Hope has been in small supply at Wrigley Field through two World Series games. The franchise waited 71 years to host a Fall Classic party. During that time a formidable powder keg has built up, ready to explode at the smallest spark.
On Saturday night in Game 4, the spark never came. The Chicago Cubs continued to use primitive tools, to bang two rocks together with no results.
The closest thing to a flash of optimism came when Dexter Fowler led off the eighth inning with a solo home run off of Andrew Miller, proving the lanky lefthander is human. It reduced the Cleveland Indians’ lead to 7-2. The most optimistic of Cubs fans, perhaps inspired by Vince Vaughn’s hard sell during the seventh inning stretch, allowed themselves to believe this was a Rocky IV moment. They wanted to Ivan Drago to be cut, to see him bleed.
One can’t blame them for wanting to believe a Hollywood ending was in the works. Desperation can make a person buy into craziness.
That ending never came. Instead, Miller responded by escaping the inning with no further damage and the score held, putting the Indians a game away from a World Series title and the Cubs a game away from the franchise’s 108th consecutive year without a crown.
Miller is Drago, ruthlessly mowing down opposing hitters. But so too is Corey Kluber, who dominated the Cubs for the second time. By giving up one run in six innings, his postseason ERA actually rose to 0.89. Stepping into the box against them this postseason is akin to stepping in the ring and knowing it won’t end well.
They must break you. You will lose.
Terry Francona’s club been throwing haymakers since the series began. Joe Maddon’s squad has had no answers and now finds itself staggering, in real danger of being knocked out.
It feels as if it’s over. The Indians haven’t been squeaking out tight victories. They’ve been cruising and outperforming the Cubs in every aspect of the game.
A depleted pitching staff has yielded only seven runs through four games. A balanced lineup has gotten on base at a .388 clip compared to Chicago’s .273. That lineup has out-homered the mighty Cubs’ unit four to one while doing the little things, like capitalizing on two Kris Bryant errors in an inning.
Young stars like Francisco Lindor are not letting the magnitude of the moment get the best of them. The 22-year-old found time to give out hugs while veteran John Lackey, a World Series veteran, let his anger toward, well, everyone, get in the way of his outing.
In doing so, Cleveland has made a 103-win ballclub look dysfunctional. Some of the stunned silence at Wrigley can be attributed to the crowd not recognizing the guys in white.
The franchise’s pain has been fetishized and is well-known. If Jon Lester doesn’t have his stuff tonight, the Friendly Confines could turn into a public funeral with three-plus hours of sad fan iso-shots on the Fox broadcast. Getting swept at home and having a team clinch a World Series on the North Side could make this the most painful of all the empty years.
And it happens, there won’t be anything magic about it. It will happen because Cleveland flat-out dominated in all phases. There should be no poetry lamenting the cosmic turn. What should be lamented is the buzzsaw that is the Indians. What should be lamented is that the Cubs failed to show up for the World Series after going bananas post-National League Championship Series.
Can Cleveland be cut enough to make them bleed, to turn the fight? The odds seem long. Then again, that’s when Rocky did his best work.