Chicago Cubs: Four keys to winning Game 7 of the World Series

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The World Series of our dreams has reached the ultimate moment: Game 7. In order for the Chicago Cubs to win it all, four things must happen.

Can you believe it?! After being down three games to one, the Chicago Cubs tied the World Series. Now, we get to watch arguably the most historic World Series end tonight in Game 7. The two teams with the longest championship droughts in sports history battle it out in a winner-take-all game.

Get the popcorn ready!

The offensive explosion in Game 6 was a marvelous sight, and one we hope continues tonight. That in itself will be a challenge. Corey Kluber takes the mound for the Indians, looking to continue his scoreless dominance of the Cubs. Hence, if Chicago hopes to win the game, five things must happen tonight.

Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Hendricks must go five innings

It is still hard to believe that the Chicago Cubs’ number five starter coming into the season is possibly the best pitching in the Majors this season. The magnificent season put together by Kyle Hendricks has translated into postseason dominance.

In four games this postseason, the National League ERA leader for the regular season is posting a 1.31 ERA this postseason. He is young and facing great hitting teams, but his maturity is beyond his year. In only one game this postseason has Hendricks pitched into the seventh inning, however. Game 6 versus the Dodgers was epic, and the Cubs may well need that type of performance from their young star.

Going into this game, Hendricks holds a 15 inning scoreless streak. Including four and one-third innings against the Indians in Game 3. Unlike all other games Hendricks has pitched this postseason, this one will be on the road.

Oct 25, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler at bat against the Cleveland Indians in the first inning in game one of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Fowler must get on base

“You go, we go” has not gone anywhere this postseason. As a whole, Dexter Fowler is batting .224/.257/.388 in the playoffs, a far cry from his regular season work. What is more troubling than his two walks are the seventeen strikeouts, seven of which occurred in the first six games of the World Series.

On the bright side, Fowler went two of four with a double, home run, and two runs scored in Game 4. But, those hits came after Kluber was removed from the game. For the Chicago Cubs’ offense to put pressure on the Indians’ pitching, Fowler needs to get on ahead of Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo.

If not, scoring will be limited in the early innings.

Oct 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez (9) throws to first base for a double play against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of game six of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Cubs Defense

The Chicago Cubs’ defense is fantastic. The infield’s ability to turn double-plays, and the outfield’s knowledge on where to throw limited runners all season. During the World Series, they have only committed two errors. Both of those were by Kris Bryant in Game 4, leading to a loss. The opposing pitcher that game?

Corey Kluber.

Throughout the series, the Cubs have defended well. Starting Jorge Soler over Jason Heyward was a risk that did not work out well, as there were plays Soler did not make. A wall-climbing catch and an outfield assist by Heyward took runs off the board. The combination of Addison Russell and Javier Baez clears runners fast than you can blink. Combined with the pitching of Hendricks, the Indians will need to run the bases to snatch some runs.

But, beware the arm of Willson Contreras. The vaunted running attack of the Indians is limited to four steals so far. Contreras and Baez can continue to eliminate that threat.

Oct 25, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) walks to the dugout after being relieved in the 7th inning against the Chicago Cubs in game one of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Make the Indians Pitch

There is no doubt that the Cubs are at their best when they make pitchers work. Baez, Soler, and Bryant proved their willingness to expand the strike zone. The team as a whole has 18 walks. Outside of Game 5, Cubs batters have seen just over 3 pitches per at-bat.

The formula is simple. Make Kluber, who is pitching on three days rest, work. Foul off as many pitches as possible. Refuse to swing at balls out of the zone. Do what it takes to get on base.

The Indians’ defense is not as strong as the Cubs. The times the Cubs bunt has led to moving runners and getting on base. Their infield is not as quick to turn two and the outfield does not always throw balls to the right place. The Cubs must take advantage of these area and aggressively work the bases. If runners get on base early, put stress on the pitchers by running or bunting.

Do these things, and we could celebrate a World Series win!

I may not sleep.

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