The Chicago Cubs kept their hopes of ending a 108-year World Series title drought alive by beating the Cleveland Indians 3-2 on Sunday night at Wrigley Field.
The Indians need one more win to end their city’s own decades-long wait for a baseball championship, but stellar starting pitching from Jon Lester and an eight-out save by Aroldis Chapman put Cleveland’s celebration on hold.
Lester struck out the side in the first inning and pitched ahead in the count throughout most of his outing. He gave up a two-out solo homerun to Jose Ramirez in the second, but he didn’t allow more than one baserunner in an inning until a pair of singles in the sixth. The Indians had just four hits with no walks against Lester, who struck out five.
Lester’s opposite number, Trevor Bauer, struck out five through the first three innings and seemed to be cruising, but the Cubs got to him in the fourth, when he gave up four straight hits and the lead.
Kris Bryant crushed a line drive over the wall in left to tie the game, then Anthony Rizzo doubled off the ivy in right field. As the Wrigley Field crowd began a taunting chant of Bauer’s name, the 25-year-old right-hander served up three straight balls to Ben Zobrist. The Cubs’ left fielder singled to right, putting runners on the corners, and an infield single by Addison Russell put Chicago ahead. Bauer struck out Jason Heyward for the first out, but a bunt base hit by Javier Baez loaded the bases and David Ross hit a fly ball deep enough for Zobrist to tag up and score. Lester struck out to end the inning.
Bauer was done after four innings. Mike Clevinger replaced him in the fifth and walked two, but allowed no further damage. From the fifth inning on, the Cubs managed only one hit – a single by Heyward off Cody Allen in the eighth.
The Indians cut the Cubs’ lead to 3-2 in the sixth. With one out, Rajai Davis lined a single to left and stole second after getting a huge lead on Lester, who rarely throws over to first to hold runners on. Lester got Jason Kipnis on a called strike three for the second out, but Francisco Lindor singled to center to score Davis. Catcher David Ross threw out Lindor on a steal attempt, with Baez applying a quick tag from in front of the bag, to end the inning.
Indians right-hander Bryan Shaw struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth.
Clinging to a one-run lead, Chicago manager Joe Maddon called on his closer, Aroldis Chapman, to get the Cubs out of trouble in the seventh. With one out and a runner on second, Chapman got Ramirez to swing at high heat for a strikeout. He then hit Brandon Guyer to put a second runner on, but Chapman ended that threat by getting Perez to ground out to the second baseman.
Chapman may have made the eighth more difficult for himself than it should’ve been. With one out, Rizzo made a diving stop on hard grounder down the line, but Chapman didn’t move to cover the bag right away and the Cubs had no play at first. The speedy Davis stole second and third, but the Indians were unable to bring him home. Lindor, one of the hottest hitters of the series so far, struck out looking at a perfectly placed fastball down and on the outside corner of the strike zone for the third out.
In the bottom of the eighth, Maddon opted to let Chapman bat so he could pitch the ninth rather than send up a pinch hitter to try to pick up an insurance run with two outs and Heyward on second. Heyward swiped third, but Chapman struck out in the rare plate appearance.
In the ninth, Mike Napoli grounded out to short and Carlos Santana flew out to right field. Chapman nailed down the Cubs’ second victory in the series by striking out Ramirez. It was the longest relief appearance of Chapman’s major-league career at 2 2/3 innings, but he had enough left in the tank to top triple digits on the three fastballs he threw to the final batter.
Lester earned the win, giving up two earned runs on four hits in six innings. Chapman got his first World Series save. He allowed one hit and struck out four with no walks.
Bauer’s World Series record fell to 0-2. He allowed three earned runs on six hits and no walks in four innings. He struck out seven.
The World Series moves back to Cleveland for Game 6 at 5 p.m. PT on Tuesday. Right-handers Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) of the Cubs and Josh Tomlin will be the starting pitchers. Arrieta was the winning pitcher in Game 2, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing one run on two hits. Tomlin pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 3. He’ll be pitching on three days’ rest.