By Larry Fine
CLEVELAND (Reuters) – The Chicago Cubs set up a winner-take-all Game Seven of the World Series by crushing the Cleveland Indians 9-3 on Tuesday to level Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship.
Facing elimination, reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta won his second of the series, backed by 22-year-old shortstop Addison Russell, who smashed a grand slam on his way to logging a World Series record-tying six runs batted in.
Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, who had four hits, also homered for Chicago, who erupted for 13 hits off six Indians pitchers.
The victory kept alive the Cubs’ quest of winning their first Fall Classic title in 108 years, and for the second time in as many games Chicago put on hold Cleveland’s celebration of a first World Series crown since 1948.
“Anybody who plays this game grows up dreaming of winning a World Series,” said Bryant, 24. “We get to play in a Game Seven tomorrow, that’s pretty special.”
One of the teams will end their drought on Wednesday, but Cleveland fans who came to celebrate a Game Six clincher on an unusually warm night were deflated and left the ballpark early as the Cubs romped.
“It’s OK,” said Leah Hoheaverger, who left before the end of the eighth inning as fans streamed out of Progressive Field. “We are used to being the underdogs.”
Arrieta pitched 5-2/3 innings, giving up three hits and two runs, striking out nine in registering the win helped by four relievers.
The desperate Cubs entered the game with a team batting average of .210 with only 10 runs in the first five games and were shut out twice.
But the National League champions, who led the majors with 103 wins in the regular season, quickly turned the game into a laugher with two big innings.
The Cubs roared out of the gate with three runs in the first, two coming on a huge gaffe by Chicago outfielders.
Bryant crushed a hanging curve from losing pitcher Josh Tomlin to left-center for a two-out home run.
Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist lined singles before Russell slapped a pop fly that center-fielder Tyler Naquin and right-fielder Lonnie Chisenhall allowed to drop between them in a communication lapse.
Rizzo trotted home and Zobrist charged around the bases, bowling over Roberto Perez to score.
“In the regular season, crowd noise is not that loud,” second baseman Kipnis explained. “It’s tough when you have to keep looking up and down to see who is waving you off.”
Russell fully earned his next four RBIs.
The shortstop rocked a grand slam over the wall in center to score Kyle Schwarber, Rizzo and Zobrist ahead of him to make it 7-0.
The bases-loaded blast gave Russell six RBIs for the game, which tied him with Bobby Richardson (1960), Hideki Matsui (2009) and Albert Pujols (2011) for most in a World Series game.
Cleveland got their first hit and first run in the fourth when Kipnis doubled and scored on Mike Napoli’s single. Kipnis homered in the fifth to make it 7-2.
A two-run shot by Rizzo in the ninth and a last-gasp run by Cleveland closed out the contest.
Game Seven will be played in Cleveland on Wednesday with the Indians starting ace Corey Kluber, winner of two games already this series, against Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks, the National League ERA leader.
“It’s Game Seven,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “You’ve got two really, really good pitchers, and it will be exciting. It’s an honor to even be a part of it, and we’re going to give it everything we have.”
(Editing by Frank Pingue/Steve Keating.)