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Cubs slug their way past the Indians 9-3, forcing World Series Game 7

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Cubs shortstop Addison Russell decided to take things into his own hands to ensure that his team will play in a winner-take-all Game 7 of the World Series. After Kris Bryant hit a solo home run to open the scoring in the bottom of the first inning of Tuesday evening’s Game 6, Russell hit a two-run double — really, a miscommunication between center fielder Tyler Naquin and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall — off of starter Josh Tomlin in the first inning, knocking in Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist to push the Cubs’ lead to 3-0. Russell padded the lead to 7-0 in the third inning by blasting a grand slam to center field against reliever Dan Otero, shortly after Tomlin departed. With six RBI, Russell tied a single-game World Series record.

Starter Jake Arrieta wasn’t unhittable, but he had more than enough cushion to pitch comfortably through 5 2/3 innings. He gave up two runs on three hits and three walks with nine strikeouts on 102 pitches. The Indians pecked away for a run in the fourth inning on a Mike Napoli RBI single and again in the fifth on a Jason Kipnis opposite-field solo home run, cutting the margin to 7-2.

Arrieta exited the game after issuing a walk to Chisenhall with two outs in the sixth. Lefty Mike Montgomery entered to face Coco Crisp, which prompted Indians manager Terry Francona to counter by pinch-hitting with Brandon Guyer. On Montgomery’s first pitch, Guyer grounded into a fielder’s choice to shortstop to end the inning.

Montgomery stayed in the game but issued a one-out walk and then allowed a two-out single, so Cubs manager Joe Maddon decided to bring in closer Aroldis Chapman to put out the fire. Lindor hit a grounder to Rizzo at first base but Chapman narrowly beat him to the bag. Lindor was originally called safe, but the play was quickly overturned upon replay review. Chapman appeared to hurt his leg on the play, but…

Chapman remained in the game for the eighth, bad leg and all. He struck out Napoli, but then gave up a single to center off the bat of Jose Ramirez. Chapman was able to end the inning, though, inducing a 6-4-3 double play from Yan Gomes. An important piece of data to note: four outs on 15 pitches.

After Kris Bryant singled with tow outs in the top of the ninth, Anthony Rizzo put the game even more out of reach with a two-run home runoff of Mike Clevinger, boosting the Cubs’ lead to 9-2.

Chapman, somewhat inexplicably, took the mound again for the bottom of the ninth inning. He issued a leadoff walk to Guyer, ending his evening at 20 pitches. Pedro Strop came in and gave up an RBI single to right field by Roberto Perez. Perez, however, was thrown out trying to take second base for the second out of the inning. Strop then walked Carlos Santana. Maddon came out to bring in lefty Travis Wood to face the lefty-hitting Kipnis. Kipnis feebly popped out to Russell in shallow left field near the foul line to end the game in a 9-3 victory for the Cubs.

The seventh and final game of the World Series will take place at 8 PM EDT on Wednesday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Kyle Hendricks will get the ball for the Cubs and Corey Kluber will make his third World Series start for the Indians.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”