The World Series is headed back to Cleveland after the Indians were unable to close things out at Wrigley Field.
One bad inning was all it took to send the World Series back to Cleveland. The Chicago Cubs drew to within 3-2 in the Fall Classic on Sunday night at Wrigley Field, sending the series back to Progressive Field. A single inning was the Indians’ undoing, and they will now have to win a game at home to close out their first championship since 1948.
Cleveland had an early lead, but starter Trevor Bauer was unable to hold onto it, and the offense got a taste of its own gameplan as Chicago gave themselves new life. Game Six will have an 8:08 p.m. ET start time on Tuesday.
Three Runs, the Ballgame
Bauer was as good as he’s been all postseason long, going four innings and striking out seven. He cruised through the first three innings on just 45 pitches, putting the drone incident and an ineffective Game Three start behind himself.
But in the fourth, Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant led off with a home run to tie the game, and before all was said and done, three runs had crossed home plate. There was a double by Anthony Rizzo that nearly left the yard as well, and a sharp single by Ben Zobrist, but the rest of the action came on weak contact, and just didn’t go the Tribe’s way.
There is an argument to be made that, with the game on the line even so early, Cleveland missed an opportunity to go to its dominant bullpen, which manager Terry Francona has been nearly flawless with in October. On this night, it didn’t happen, and the Indians are left wondering what could have been.
The Tribe took a 1-0 lead on Chicago starter Jon Lester in the second inning when Jose Ramirez sent a ball screaming into the left field bleachers for a solo home run. It would be four more innings before they scratched anything else across against the lefty, despite having multiple chances.
Cleveland had runners in scoring position with less than two outs in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, but scored only a single run in those situations. As a team, the Indians were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position on the night.
Those are the type of opportunities that the Tribe has cashed in on regularly throughout the playoffs, but with silent bats on this night, led to a defeat.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon gave Cleveland a dose of its own medicine, bringing on closer Aroldis Chapman for the eight-out save, just as the Indians have done with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen throughout October.
Two For One
So now the series heads back to Cleveland. There will be an off-day on Monday before Tuesday’s Game Six, with Game Seven on Wednesday if needed. Cleveland will throw Josh Tomlin against the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta in the first game, both of whom pitched solidly in their first outings of the series.
The Indians need just one win in a place in which they have won 58 games between the regular season and postseason in 2016. Tomlin has been exceptional, with a 1.76 earned run average in 15.1 playoff innings, and will be asked once more to flummox opposing hitters with his pinpoint accuracy and newfound curveball domination.
We all knew this wouldn’t be easy, that Chicago wouldn’t go down meekly, that to win a title the city has been waiting on since 1948 would require a little something extra. Cleveland is still in the driver’s seat, but it’s going to require one more special effort from a club that has seemingly delivered nothing but since Opening Day. A win at home is all the Indians need. Just one win at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario will make this Tribe season something most of us have never seen before.