CLEVELAND — Your ball, Kyle.
Go do the impossible.
The biggest Cubs game of all our lives will take place here Wednesday night. It’s a Game 7 of the World Series — wrap your brain around it if you can. It’s almost too much to comprehend. With all the stress and the excitement and the churning in the gut, how is anybody staying the least bit calm right now?
But that’s why Kyle Hendricks is the perfect man for this unimaginable task.
The Cubs don’t get to send their most accomplished starter, Jon Lester, to the mound against soon-to-be two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and the Indians. They don’t get to send in man-mountain Jake Arrieta, the fearless force of nature who rose to the occasion in Game 6. They don’t get to send in John Lackey, winner of two previous clinching games in the World Series with other teams.
But they do get Hendricks, and that just might be their ideal option anyway. Progressive Field will be the eye of an all-time storm, and Hendricks will be the trim, clean-cut, expressionless figure smack-dab at the very center of it all. Indians fans will try to rattle him, but it won’t work. They’ll try to get in his head, yet it can’t be done.
Maybe Kluber will get the best of Hendricks and the Cubs and become an instant legend — the first pitcher to win three starts in a World Series since Detroit’s Mickey Lolich did it 1968. If that happens, Cubdom will have no choice but to tip its collective cap. But Kluber will have to fight like an animal to outpitch Hendricks, who will stay composed where most people couldn’t and deliver yet another quality performance because that’s the only thing he ever does.
“(Kluber) is a tough one,” Kris Bryant said, “but we’ve got a good one going, too. I mean, Kyle is very underrated.”
Hendricks is the major league leader in ERA and yet comfortably in the shadows in this something’s-gotta-give Fall Classic. The stars are named Bryant, Rizzo, Lester, Arrieta, Schwarber, Russell, Kluber, Miller, Kipnis, Lindor. But now Hendricks joins them, whether the humble, non-attention-seeking 26-year-old cares to or not.
Right now, in this circumstance, you’d better believe he doesn’t mind at all.
“This is the ultimate dream,” he said. “You dream of getting to the World Series, winning the World Series. When you’re out in your backyard as a kid, playing little league, at the field with your friends, this is the moment you dream about.
“It’s always Game 7 of the World Series.”
Kluber has been next to unhittable all postseason long and has an 0.75 ERA in his two victories over the Cubs. At 30, he has a chance to join the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw at the top of the best-pitcher-in-baseball heap. If he beats the Cubs three times, he might even be woven into the silly “curse” story. He’s no kid, but he’s part goat. Or something like that.
But Hendricks — who beat the pants off Kershaw and the Dodgers in the deciding game of the National League Championship Series — is the right guy at the right time to stop all that from happening.
“Kyle is so cool,” Lackey said. “He doesn’t have to do too much. Just go out and be himself.”
In this magical, terrifying 11th hour, it’s all any Cubs fan could hope for.
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.