The World Series is set and will feature two teams with the longest championship droughts. The Chicago Cubs haven’t been to the Fall Classic since 1945 and haven’t won a championship since 1908. The last time the Cleveland Indians won the World Series was 1948 after coming up short in 1954, 1995 and 1997. One way or another, there will be history in the making.
And both teams will have players with North Texas ties right in the middle of it.
Let’s start with the Cubs, who finished with a MLB-best 103-58 record. They had one of the best pitching staffs during the season, a staff that includes TCU alum and Plano native Jake Arrieta. The 2015 Cy Young Award winner has been one of the more dominant pitchers in the league over the last couple of seasons with two no-hitters on the resume. Arrieta could be the Game 4 starter at Wrigley Field with the option of being available in the bullpen in the series goes to Game 7.
So who would start for the Cubs in Game 1? It could be former UTA Maverick John Lackey.
Lackey played one season for UTA as a first baseman and would sometimes pitch in relief. The following summer, Lackey learned more on the art of pitching in the Kansas Jayhawk Summer League. He then played on the Junior College World Series champion Grayson County College in Denison, where he went 10-3 with 88 strikeouts. Lackey is familiar with being a World Series champions, having played on two of them, 2002 with the Anaheim (now Los Angeles) Angels and 2013 with the Boston Red Sox.
Now to the Indians, who had the second-best record in the American League behind the Texas Rangers. The Indians staff is anchored by Coppell native Corey Kluber. The 2014 Cy Young Award winner could be handed the same award again this season after finishing with an 18-9 record and a 3.14 ERA with 227 strikeouts in 32 starts. Kluber, the likely starter for Game 1, has a fastball that runs in the mid-90’s, but keeps hitters off-balance with his slider and cutter.
A pleasant surprise for Cleveland has been the emergence of former Celina star Ryan Merritt. The rookie proved his worth in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays in Toronto, throwing 4.1 shutout innings in the 3-0 win that sent the Indians to the World Series. Prior to Game 5, Merritt had only pitched in 11 innings in the majors. However, he stepped on the mound at the Rogers Centre and retired the first 10 hitters he faced, allowing only two hits overall with three strikeouts against a loaded Blue Jays lineup.
How happy were the fans in Cleveland over Merritt’s performance? They stocked his wedding registry and started purchasing items for the newlyweds as a way to pay him back.
And here’s your Texas Connects Us moment of the day: Merritt could be lined up to face Arrieta in Game 4.
Another interesting note on this year’s World Series, which includes former Dallas Baptist standout Ben Zobrist. The Cubs second baseman (and occasional outfielder) is playing in his second straight World Series. He was the second baseman for the Kansas City Royals when they won the championship a year ago.
2016 World Series Schedule:
Game 1 – 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 25 in Cleveland
Game 2 – 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 26 in Cleveland
Game 3 – 7 p.m. Friday, October 28 in Chicago
Game 4 – 7 p.m. Saturday, October 29 in Chicago
Game 5 (if necessary) – 7 p.m. Sunday October 30 in Chicago
Game 6 (if necessary) – 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 1 in Cleveland
Game 7 (if necessary) – 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 2 in Cleveland
Written by C. James