Cubs level World Series with first Fall Classic win since 1945

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Roberto Perez #55 of the Cleveland Indians throws the ball after forcing out Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs at home plate during the seventh inning in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26: Roberto Perez #55 of the Cleveland Indians throws the ball after forcing out Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs at home plate during the seventh inning in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

As of last week, it seemed next to impossible for Kyle Schwarber even to play in the World Series.

Now, improbably, Schwarber, who underwent surgery for a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee less than seven months ago, has helped the Chicago Cubs even the series against the Cleveland Indians, giving the Cubs their first win in a Fall Classic game in in 71 years.

Schwarber had two RBI singles, Anthony Rizzo drove in a run and scored two more, and Ben Zobrist chipped in with an RBI and a run, and the Cubs leveled the best-of-seven series, winning 5-1 in Game 2 at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

It’s the first time the Cubs have been victorious in a World Series game since 1945, a series they lost to the Detroit Tigers. It also was the same World Series when the supposed billy goat curse was put on the club.

Game 3 is Friday in Chicago at Wrigley Field.

Winning with youth

The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908, but these current players — most of whom are young — are acting like they could care less — curses be damned.

The 23-year-old Schwarber, who aside from five plate appearances in April, missed most of the season following that knee surgery. Now he’s a key player on the Cubs’ World Series roster, having been utilized as the designated hitter for Games 1 and 2.

Before Wednesday, Schwarber had already made a bit of history. In Game 1, the second-year player hit a hard and deep double in the fourth inning for his first hit in 2016 — making him the first non-pitcher to get his first hit of the entire season during the World Series.

Including Schwarber, there were six players in the Cubs Game 2 starting lineup that were under the age of 25. That’s a World Series record for one team.

Fast start for Chicago in Game 2

In Game 1 on Tuesday, it was Cleveland that got off to a quick start. On Wednesday, Chicago struck first, and it came in the top of the first inning off Indians starter Trevor Bauer.

Third baseman Kris Bryant singled for his first career World Series hit. The next batter, first baseman Rizzo, doubled to right, driving Bryant in for the first run of the game.

And with that, it was 1-0, giving the Cubs their first lead in a World Series game since October 8, 1945.

Scoring first has been very significant. In this year’s ALCS, NLCS and World Series, the teams that score first have won every time (13-0).

In the top of the third inning, with runners on first and second, Schwarber connected on a base hit to center field, driving in Rizzo to make it 2-0.

Bauer’s World Series debut lasted 3 2/3 innings. He gave up two earned runs and six hits, walking two and striking out two.

It was longer than his last outing, when he was forced to make an early exit in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. That was because his right pinkie finger — which he sliced while repairing a drone — started bleeding.

But while Bauer’s finger wasn’t bleeding Wednesday night, his command wasn’t always there.

Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, meanwhile, pitched 5 1/3 innings of no-hit ball before he was pulled one out later. He gave up an unearned run on a wild pitch, allowed two hits, walked three and struck out six.

Hank Aaron Award for Bryant

In addition to scoring the Cubs’ first World Series run since 1945, the 24-year-old Bryant also received some hardware.

Earlier Wednesday, MLB announced that Bryant was the NL winner of the 2016 Hank Aaron Award. Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who is retiring after a 20-year MLB career, is the AL recipient.

“It’s truly an honor to be up here with two of the best baseball players to ever play this game,” Bryant said while sitting by Aaron, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and Ortiz. “I grew up watching Big Papi on the Red Sox get to this point and win a World Series, and hopefully I can do that here.”

Established in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Awards are officially sanctioned by MLB and recognize the most outstanding offensive performers in each league.

Fans voted for the recipients on MLB.com and Twitter, and for the seventh straight year, a panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron joined fans in voting for the awards.

The Hall of Fame panel includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time, such as Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Craig Biggio, Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Murray and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers — who combined for 17,010 hits, 8,844 RBI and 2,275 home runs — were all personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise to select the best offensive performer in each league.

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