By James Fegan
After 111 wins, and a regular season that saw them score over 800 runs, a pair of deathly quiet nights for the Cubs’ bats has them staring at a 2-1 deficit in their first World Series in 71 years.
With his ill father in attendance, Indians starter Josh Tomlin and a reliever trio of Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen twirled a five-hit shutout, as 36-year-old Coco Crisp’s seventh inning pinch-hit RBI single gave Cleveland a 1-0 Game 3 victory in Chicago.
The four Cleveland hurlers struck out seven on the night and allowed just seven Cubs baserunners. Tomlin struck out just one over 4.2 scoreless innings, but was nothing if not efficient, getting through his evening with just 58 pitches. While Shaw is the least-heralded of the three Indians relievers who appeared Friday, he was the one to strand pinch-runner Jason Heyward at third in the seventh, and who braved a Kyle Schwarber pinch-hitting appearance in the eighth. Allen, merely had to pitch over a leadoff single from Anthony Rizzo and Mike Napoli letting a Jason Heyward grounder to kick off his glove to extend the game to Javy Baez, who struck out on a high fastball to strand everyone.
The Indians’ impossibly lanky and impossibly vicious reliever Andrew Miller got into Game 3 with two outs in the fifth, and as is the way of things when has involved himself in affairs this postseason, the opposing lineup was rendered dormant until he stepped off the mound for good. A rippling lineout to right from pinch-hitter Miguel Montero got Miller out of the fifth, but he reverted to a more familiar form and struck out the side in the sixth.
While Miller has typically logged a heavier workload throughout the playoffs, the Indians were happy to lift him early in the seventh. Crisp came in for Miller’s spot in the order with runners on the corners against reliever Carl Edwards, after Game 1 hero Roberto Perez led off the inning with a single, and pinch-runner Michael Martinez advanced to third with a bunt and wild pitch. Crisp’s soft flair dropped in front of right fielder Jorge Soler to score Martinez and give the Indians a 1-0 lead. Rajai Davis getting himself gunned down trying to advance to third, and Baez’s mad dash to flip a dribbling ground ball to first before Jason Kipnis could dive into first saved the Cubs from further damage.
Tomlin, an unremarkable finesse right-hander thrust into the Cleveland playoff rotation only after injuries felled both Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, allowed 36 home runs in the regular season, second-most in the AL. If there was a starting pitcher on the mound Wrigley Field Friday night that was supposed to be overwhelmed by the combined force of the moment and the might of the opposing lineup, it was likely to be Tomlin, not the National League ERA leader Kyle Hendricks, who eviscerated the Los Angeles Dodgers to seal the pennant for the Cubs his last time out.
Yet while Tomlin’s stuff, maxing out at high-80s, certainly overwhelmed no one, he demonstrated the weight that simply locating everything as intended can carry. Tomlin gave the Indians 14 outs they were elated to to have, allowing just three baserunners despite a shifting strike zone, before giving way to bullpen maven Miller to get the game through the fifth still locked in a scoreless tie.
Hendricks was a grade less sharp than his counterpart, but only delivered one fewer out of scoreless ball. Picking off Francisco Lindor in the first inning helped him wriggle out of a jam with runners on first and third with one out, and he needed the help of reliever Justin Grimm and superlative defense to keep him spotless in the fifth. A running fastball nicked Kipnis to load the bases with one out, and it was not until Lindor bounced a 3-2 Grimm delivery into a lightning quick inning-ending double play turned by Baez and Addison Russell that the Wrigley faithful could exhale for a moment.
With two outs and no one aboard in the seventh and Shaw working on the hill for Cleveland against the scuffling Soler, one of the Cubs’ best scoring opportunities of the night suddenly came to pass. Soler lifted a lazy fly ball down the line that Lonnie Chisenhall stalked, leaped for and…missed, missed significantly, with the ball landing feet behind him and skittering against the wall as Soler broke out of a brief lazy jog to first and sprinted to third.
He would advance no further, as Baez grounded out weakly to end the inning, and likely would not have advanced much further if he was sprinting the whole way, but on a night where the Cubs’ bat were curiously silent again, every minor regret earns star billing.
Soler became the first Cub with a triple in a World Series game since Andy Pafko in Game 7 of the 1945 edition.
Prior to Game 3, 405 World Series games had been played at 45 different ballparks since Wrigley Field had hosted a World Series. Twenty-two of those ballparks have been demolished.
And Friday marked the first time the Cubs were beaten 1-0 in the postseason since Game 1 of the 1918 World Series. Babe Ruth threw a six-hit complete game for the Red Sox at Comiskey Park.
Game 4 of the World Series is Saturday at Wrigley Field. Television coverage will start on FOX at 6 p.m. First pitch is at 7:08 p.m. on FOX39 and WSCR 670AM.