Du­el­ing Droughts: Cubs, In­di­ans set to meet in Fall Clas­sic

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Ben Walker

At long, long last, it’s true: Ei­ther the Chicago Cubs or Cleve­land In­di­ans will win the World Se­ries.

The matchup be­tween teams that for­ever waited till next year — next cen­tury, really — is fi­nally here.

A clas­sic Fall Clas­sic, for sure.

Do-it-all Javier Baez, flashy Fran­cisco Lin­dor, MVP cal­iber Kris Bryant and a bevy of young stars. Lights-out relievers An­drew Miller and Aroldis Chap­man, and wily skip­pers Joe Mad­don and Terry Fran­cona.

Plus, in­trigue if in­jured All-Star starter Danny Salazar and slug­ger Kyle Sch­war­ber can play.

Oh, and did some­one men­tion some­thing about a drought?

Game 1 is at Pro­gres­sive Field on Tues­day night, with the Cubs open­ing as a heavy fa­vorite to win their first crown since 1908.

In the Cubs’ last visit to Cleve­land, back in Au­gust 2015, they posted a 17-0 rout for the most-lop­sided shutout ever in in­ter­league play. It got so out of hand that two In­di­ans out­field­ers wound up pitch­ing.

But that’s an­cient his­tory.

For the Cub­bies, this is their first World Se­ries trip since 1945. They clinched their spot Satur­day night at rol­lick­ing Wrigley Field as big league ERA leader Kyle Hen­dricks out­pitched Dodgers ace Clay­ton Ker­shaw for a 5-0 win in Game 6 of the NL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries.

Fa­vorites since open­ing day, An­thony Rizzo, Ad­di­son Rus­sell and past Oc­to­ber aces Jon Lester and John Lackey helped the Cubs cruise to a ma­jor league-lead­ing 103 vic­to­ries.

Now, they’re ready to sweep aside the Curse of the Billy Goat and the specter of Steve Bart­man. And make up for the nearmisses by Cubs greats such as Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Wil­liams.

“Ob­vi­ously we know that it’s some­thing that’s go­ing to be talked about with the his­tory of the or­ga­ni­za­tion,” pitcher Jake Ar­ri­eta said. “But it’s really not some­thing we fo­cus on at all. So we just kind of dis­re­gard it and go out and play.”

The In­di­ans also have a past full of fail­ure and frus­tra­tion. Their ti­tle drought dates to Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby and 1948, trail­ing only the Cubs for the long­est wait in the ma­jors.

In 1997, Cleve­land was three outs from win­ning the cham­pi­onship when closer Jose Mesa blew a one-run lead in the bot­tom of the ninth in­ning of Game 7 at Florida. An er­ror by sure-handed sec­ond base­man Tony Fer­nan­dez doomed them in the 11th.

Ear­lier this year, Le­Bron James and the Cava­liers turned Cleve­land into Believe­land by ral­ly­ing to win the NBA ti­tle. James has been loudly cheer­ing for the In­di­ans to bring an­other cham­pi­onship to the city.

Steady Ja­son Kip­nis, jolly Mike Napoli and likely Game 1 starter Corey Klu­ber starred as the sur­pris­ing In­di­ans won the AL Cen­tral, then breezed by Boston and Toronto in the play­offs.

The In­di­ans did it de­spite a thin­ning ro­ta­tion. Salazar hasn’t pitched since early Septem­ber be­cause of a fore­arm prob­lem, Car­los Car­rasco’s hand was bro­ken by a line drive and Trevor Bauer cut his pinkie play­ing with a drone.

Like the Cubs with Bart­man, the spec­ta­tor who in­fa­mously de­flected a foul ball at Wrigley dur­ing the 2003 NL play­offs, the In­di­ans also have a prom­i­nent fan. It’s John Adams, the man who has been beat­ing a drum at most ev­ery home game for more than four decades.

Even though the clubs hold spring train­ing about 30 miles apart in Ari­zona, they don’t over­lap a lot.

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