World Series Game 2 Recap: We Have Ourselves a Series
It's pretty simple, really. Kyle Schwarber is a cyborg sent from the future to do very bad things to baseballs.
What Schwarber has done through the first two games of the World Series defies explanation. And when combined with the outstanding job turned in by Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta in Game 2 of the World Series last night, the Chicago Cubs have made this a World Series that is almost certain to return to Cleveland for at least a Game 6.
Arrieta and Schwarber were brilliant in the Cubs' 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians last night, drawing the best-of-seven series even at one game apiece. The game was played in frigid, mid-40-degree weather, with the threat of rain hanging over the proceedings like a mildewed shower curtain.
But despite the best efforts of Cleveland's pitchers (they had thrown more than 130 pitches through the first five innings), Major League Baseball got the game in, and now it's off to Chicago for Games 3, 4, and 5 this weekend.
The Cubs' victory was their first World Series win in 71 years and 18 days, their last being in Game 6 of the 1945 Fall Classic. And according to the Elias Sports Bureau, last night's win was huge for Chicago.
In a best-of-seven, 2-3-2 format, teams that lose Games 1 and 2 came back to win the World Series just seven out of 38 times (18%). However, teams that split the first two games on the road won 22 of 49 times (45%). And of the 57 times that the World Series has gone to Game 3 with the series tied at 1-1, the team that won Game 2 has gone on to win 29 times (50.9%).
But as MLB.com notes, that scenario hasn't happened recently. The team that lost Game 1 but won Game 2 won the title just twice in the past 10 World Series that were tied entering Game 3.
But let's face it. Everything about this World Series is historic.
Arrieta Bests Cleveland and the Cold
It was really dadgum cold in Cleveland for Game 2. And yet, there was Arrieta, last year's Cy Young Award winner, out there in short sleeves, throwing 5 1/3 innings of no-hit ball at Cleveland. That's the longest no-hit bid in a World Series game since Jerry Koosman had one for six innings for the 1969 New York Mets against the Baltimore Orioles. Jason Kipnis did the honors in the sixth.
Frankly, that hit was likely a godsend to Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who would have had a difficult decision on his hands. Arrieta's pitch count was already in the 80s as he battled through the sixth. Had he managed to keep the no-no intact, would he have allowed Arrieta to go for history?
There have only been two no-hitters in MLB postseason history: Don Larsen's perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series and Roy Halladay's no-hitter in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS against Cincinnati.
Kipnis' double made all that moot. Nevertheless, Arrieta was outstanding, going 5 2/3 innings and giving up one earned run on two hits with three walks and six strikeouts. The last pitcher to take a no-hitter through at least five innings in a World Series game was David Cone in 1998 against the San Diego Padres.
Arrieta was simply nasty last night.
And for some reason, Arrieta loves to pitch in the cold (granted, it's a small sample size). Coming into last night, he was 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in sub-50 degree temperatures, per ESPN Stats and Info.
The Incredible Kyle Schwarber
What Kyle Schwarber has done through the first two games of the World Series is not something even the most talented mortals have ever done.
Schwarber tore his ACL in the Cubs' fourth game of the season. It wasn't until late last week that he was medically cleared to start playing baseball again. He went a full half-year without seeing competitive pitching. He played in a handful of Arizona Fall League games last week before being added to the World Series roster.
And now, here he is, batting fifth in a lineup full of stars, going 2-for-4 with a walk, two RBI, and a run scored. Typically, players to miss half a year to a devastating knee injury take more than a week to get their batting eye back. To be able to recognize pitches again so quickly after missing so much time is such an unbelievably difficult thing that it defies words.
Schwarber has a (very) early shot at becoming the only player in Major League history to miss almost the entire year and then win a World Series MVP Award.
He now has 10 RBI in his postseason career, second-most in franchise history (trailing Kris Bryant's 11). And with his performance in Game 2, Schwarber now has a career 1.274 OPS in the playoffs. That is the highest of any player in MLB postseason history with at least 30 at-bats. Check out the guys he's ahead of.
Nobody has ever been better.
Kyle Schwarber has the highest OPS in postseason history of anyone with at least 30 at-bats. pic.twitter.com/8B240PHY6Y
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) October 27, 2016
The big question now, as the series heads to a National League park, will Schwarber be permitted to play the outfield? He started the first two games in Cleveland as the designated hitter. Is his knee healthy enough to allow him to return to the field? Will his defense be good enough?
It's hard to see how Maddon keeps him out of the lineup at this point.
Cleveland's Wild Things
Honestly, Game 2 was not the easiest for a casual baseball fan to watch, mainly because of the work turned in by Indians pitchers.
Starter Trevor Bauer's pinkie finger managed to keep from gushing copious amounts of blood all over the place, but he was erratic, as he tends to be at times. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings and gave up two earned runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. But his plate appearances took forever, as evidenced by the fact he threw 87 pitches and failed to get out of the fourth inning.
The vaunted Cleveland bullpen was to blame for last night's defeat as well. All told, the 'pen walked an additional six Cubs batters, making it eight walks total. And seven Cleveland pitchers threw a staggering 196 pitches in nine innings.
The Indians happily welcomed back starting pitcher Danny Salazar, who hadn't pitched since September 9 because of an arm injury, but he was a bit rusty. He entered in the sixth inning and walked two but managed to pitch a scoreless frame in his return.
The loss by Cleveland was manager Terry Francona's first Fall Classic defeat as a skipper. He swept both of the series he managed with Boston in 2004 and '07, and he had won his first nine World Series games, an MLB record. Now, the series shifts to Wrigley Field, where, as the kids say, it's going to be lit.
It's now a best-of-five series, and the Cubs have a chance to clinch at home if they win the next three.