Indians, who have overcome injuries, suspensions and doubts all season, are 7-1 in postseason after sweeping Boston in AL Division Series and eliminating Toronto in five games in ALCS.
Merritt emerged as unlikely hero in ALCS. Rookie practically came out of nowhere to fill spot in injury-riddled rotation and pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings in clinching Game 5.READ MORE: Child Tax Credit: September Payments Arriving In Parents' Bank Accounts
Bauer expects to be able to pitch in World Series after slicing his finger open while repairing one of the drones he likes to fly as a hobby.
Cleveland’s adversity has included losing star outfielder Michael Brantley for all but 11 games following shoulder surgery; PED suspensions for outfielders Abraham Almonte and Marlon Byrd; and injuries to starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar in the season’s final month
Indians are a different team at home, where they went AL-best 53-28 and led league with 11 walkoff wins. They are 4-0 at Progressive Field in postseason. Indians didn’t lose three straight all season.
— Thanks, Yanks. Looking for lockdown relief help to boost a championship charge, each team pulled off a blockbuster trade with the retooling Yankees in late July. First, the Cubs found a new closer in Chapman. The left-hander from Cuba, who can become a free agent after the World Series, is baseball’s hardest thrower with a fastball that regularly tops 100 mph. Six days later, the Indians landed Miller and resolved to feature him in a flexible role. Both clubs gave up a multiplayer package of touted prospects, a price that certainly seems worth it now.
— Young Stars Up The Middle. With their big smiles, immense talent and clutch performances, Baez and Lindor both grabbed attention during the playoffs and introduced themselves to a national audience. Effervescent, smooth and sometimes flashy, they play with poise and confidence beyond their years. Both were born in Puerto Rico and went to high school in Florida. Cleveland drafted Lindor eighth overall in 2011 — one pick before the Cubs nabbed Baez. Now, they square off on baseball’s biggest stage.
— Comeback Kids? Salazar and Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber could be back for the World Series after missing extended time with injuries. Salazar, an All-Star this season, hasn’t appeared in a major league game since Sept. 9 because of tightness in his right forearm. But he’s thrown well in recent sessions and could be an option for Francona — even if it’s out of the bullpen. Schwarber is a big surprise after undergoing major left knee surgery in April. But he was cleared to run about a month ahead of schedule and began playing Saturday in the Arizona Fall League with hopes of returning as a designated hitter against Cleveland.
— Track Meet. The Indians love to run. Davis led the AL in stolen bases and Cleveland had a league-high 134. Lindor, Ramirez, Kipnis and Crisp are all threats on the bases and could have a field day against Lester and Arrieta, neither of whom are good at holding runners. In fact, the Cubs gave up 133 steals — second-most in baseball.
— The Target. Well aware of the club’s 108-year championship drought, the Cubs showed up for spring training bolstered by the additions of Heyward, Zobrist and Lackey, and with a neat new slogan coined by Maddon: “Embrace the Target.” The phrase went on a T-shirt, and the Cubs could not have worn it any better so far. They won their division by 17 1/2 games and finished with eight more wins than any other team. They had the depth and versatility to withstand injuries, and the spunk to pull out 14 wins in their final at-bat before adding three more in the NL playoffs.MORE NEWS: Child Tax Credit: When Will Your September Payment Arrive?
— Grim Reliever. No player has impacted the postseason as much as Miller, the 6-foot-7 lefty who buckles knees with his devastating slider. He has struck out 21 over six scoreless appearances spanning 11 2/3 innings, many of the hitters flailing helplessly. Francona has brought in Miller as early as the fifth inning and won’t hesitate to go to him in any spot.