The Chicago Cubs forced a Game 7 by routing the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night. Joe Maddon’s club jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead thanks large in part to Addison Russell’s grand slam and never looked back. One could argue they didn’t look forward based on Aroldis Chapman’s prolonged outing, but that’s a different topic for a different blog post.
It certainly feels as though the Cubs have usurped control of World Series. The old saying goes that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. Both Corey Kluber and Kyle Hendricks had Cy Young-caliber years and have been equally fantastic in the postseason.
An equally old, yet, debatable saying goes that momentum isn’t even real and is instead a figment of our imaginations.
What does recent Fall Classic history say? In short, the most important factor has been homefield advantage, especially in the last quarter-century.
Twenty-four of the last 60 World Series have gone seven games. The visiting team has won both Games 6 and the winner-take-all Game 7 just three times (Pirates in 1979, Tigers in 1968 and Yankees in 1958). Of those, Detroit provides the perfect blueprint for what the Cubs are trying to do. The Tigers, who trailed the Cardinals 3-1 in the series, blew out St. Louis 13-1 before Mickey Lolich pitched them to a victory in the deciding game.
Visiting teams are 11-13 in Game 7s since 1956, but have lost nine of the last ten. The only win came in 2014 when Madison Bumgarner put the San Francisco Giants on his back.
Game 6 winners are 12-12 in Game 7s, but 9-2 since 1979.
The Cubs are small betting favorites tonight, which is no surprise. They’ve taken the mantle of America’s Team from the Atlanta Braves and are running with it, bringing in public money along the way. If ever there was a squad that should ignore history, it’s this one. Their only objective this year is to make 108 years of bad memories obsolete.
Momentum, however, is a real and shifty mistress. I believe it exists because sports are played by humans, not robots. Therefore, the Indians must come out of the gates ready to go tonight. It would not behoove them to stay down.
How’s that for expert analysis?
Kluber on the mound should help ease some of the tension. Whether he’ll be able to seize the advantage of pitching at home remains to be seen. It is interesting to note that he is a major reason Cleveland is playing in front of a friendly crowd thanks to his All-Star game victory. A major factor in the biggest game of the year was determined in a glorified exhibition game months ago.
Will it play a role tonight?