The Cleveland Indians spoiled the Chicago Cubs’ first World Series home game in 71 years. The American League champions won 1-0 Friday night at Wrigley Field to take a 2-1 series lead.
It was a scoreless game until a pinch-hit single by Coco Crisp in the seventh inning drove in the only run the Indians would need.
Roberto Perez started the inning off with a single to right off the Cubs’ 25-year-old reliever Carl Edwards Jr. Replacing Perez as pinch runner, Michael Martinez moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Naquin and then went to third on a wild pitch. Edwards walked Rajai Davis, and Crisp came to the plate to bat for pitcher Andrew Miller. Crisp lined the game-winner to right field.
The Cubs had few scoring opportunities in Wrigley Field’s first World Series game since 1945. Only two Chicago baserunners got as far as second until a two-out triple by Jorge Soler in the seventh.
Cleveland starting pitcher Josh Tomlin allowed just two hits and a walk before Miller replaced him with two outs and Soler standing on second in the bottom of the fifth. Miller got Miguel Montero to line out to right, then returned in the eighth and struck out the side.
Bryan Shaw gave up Soler’s triple, a difficult fly ball that hooked fair in front of Lonnie Chisenhall. Javier Baez, whose bat has gone cold (2-for-13 with 5 strikeouts and no walks) after earning co-MVP honors in the N.L. Championship Series, was unable to bring in the tying run – his groundout to the shortstop ended the seventh. Dexter Fowler singled off Shaw with two outs in the eighth inning, but the Indians’ closer, Cody Allen, came in and struck out Kris Bryant.
Things got interesting in the bottom of the ninth. Anthony Rizzo led off with a single before Allen struck out Ben Zobrist, then Willson Contreras grounded out to third. Pinch hitter Jayson Heyward grounded into what should have been the final out, but a fielding error by first baseman Mike Napoli kept the Cubs alive and put fans on the edge of their seats. Chris Coghlan, pinch running for Rizzo, was 90 feet from tying the game. The potential winning run moved into scoring position when Heyward stole second, but Baez struck out to end the game.
Cleveland had early chances to score that they couldn’t convert. Three times the Indians led off an inning with a base hit off Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who allowed six hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out six batters.
The Indians had runners on the corners with one out in the first inning, but Hendricks picked Francisco Lindor off first and struck out Napoli.
Cleveland threatened again in the fourth. Lindor led off with a single and one out later, Jose Ramirez lined a base hit to right. A liner by Chisenhall that was deflected by Hendricks’ glove and fielded by Rizzo saved the Cubs a run with Ramirez forced out at second and Lindor holding at third. Hendricks got Perez looking at strike three to end the inning with the game still scoreless.
In the top of the fifth, Naquin singled over Bryant’s head. Tomlin moved Naquin to second with a sacrifice bunt. Hendricks then walked Carlos Santana and hit Jason Kipnis with a pitch to load the bases. That prompted Cubs manager Joe Maddon to go to his bullpen, bringing on right-hander Jason Grimm to face Lindor, the Indians’ best hitter. Grimm got what the Cubs needed – a groundball that Baez and Addison Russell turned into a 4-6-3 double play.
Edwards took the loss, but the Chicago bullpen kept the Cubs in the game. Edwards got out the three batters he faced in the sixth, and the other four relievers Maddon used for a combined three innings – Grimm, Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop and Aroldis Chapman – didn’t allow a hit or a walk.
The Cubs struck out eight times and managed just five hits and one walk off Indians pitching. Miller was awarded the win because Tomlin pitched fewer than the five innings.
Game 4 is Saturday at Wrigley Field in Chicago. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m. PT. The Indians plan to use Game 1 starting pitcher Corey Kluber (18-9 3.14 in the regular season), a right-hander, on three days’ rest. The Cubs will send veteran righty John Lackey (11-8, 3.35 ERA) to the mound.
World Series notes:
• Soler may have prevented the Indians from scoring a second run in the seventh inning when he threw Davis out trying to go from first to third on Crisp’s RBI single to right. The next batter, Kipnis, facing left-hander Mike Montgomery, hit a ground ball to first that got by Rizzo. Baez picked the ball up and barely had time to throw Kipnis out at first base.
• Kyle Schwarber, who doubled in Game 1 and drove in two runs in Game 2 while serving as the Cubs’ designated hitter after missing nearly the entire season due to injury, pinch hit for Strop in the eighth inning. Schwarber popped out.
• Conditions were ripe for a high-scoring game with strong winds blowing out to center field, but few fly balls were hit Friday night. Perez’s two shots in Game 1 are the only home runs hit so far in this World Series.
• The Indians paid a steep price to acquire Miller from the New York Yankees at the trade deadline. They had to give up prized prospects Clint Frazier (outfielder) and Justus Sheffield (pitcher), but Miller is paying dividends in October. The 31-year-old left-hander has struck out 27 batters in 14 innings of relief pitching this postseason. He’s allowed 0 runs, 7 hits and 4 walks.