Cubs beat Indians to force Game 6
CHICAGO — Pushed to the brink of elimination in their first World Series appearance in 71 years, the Chicago Cubs aren’t going down without a fight.
Dropping the first two games at Wrigley Field meant it was do-or-die time in the third and final game of the series in Chicago, and the Cubs needed a handful of season-saving performances to send the Fall Classic back to Ohio and thwart the Cleveland Indians’ attempt to finish them off.
From three players in particular, that’s exactly what they got Sunday night, but it was far from easy and Cubs fans, 41,711 of the them, had to deal with another cliffhanger.
In the end, the Cubs earned their first World Series win at Wrigley Field since Oct. 8, 1945, and it was Jon Lester, Kris Bryant and Aroldis Chapman leading them to a season-extending 3-2 victory in Game 5.
Lester provided the steadiness, limiting the Indians to two runs over six innings.
The Cubs did all their scoring during a three-run fourth inning, and it was Bryant providing the pop, breaking the ice with a solo home run to become the second-youngest player in franchise history to homer in a World Series game.
Finally, Chapman provided the (sigh of) relief, doing his best Andrew Miller impersonation when Cubs manager Joe Maddon brought him into the game in the seventh inning and asked the flame-throwing lefty to get the final eight outs of the ballgame, which took a season-high 42 pitches to do.
“That was a big ask and he answered,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Chapman’s performance. “That was impressive.
“It was a big ask. We’ve done it here, too. Nobody’s just ever running to the bat rack when Chapman comes into the game, I’ll tell you that.”
Bryant wasn’t surprised the man with the 103-mph fastball got the job done.
“He just went out there and did his thing and, I think, that right there is exactly the reason why we got him,” Bryant said.
All of that adds up to the Indians now clinging to a 3-2 series lead, as the scene will now shift back to Cleveland for Game 6 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night and, potentially, Game 7 on Wednesday.
“Sometimes, they beat you,” Francona said. “I didn’t think we beat ourselves, I thought they beat us.”
While the Cubs still have hope, the odds are not in their favour.
Of the previous 46 teams that have jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the World Series, 40 of them have gone on to win.
“Why not us?” Bryant said when asked about the historical trends. “I feel like we play our best with our backs against the wall.
“We’re all about writing our own history. This team is a special one.”
On a chilly, late October night with their season on the line, Lester immediately got the crowd into the game, striking out the side in the top of the first.
He used three different pitches to get the job done, too, getting Rajai Davis with a changeup, Jason Kipnis with a cutter, and Francisco Lindor with a curveball, walking off the field to a roar from the Wrigley faithful.
Lester continued to cruise in the second inning, inducing a pair of weak pop ups, until Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez changed all that.
On the second pitch of the at-bat, Lester grooved a four-seam fastball and Ramirez deposited it in the left field bleachers for a 1-0 lead.
It looked like that solo home run would be big, as Indians starter Trevor Bauer was rolling, but along came the bottom of the fourth inning.
Bryant, the slugging all-star third baseman, walked to the plate and ripped a line-drive homer to left centre field to quickly tie the game, but the Cubs were far from done.
Anthony Rizzo came within a couple feet of making it back-to-back jacks, hitting a double off the right field wall.
Ben Zobrist then singled — the first time all series that the Cubs strung together three straight hits — to set up runners at first and third for shortstop Addison Russell, who promptly chopped an infield single down the third base line, scoring Rizzo to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.
After Jason Heyward struck out, second baseman Javier Baez laid down a bunt for a single to load the bases up for catcher David Ross.
With many wondering if this was a spot Maddon would turn to Kyle Schwarber for a big, run producing knock, the Cubs weren’t about to throw Lester off his game by yanking his personal catcher in the fourth inning.
“There’s all kinds of drama out there,” Maddon said.
Ross ended up delivering, but not in the dramatic fashion many were envisioning with Schwarber at the plate, hitting a sacrifice fly to left field to make it a two-run advantage heading to the fifth inning.
“I mean, yeah, there guy was kind of cruising a little bit through the first three,” Bryant said. “It was nice to have a big inning to kind of get us going.
“For me, I wasn’t going out there and trying to hit a homer or anything like that. I just wanted to have a good at-bat and it was nice it went over the fence.”
Bauer lasted just four innings, and while the Indians would cut the Cubs’ lead to just one run in the sixth inning, they couldn’t get any closer.
Lester gave up four hits, struck out five and didn’t walk anybody in his six innings.
Maddon’s decision to go to Chapman early was a planned move, one that helped the Cubs stay alive.
“I talked to Chappy before the game and he was aware of being ready in the seventh inning,” Maddon said.
“He’s kind of fresh. He hasn’t been overused in the latter part of the season or in the playoffs.”