After the Indians took a 3-1 lead in the World Series, the franchise’s first world championship since 1948 seemed all but certain. But after dropping two straight games – including a 9-3 decision in Game 6 on Tuesday – the Indians are now faced with a do-or-die Game 7 at home Wednesday.
They’re okay with that.
“I can tell you right now the team is just as excited as when they were up 3-1,” former Indians pitcher Jason Stanford said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I think Terry Francona does a great job of keeping the mindset day-to-day. Last night was last night. Today is a new day. It’s a fresh start. But the best part about having Game 7 at home is you have your ace on the mound tonight.”
That ace, of course, is Corey Kluber, who has been virtually unhittable in the postseason. Kluber is 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA in five postseason starts and has 35 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. This will the Cubs’ third time seeing Kluber in this series, but Stanford doesn’t think that will matter.
“I still think Corey has the advantage,” he said. “His stuff is so good, especially being at home. We saw last game, the way Corey was able to do stuff; he changed up his sequencing from the game before, which I liked. They went hard fast balls in. They went two-seamers in. And the second and third time through, they started throwing the cutter and the breaking ball. Maybe tonight it might be a little bit different. So the game plan is not going to change or waver at all for Corey Kluber, but maybe the sequencing might change. If Kyle Schwarber is hitting higher in the lineup like he did last night, I think maybe you might see a few more breaking balls early on in the counts tonight.”
Terry Francona will also have a well-rested Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw at his disposal in Game 7. Miller, the ALCS MVP, has been unbelievable in the postseason, going 2-0 with a save, a 0.53 ERA, a 0.71 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 17.0 innings.
He’s dominated hitters in a variety of ways in a variety of innings.
“Andrew Miller came in and said, ‘Yes, I can do whatever you need me to do to win a World Series ring,’” Stanford said. “That’s what I’ve liked so much about watching Andrew Miller so far this year. I think this was the biggest pick-up and biggest trade of the season – by any club – because of what he’s been able to do.”
If Miller was the most important acquisition, Aroldis Chapman has been a close second. He recorded an eight-out save in Game 5 and pitched 1.1 innings in Game 6. Joe Maddon, however, has received considerable criticism given that Chapman entered Game 6 with a 7-2 lead.
“Well, the thing that you have to realize is Joe Maddon has been there before,” Stanford said. “He understands the situation. There is no tomorrow for Joe Maddon last night, so you bring in your best pitcher to make sure that after they scored those two runs with Rizzo’s home run to make it 9-2, you still have to make sure that the Indians don’t have any breath whatsoever last night. That’s the reason that Joe Maddon kept him in. You have to make sure as a manager that that team on the other side does not have any breath whatsoever to come up and try to get anything going, especially with the home crowd.”