CLEVELAND: A long-suffering Chicago Cubs team charged to the brink of its first World Series title since 1908 by routing Cleveland 9-3 Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), forcing a winner-take-all showdown Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) for the crown.
Addison Russell smashed the first World Series grand slam in Cubs history and a two-run double as Chicago leveled Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship final at 3-3.
That sets the stage for a seventh-game decider between teams whose supporters have endured epic title waits, more than a century in Chicago’s case. Neither team has ever won a game seven and while they can’t both lose, only one can claim the throne.
“It’s going to test both teams,” Russell said. It’s a day that you have to kind of put it all on the table. I wouldn’t even say the luckiest is going to win. It’s the people that come up in the big situations.”
The Cubs, who last played in the World Series in 1945, own America’s longest sports title drought while the host Indians have baseball’s second-longest futility streak, last hoisting the trophy in 1948.
“We want to be the group that breaks the string,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “But it’s just correct and apt that we would go seven games.”
Russell, hitting only .211 (4-for-19) in the Series after game five, smashed a four-run blast in the third inning, the first World Series grand slam since 2005. Along with his two-run double in the first, he matched the one-game Series record for runs batted in with six, done four times, most recently in 2011.
“That’s pretty cool,” Russell said. “There’s obviously an opportunity to break that record. We’ve been doing this all year long, putting new records in history books.”
Arrieta strikes out nine
With another masterful pitching effort by game-two winner Jake Arrieta, who struck out nine while allowing only two runs on three hits, Chicago led comfortably from the start before a sellout crowd of 38,116.
“You learn quickly from your mistakes and then move on quickly and we will do that,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “It will be exciting to come to the ballpark tomorrow.”
The Cubs, who lost their past seven World Series appearances, are trying to become only the seventh team in World Series history to recover from a 3-1 deficit to capture the title, most recently done by the 1985 Kansas City Royals.
Not since 1979 has a team done it by taking the last two games on the road as the Cubs seek to do. Home teams are 18-19 in World Series seventh games.
Cleveland major sports teams had not won a title since the 1964 NFL Browns until the Cavaliers took the NBA crown last June.
Russell rips Tomlin early
Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin, who went 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Cubs in game three, was one strike from ending the first inning before surrendering three runs on four hits.
Kris Bryant smacked a solo homer into the leftfield stands, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist followed with singles and both scored on Russell’s double to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead. Tribe outfielders Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall let the ball drop between them on Russell’s hit.
In the third inning, Kyle Schwarber walked, advanced on singles by Rizzo and Zobrist and, after Cleveland pulled Tomlin for relief pitcher Dan Otero, Russell blasted the ball 434 feet over the left-field wall for a 7-0 Cubs lead.
“That was the hit of the night,” Bryant said. “Any time you get four runs on one swing to go up 7-0, that was huge. He had a lot of big home runs this post-season. That might have been the biggest.”
Russell, 22, became the second-youngest player to hit a Series grand slam after Mickey Mantle at age 21 in 1953.
Cleveland’s Jason Kipris doubled to open the fourth, the first hit off Arrieta, and scored the Indians’ first run on a Mike Napoli single.
Kipris added a solo homer in the fifth to pull the Indians within 7-2. In the ninth, Rizzo belted a two-run homer and Roberto Perez answered with a run-scoring single for Cleveland.