CLEVELAND — And a 22-year-old shall lead them.
Into Game 7 of the World Series.
Addison Russell, the Cubs “kid” shortstop, didn’t do it all on his own but in the Cubs’ 9-3 triumph against the Cleveland Indians in Game 6 Tuesday night at Progressive Field, he was the first one charging through the door.
Russell accomplished all of this:
*Hit the first grand slam in a World Series since Paul Konerko in 2005.
*Tied the record for RBI in a game with six, following the Yankees’ Bobby Richardson in 1960, the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui in 2009 and Cardinals’ Albert Pujols in 2011.
*Became the second youngest player to hit a grand slam in the Fall Classic. Mickey Mantle was 21 in 1953.
Informed that he tied the RBI record, Russell said what any kid might say” “That’s pretty cool.’’
Russell, who was 11 when Konerko’s homer rocked U.S. Cellular Field in Game 2 of the World Series, seemed to be taking it all in stride. Cool and collected, he field questions on the interview podium as calmly as a routine ground ball.
“We’ve been breaking records all year and putting new history into the record books,” he said.
At 22, Russell has already off lifetime goals and dreams that some big leaguers don’t experience in 10-plus year careers. He has played in the postseason in each of his two seasons, started in an All-Star Game, slugged a grand slam and tied the RBI record.
He’s a win away from winning it all.
“It’s a kid’s dream,’’ Russell said.
You should know, Addison. You are a kid.
It’s also a dream for a fan base which knows only of a 1945 World Series appearance before this one for the Cubs and has only read about their last World Series title, in 1908.
“To be honest, I don’t think we’re thinking about (history),’’ Russell said. “We’re just thinking about it as another game. That’s how we’ve looked at things all season and look how it has worked.’’
To Russell’s credit, he stayed within himself after starting the postseason with one hit in his first 25 at-bats. Since then, in nine games, he is 12-for-36 with three homers, two doubles and 12 RBI. His homer against the Dodgers in the series-tying Game 4 of the NLCS was the turning point of the game and the series.
The key to Tuesday’s slam, manager Joe Maddon said, was taking the first two pitches from Dan Otero for balls.
“That’s what we’ve been talking about the whole time,’’ Maddon said. “If you’re over-eager right there you’re going to put that sinker in play, it’s a ground ball to third base, inning over and none of this happens. He was patient enough to get a pitch he could work with.’’
A little beyond his years, perhaps.
“Just watching him, he’s unbelievable, man,’’ said Kris Bryant, who went 4-for-5 with a homer in the first inning. “He’s 22 years old, Gold Glove [finalist], hitting homers in the World Series. He’s a pretty special player.’’
There was defense, too, with two fine stops in the field, getting an inning-ending forceout in the sixth, starting a slick inning-ending double play with Javy Baez in the eighth and putting a difficult tag down on Roberto Perez when Jason Heyward threw out the Indians catcher in the ninth.
A bloop double that fell after an Indians outfield mix-up provided two gift RBI but there was nothing cheap about the slam, which came in the third inning but basically qualified as a knockout blow, providing a 7-0 Cubs lead.
It carried 423 feet and left the yard with 108 mph exit velocity.
“That was the hit of the night there,’’ Bryant said. “He has had a lot of huge home runs this offseason. That might have been the biggest.’’