By Gordon Weigers, news staff
When the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series title, baseball history was made. It was their first championship since 1918, ending an unbearable 86-year drought. The elder members of the Red Sox faithful saw their lifelong dreams come true when Edgar Renteria grounded to Keith Foulke and he flipped the ball to Doug Mientkiewicz at first base, recording the game’s final out and ending The Curse of the Bambino.
That was then, and this is now. This year, the two teams that are competing for the World Series, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, are riding the two longest-active streaks in baseball without a championship.
For the Indians, a 67-year drought has left them snake-bit since 1948. They’ve won it all twice in franchise history, but have lost in the World Series three times. Their most recent trip to baseball’s biggest stage was in 1997 when they were one win away from taking home the World Series trophy, but were downed in game seven by the Florida Marlins.
On their journey to this year’s finale, Cleveland finished the regular season with a 94-67 record, earning them the American League Central Division title. They drew an AL Division Series matchup with the Red Sox who won the AL East crown. Cleveland’s pitching made easy work of the Sox, carving them up in a three-game sweep. That earned them a dance with the wild-card winning Toronto Blue Jays. Though the Blue Jays were heavily favored because of the hot streak that they were riding, the Indians pulled off a 4-1 series win to punch their ticket to the World Series.
Francisco Lindor has been leading the way in the hitting department while Corey Kluber has been lights-out on the mound with two wins and a 0.98 ERA. Reliever Andrew Miller earned the ALCS MVP nod with 14 strikeouts in seven and two-thirds innings of work.
A 67-year curse is nothing to a Chicago Cubs fan. The beloved Cubbies last won the World Series in 1908, a 108-year jinx that has absolutely haunted the Cubs franchise for over a century. To add insult to injury for the Cubs, the American League counterpart that shares their city, the Chicago White Sox, won their most recent championship in 2005. Since their last title, the Cubs have been defeated in the World Series seven times, most recently in 1945.They appeared in the National League Championship Series last season, but appear was all they did as they were swept by the New York Mets.
In 2016, the Cubs won the NL Central with a remarkable record of 103-58 to lock up a playoff series with the San Francisco Giants. Chicago came away with a 3-1 series win, bringing them to the NLCS stage on which they lost last year, this time to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. After falling in a 2-1 hole through three games, Chicago’s bats came alive and their pitching took care of business, winning three straight games to capture the pennant. They won Game Four 10-2, Game Five 8-4 and Game Six 5-0. Pitcher Jon Lester and Infielder Javier Baez shared the NLCS MVP honors for being the driving forces in locking down the first NL pennant for Chicago in 71 years.
Now with the series tied up at 1-1 and the scene shifting to Chicago, it really is wide open. Kluber tortured the Cubs in Game One as Cleveland ran away with a win, but Jake Arrieta answered strong last night to help the Cubs knot the series. The Indians will send Josh Tomlin to the hill on Friday night in Game Three to duel with Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks. Now comes the fun part: Watching these two hungry teams battle it out in what could be a thrilling seven-game series.
This humble fair-weather Mets fan’s prediction: Cubs in 7. Hang onto your hats folks: there could be a party for the ages in Chicago soon.