CLEVELAND — The Cubs had just taken their first step toward climbing out of a three-games-to-one deficit in the World Series, when shortstop Addison Russell insisted that his team wasn’t finished making history.
Russell, 22, certainly showed no intention of slowing down Tuesday night, when he wrote some new history of his own. He hit the first World Series grand slam since 2005 on the way to equaling a single-game World Series record with six RBIs.
Russell’s outburst pushed the Cubs to a 9-2 triumph over the Indians. As a group, the Cubs had vowed to “go the distance,” taking a page from the film “Rocky.” Now, win or lose, the Cubs have done exactly that. They have forced Game 7, with a chance for more history: the franchise’s first championship since 1908.
“We’ve been doing this all year, breaking records, been putting in new history in history books,” Russell said. “And you wouldn’t even be able to to tell that just from us group of guys. Everyone’s so professional.”
The Cubs had scored just 10 runs through the first five games of the series, meager production from an offense that had tortured National League pitching this season. But with their season on the line, the Cubs pounced on Indians righty Josh Tomlin, who was working on short rest.
With the Cubs already up 1-0 on Kris Bryant’s solo shot, Russell reached across the plate for a Tomlin cutter out of the zone. He lifted it to right-center, where it hung up long enough that it should have been a routine out. But rookie centerfielder Tyler Naquin neglected to take charge. In the confusion, the ball found grass between Naquin and the rightfielder Lonnie Chisenhall.
Anthony Rizzo scored easily and Ben Zobrist ran through catcher Roberto Perez, who was taken into the runner’s path while trying to field a poor one-hop throw from second baseman Jason Kipnis.
“They didn’t put a glove on it, therefore it counts as a hit,” Russell said. “I was totally stoked. It pushed me for the next at-bat, as well, coming up with bases loaded.”
That at-bat helped Russell make history against righthanded reliever Dan Otero.
With one out and the bases loaded, Otero was summoned to face Russell. But for the first time in the World Series, Indians manager Terry Francona made a move that backfired.
Russell got ahead in the count 2-and-0, then turned on an 89-mph sinker that sailed over the heart of the plate. Russell whipped the bat through and dropped it as he finished his extension, his body twisted from the force of the swing.
The ball took off over the high wall in centerfield. A large contingent of Cubs fans at Progressive Field let out a roar, their hopes for the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1908 restored on just one swing.
Russell became one of just four players with six RBIs in a World Series game. He joined the Yankees’ Bobby Richardson (Game 3, 1960), the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui (Game 6, 2009) and the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols (Game 3, 2011.)
The postseason has brought peaks and valleys for Russell. Through the first seven games of the playoffs, Russell went just 1-for-24 (.042), though manager Joe Maddon stuck with him. Russell closed out the NLCS against the Giants on a tear, going 6-for-13 in his final three games, including a pair of homers.
Until Tuesday night, Russell was 4-for-19 without an extra-base hit through the first five games of the World Series.
“It’s amazing,” Zobrist said. “He’s 22 and he’s grown by leaps and bounds just this year alone.”
Addison Russell’s third-inning grand slam was the 19th in World Series history and the first in 11 years.
YearPlayer, Team Game
1920Elmer Smith, Cleveland 5
1936Tony Lazzeri, Yankees 2
1951 Gil McDougald, Yankees 5
1953 Mickey Mantle, Yankees 5
1956 Yogi Berra, Yankees 2
1956Moose Skowron, Yankees 7
1960Bobby Richardson, Yankees 3
1962Chuck Hiller, SF 4
1964Ken Boyer, St.L. 4
1964Joe Pepitone, Yankees 6
1968Jim Northrup, Detroit 6
1970Dave McNally, Balt. 3
1987Dan Gladden, Minn. 1
1987Kent Hrbek, Minn. 6
1988Jose Canseco, Oak. 1
1992Lonnie Smith, Atl. 5
1998Tino Martinez, Yankees 1
2005Paul Konerko, Chi. WS 2
2016Addison Russell, Chi. Cubs 6