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6 Latinos Making History in Cubs vs. Indians World Series

Left to right: Danny Salazar, Javier Baez, Carlos Santana and Aroldis Chapman.

Left to right: Danny Salazar, Javier Baez, Carlos Santana and Aroldis Chapman. Brian Latimer

CHICAGO- We’re two games into the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians (tied 1-1) and it’s already one of the most memorable fall classics of all-time — the Cubs haven't been in a World Series since 1945. While there are many storylines in this year’s edition of baseball’s championship, the Latino players from both teams have become centerpieces in this best-of-seven series.

From Puerto Rico, to the Dominican Republic, to Venezuela, to Cuba, Latin America is on full display as the battle for the Commissioner’s Trophy continues. Here are some players to watch heading into Friday night’s game three.

Javier Baez

One player standing out this October is Cubs second baseman Javier Baez. After being named co-MVP of the National League Championship Series, the 23-year-old has reached base in each of the first two games against the Indians.

Image: World Series Workouts
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 27: Javier Baez #9 of the Chicago Cubs stretches during a work out at Wrigley Field on October 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs play the Cleveland Indians in game 3 of the World Series on Friday, October 28. Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

The native of Bayamón, Puerto Rico is batting .319 this postseason with seven runs batted in and seven runs scored. Baez was initially entered into the lineup for his superior defensive skills, but it’s his bat that has put the Cubs on the verge of winning their first title since 1908. Could Baez wind up being the savior of this franchise?

Francisco Lindor

Another player to watch for is Baez’s former training partner, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. The 22-year-old led the charge in Cleveland’s Game 1 victory by going 3-for-4 with a run scored and a stolen base.

Image: Francisco Lindor
Cleveland Indians' Francisco Lindor talks to reporters during batting practice for Friday's Game 3 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Chicago Cubs, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Hailing from Caguas in eastern Puerto Rico, Lindor excelled through the Tribe’s minor league system in just four seasons and has played a key role in helping this team return to the postseason. The Indians will go as Lindor does and if they want to win their first championship since 1948, he’ll need to put this franchise on his back and lead the way.

Willson Contreras

Next we shine the spotlight on Venezuela, the homeland of Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. The original plan called for the right-handed hitter, who can also play first base and roam the outfield, to spend the season with the Cubs Class-AAA franchise. But thanks to a string of mid-season injuries Contreras was called up to the big league roster in June — and he wound up staying for the rest of the year.

Image: Cleveland Indians at Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs player Willson Contreras runs during practice a day before game three of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA, 27 October 2016. The best-of-seven series is tied 1-1 and games three, four and five will be played in Chicago before returning to Cleveland for games six and seven if necessary. JOHN G. MABANGLO / EPA

Manager Joe Maddon felt confident enough in the 24-year-old’s abilities to add him to the playoff roster. That move has paid off as Contreras’ postseason slash line stands at .360/.429/.949. Contreras will start game three behind the plate and he has gotten on base in the Cubs last two home playoff games.

Carlos Santana

Dominican-born Carlos Santana is the wild card for the Indians in this game. Normally the team’s designated hitter, the seven-year veteran will start in left field for game three (a position he last played in 2012) thanks to Wrigley Field being a National League ballpark.

Image: MLB: World Series-Chicago Cubs at Cleveland Indians
Cleveland Indians designated hitter Carlos Santana reacts after striking out in the 7th inning against the Chicago Cubs in game two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Ken Blaze / Reuters

To add to the uncertainty, Santana has also had a rough October in the batters box (4-for-35, .143 average). The world will be watching to see how he adjusts to the atmosphere in the Windy City.

Danny Salazar

Of course we can’t talk about the World Series without mentioning some pitching. The Indians' Danny Salazar and the Cubs' Aroldis Chapman play different roles for their teams but are also some of the most important arms on their respective staffs.

Image: World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game One
Danny Salazar #31 of the Cleveland Indians throws the ball in the outfield before taking on the Chicago Cubs in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Jason Miller / Getty Images

Salazar, who’s normally a starter, has been converted to a reliever for this series after spending the final three weeks of the regular season and the first two playoff rounds on the disabled list with a forearm injury. Chapman is arguably the most effective closer in the game.

The Indians will call upon Salazar –one of only two Hispanic pitchers on Cleveland’s roster- for no more than an inning or two of work. He’s being eased back into the game so as not to risk further injury. But when/if he does pitch, Salazar can be a strikeout machine when he’s on point.

Aroldis Chapman

If Chapman gets in the game that’s usually a bad sign for opposing teams. The Cubs only call upon their Cuban import when they have a lead in the ninth inning.

World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Two
Aroldis Chapman #54 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

But regardless of whether or not you’re a Cubs fan, Chapman’s 100 miles-per-hour fastballs have become a sight to see.

Either the Cubs will make history this weekend or the Indians will force this series back to Northeast Ohio. Either way, these next three games will be fun to watch.

Gabe Salgado is a multimedia sports journalist based in Chicago.

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