World Series: Taking stock of a split in Cleveland

By Cat Garcia 
Contributor

The World Series has been nothing short of thrilling this season for two championship-hungry teams, and the Cubs tied the series up 1-1 as the Fall Classic will shift to Chicago this weekend for Games 3-5.

The Cubs were shut out 6-0 in Game 1 as Cleveland ace Corey Kluber silenced the bats of the National League hopefuls. However, Jake Arrieta turned the tables on the Indians on Wednesday evening as Cleveland lost Game 2 to the Cubs 5-1.

With the loss on Wednesday evening, Cleveland manager Terry Francona, who won two World Series championships in Boston, has now dropped the first World Series game of his managerial career. His record is now 9-1.

Arrieta took the mound for his first World Series appearance of his career on Wednesday night, and after a shaky first inning performance that struck apprehension into the hearts of Cubs fans everywhere, Arrieta impressed on the big stage. Throwing 5.1 innings of no-hit baseball, Arrieta became the first pitcher to go at least 5 innings with a no-hit bid in a World Series since Jerry Koosman did it for the Miracle Mets in 1969.

“I was locked in,” Arrieta said of his performance on Wednesday evening at Progressive Field. Understatement of the series.

The runs for Chicago amassed early due to a strong yet patient offensive performance from the Cubs, but an extra two runs were tallied due to outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall slipping in right field attempting to catch a Ben Zobrist triple, allowing Anthony Rizzo to score from first. Recently returning Kyle Schwarber then knocked in Zobrist from third, giving the Cubs the 4-0 lead in the fifth inning.

Among a flurry of excitement over just the opening ties of the series, postseason veteran Ben Zobrist has been having himself quite a series and will hopefully continue the hit parade in Chicago this weekend. Zobrist is now 5-for-9 in the first two games of the series with a double, a triple, and his first career RBI in a World Series game.

Zobrist’s consistent and patient plate approach have been key factors in his offensive production this October. “I wouldn’t say I feel locked in at the plate,” Zobrist said. “I feel like I’m battling more than anything.”

The Cubs all-arounder became the first player in major league history to record three hits in Game 1 of the World Series over consecutive seasons with two different clubs, having do so with Kansas City last season.

“They watch how he’s never in trouble at the plate,” Maddon said of Zobrist at the plate. “Two strikes don’t bother him. He accepts his walks.”

Another surprising emergence for the Cubs this October has been relief pitcher Mike Montgomery. Montgomery came into the game in relief of Arrieta on Wednesday evening and pitched two innings of two hit, one walk ball, garnering four strikeouts on the evening.

Montgomery has worked 11.2 innings in this postseason, giving up just four earned runs with 11 strikeouts. Montgomery offers a strong option to bridge the gap between starter and closer for the Cubs, while also offering an effective middle inning alternative to help keep the Cubs bullpen as well rested as possible.

Closer Aroldis Chapman has had his struggles this October, having the added pressure of being brought into high-leverage non-save situations. But the lefty flamethrower has recently shown success and proved that he can be the closer that the Cubs expect him to be during the postseason. Chapman has pitched three innings total in his last two outing including his first career World Series appearance, and allowed no earned runs while walking just two batters.

“It’s very possible that 104 mph is the hardest fastball ever in postseason. He has a great arm,” Indians outfielder Coco Crisp said of Chapman’s after Wednesday’s game.

Kyle Hendricks will take the mound Friday evening at Wrigley Field to face Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin for Game 3. The Cubs righthander has posted a 1.65 ERA over 16.1 innings pitched in three starts this postseason. He was last seen throwing 7.1 innings of two-hit ball in Chicago’s Game 6 clincher over the Dodgers in the NLCS.

Tomlin’s been similarly effective for the Tribe in his two postseason appearances, going 2-0 over 10.2 innings against the Red Sox and Blue Jays in the AL playoffs. But the real bad news for the Cubs entering Game 3 will be the availability of Andrew Miller for Francona’s Indians.

After throwing 40 pitches in Game 1 the lefthander was held out of the relief pitcher carousel that absorbed the onslaught of the resurgent Cubs offense in Game 2. But Miller will be available to work his usual middle-innings shift Friday, and given that he’s never given up a run in 22 innings of postseason work for his career, the pressure will be on the Cubs to get to Tomlin early before Francona can hand the game off to his bullpen.

Kluber returns to the hill in Game 4 after his lights out 88-pitch performance in the opener, so the Cubs need to look to continue taking advantage of the rest of the Cleveland rotation in order to maintain control of the series.

Game 3 of the World Series is Friday, 7:08 p.m. at Wrigley Field. We’ll have more coverage today and tomorrow leading up to the first pitch right here on RockRiverTimes.com.

Cat is a Staff Writer for BP Wrigleyville and BP Southside, Baseball Prospectus’ blogs covering Chicago baseball, and a Contributor for Hardballtimes.com. Follow her on Twitter: @TheBaseballGirl.

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