CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians are just one win away from claiming their first World Series Championship since 1948, and they will try and finish off a high-octane Chicago Cubs offense in front of the home crowd at Progressive Field tonight.
Here are five things the Indians will need in order to beat the Cubs and sit atop the baseball world for the first time in 68 years.
Starting pitcher Josh Tomlin has seen a little bit of everything during his seven years with the Indians, and the coaching staff is counting on that experience heading into Game 6.
Tomlin last pitched in Game 3 of the World Series at Wrigley Field on Friday night, where over 4.2 innings of work against the Cubs, he allowed just two hits and one walk with one strikeout. Coupled with Tomlin’s start and a shutout effort from the bullpen, the Indians pulled out a 1-0 win.
Now, just three days later, Tomlin takes the mound on short rest for arguably the biggest games of his career.
“I know the atmosphere of this game is not the same, but it's still the same game,” Tomlin said. “Between the lines, it's still 60 foot, 6 inches. It's still 90 feet to first base. It's still baseball. In the grand scheme of things, it's still the baseball game whenever the umpire says ‘Play ball!’ So that's how you have to treat it.”
KEEP EMOTIONS IN CHECK
Everybody on the Indians’ roster has put in countless hours of work, rehabilitation and training to make the 2016 season one to remember, but none of that matters if they fail to utilize two road wins and a 3-1 lead and not finish off the Cubs.
However, knowing the home crowd will be electric because of the chance to clinch a championship, the Indians must keep the emotions in check.
“We understand it's not just about getting here, it's about trying to win,” Tomlin said. “There's nobody in that clubhouse that's complacent. It's not like we have a 3-2 lead, it's just going to happen. That's not the mindset we take at all.
“We have a game to play, and we're going to try to go out there and try to win that game. If not, we'll come back the next day and try to win that day. It's a huge privilege and an honor to be here, so we'll take it one step at a time and try to win this thing.”
HIT ARRIETA EARLY, OFTEN
Although the Indians are home for Game 6, waiting for them is a matchup against Cubs standout Jake Arrieta, who earned the win in Game 2.
Arrieta was in full command of the baseball diamond for five innings, and as such, kept the Indians’ bats silent on the way a 5-1 win last Wednesday night.
Despite allowing three walks, Arrieta threw 5.2 innings of no-hit baseball before giving up two hits to the Indians and being relieved of duty in the bottom of the sixth. Arrieta surrendered only one earned run and struck out six hitters while pitching the Cubs to a 1-1 tie in the World Series.
“Hit him better,” infielder Mike Napoli said. “There’s nothing else to it. We’ve just got to do what we’ve been doing, get guys on, run the bases, come through when we have to. We’ve got J.T. on the mound and we’re confident in what he can do. He’s been pitching well the last couple months and we’ll see what happens. We’re excited to play in front of our Cleveland fans.”
DON’T LET LOSS TURN INTO TWO
The Indians came to Chicago needing to beat the Cubs twice at revered Wrigley Field to bring the 2016 World Series back to Progressive Field with an overall lead after splitting the first two games in Cleveland last week.
And that is exactly what they did by taking the first two of the three games at Wrigley. And despite the Indians’ 3-2 loss to the Cubs in Game 5 on Sunday night, they still hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series heading into tonight’s Game 6 matchup.
“We wanted to finish it here, but it’s just part of the game, you know,” Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “They’ve got a good team. We knew we weren’t going to sweep the series. It wasn’t going to be easy. Nobody said it was going to be easy, so we’ve got to play the game the right way and take care of business.”
USE HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE
This season, the Indians have clinched every one of their major milestones on the road.
From the American League Central Division Championship in Detroit to the Division Series in Boston and Championship Series in Toronto, the Indians have popped the corks on celebrations outside of Cleveland all season long. Now, they have a chance to clinch the biggest one of them all in front of the home fans.
The Indians’ fans will be ramped up to support their team, and Napoli believes the key to success is using that energy positively.
“It’s going to help a lot,” Napoli said. “We play well at home. We did what we had to do here. We got two out of three. I keep repeating myself, but we did what we wanted to do here and get to play in front of our fans.”