CHICAGO — When the Cleveland Indians arrived in town, they were viewed as a prop. The city was buzzing on Friday, bars in Wrigleyville were hopping before lunch and ticket prices for the Chicago Cubs’ first World Series home game in 71 years were approaching the cost of a college tuition payment.
But the Cubs, chasing their first championship in 108 years, had to play somebody, and the Indians were content to be that other team.
“I’m surprised they’re not calling us that,” said Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, who grew up nearby, attending games at Wrigley Field. “That’s fine by us. We’ll be that other team that won the World Series.”
The Indians are halfway there after a 1-0 victory over the Cubs on Friday night, riding an inspiring pitching performance by Josh Tomlin, a pinch-hit, run-scoring single by Coco Crisp and another lockdown performance from their bullpen.Continue reading the main story
When Cody Allen struck out Javier Baez with runners at second and third to end the game, it gave the Indians a two-games-to-one series lead and left the overflow crowd disappointed knowing that the Cubs must return to Cleveland to win the title.
Of course, the Cubs have bigger problems at the moment. Friday was the fourth consecutive playoff loss in which the Cubs have been shut out, including their two defeats in the World Series. And they will have to contend on Saturday night with the Indians’ ace, Corey Kluber, who pitched six shutout innings in the Series opener and has a 0.74 earned run average in the playoffs.
A taut, tense, low-scoring game hardly seemed in order on Friday night, when the wind was blowing briskly out toward center field and balls were flying out of the park in batting practice.
“Sometimes when you see the wind blowing out, you can try to do a little too much,” Cubs left fielder Ben Zobrist said. “I didn’t think there was one particular guy who was doing that tonight. Sometimes before the game, you lick your chops a little bit more than you should.”
Setting the tone for the Indians was Tomlin, who was pitching in front of his father for the first time since he learned he had arteriovenous malformation, a rare tangling of the blood vessels on his spinal cord that has left him paralyzed since August.
Tomlin allowed only two singles and a walk, but Indians Manager Terry Francona’s itchy trigger finger beckoned the superb Andrew Miller from the bullpen with Jorge Soler at second and two out in the fifth. By the end of the night, Francona had made several double-switches and used a pinch-runner for catcher Roberto Perez after he singled to lead off the seventh against reliever Carl Edwards Jr.
“Tito’s card was a mess,” said the Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, referring to Francona by his nickname. “There was stuff going on everywhere.”
Three moves in particular proved to be fruitful.
First Francona brought on Miller, who retired pinch-hitter Miguel Montero on a liner to end the fifth, stranding Soler. He then used Michael Martinez to pinch-run for Perez, and Martinez alertly advanced to third when a breaking pitch by Edwards bounced away from Willson Contreras. Finally, Francona replaced Miller — who had struck out the side in the sixth on just 13 pitches — with a pinch-hitter when there were runners at first and third and one out in the seventh.
Miller had not hit since 2011. “I don’t know if you could tell by my smile on deck,” Miller said. “I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in my ability.”
Asked if he knew his career numbers, Miller said: “Terrible. Pretty awful.”
When told he was 4 for 72, he added: “I know we have a lot better hitters on this team.”
One of them turned out to be Crisp, the 36-year-old veteran who began his career with Cleveland, won a championship with Francona in Boston in 2007, and was reacquired in an August trade with Oakland. He lined the first pitch he saw from Edwards into right field, salving the frustration of leaving a runner at third in three previous innings.
If the night was memorable for Crisp and Tomlin, it also was for those who packed the ballpark. Understandably, the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years was treated like a once-in-a-lifetime affair.
Fans began congregating in Wrigleyville, the neighborhood centered on the intersection of Clark and Addison Streets, early in the morning. Some bars along Clark were charging $25 to $50 just to get in the front door, and by midafternoon, cars were no longer being allowed within a block of the ballpark. By late afternoon, Clark was so congested with foot traffic that police on horseback formed a tight line at the corner of Addison, keeping fans from flooding the intersection.
Cubs Manager Joe Maddon likened his drive to work, spent weaving around cars and pedestrians, to a video game.
“Thank God there’s not another round after this, I’ll say that,” Maddon said. “I’m ready for the family vacation. But it’s spectacular in all the best. Hyperbole definitely suits right now — whatever you want to throw out there, it really matches up to what’s going on right now.”
As Janet and Jack Adams, season-ticket holders from suburban Mount Prospect, sat in the upper deck watching batting practice, they considered that they were born in 1947, two years after the Cubs lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Detroit Tigers.
“It doesn’t seem real to be sitting here,” Janet Adams said.
The shift to a National League park also had an effect on each team’s lineup. Doctors advised the Cubs that playing Kyle Schwarber, who returned from a major knee surgery in April to be the designated hitter in the first two games in Cleveland, in the outfield would be too risky, so he sat on the bench hoping to affect the game as a pinch-hitter. The Indians used Carlos Santana — usually a designated hitter or first baseman — in left field, a position he had not played since 2012.
Schwarber got his chance in the eighth, but reliever Bryan Shaw busted a 2-1 fastball in on his hands, shattering Schwarber’s bat and resulting in a soft pop up.
The Cubs did get a couple of breaks. Soler lofted a fly ball down the right-field line that outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall misplayed into a two-out triple in the seventh. Shaw recovered to retire Addison Russell on a groundout.
And first baseman Mike Napoli booted Jason Heyward’s two-out grounder in the ninth that would have ended the game without much stress for Allen. But so far this Series, those sorts of hiccups have hardly bothered what throughout the playoffs has been considered the other team.
The Indians ruined the send-off for Boston’s David Ortiz. They silenced brash Toronto. And now they threaten to provide another chapter of disappointment for the Cubs, breaking many hearts along the way.
“I love it.” Kipnis said. “Good. I hope I break all of them. I hope I break every single one of them. I hope I come home at Thanksgiving and the off-season, and I want to have a smile on my face when I look at all these Cubs fans.”