Dave McCullough presents our Game Three World Series recap in which Coco Crisp was responsible for driving in the lone run in a bullpen duel.
Game Three of the World Series – the first Fall Classic contest played at Wrigley Field in 71 years – was a tense, tight pitcher’s duel. Cleveland’s starter Josh Tomlin was making the start for the Indians because of Carlos Carrasco’s absence and Danny Salazar’s recent return from injury. Tomlin was far from Terry Francona’s first choice, but the righty had been surprisingly effective in his two starts his postseason. Meanwhile, Chicago sent Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks to the mound. The Cubs right-hander had closed out the NLCS with a gem against the Dodgers, and manager Joe Maddon was hoping for more of the same.
Both managers got all they could have asked for, and more, from their starters. The two teams traded scoreless innings into the seventh inning; Tomlin went 4 ⅔ innings, allowing just two Chicago hits and one walk, striking out one. Hendricks tossed 4 ⅓ innings for the home team, yielding six hits and two walks – departing with the bases loaded in the fifth – while striking out six. But the story on this night was not just the performance of the starting pitchers – it was the stellar work each team received from their bullpens.
Francona is known for having the golden touch when it comes to managing his bullpen, though it must be said that relief ace Andrew Miller would be making any manager look like Casey Stengel given how the lanky lefty has performed. Maddon also managed to pull all the correct levers when using his bullpen, calling upon Justin Grimm in the fifth inning, bases-loaded jam and being rewarded with a double-play ground ball off the bat of the Indians’ most dangerous hitter this postseason, Francisco Lindor.
The seventh inning featured all the scoring we would see on the night, as the Indians manufactured their run in the top half with the benefit of deft management from Francona. Catcher Roberto Perez led off with a single and Francona immediately sent out Michael Martinez to pinch run for his lumbering backstop. The Indians’ skipper then called for the sacrifice, and Tyler Naquin laid down a textbook bunt on the grass in front of the plate. The sac bunt allowed Martinez to move up to second as Cubs catcher Willson Contreras pounced on the ball and threw out the Indians’ centerfielder at first.
After a visit to the mound by Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio, Carl Edwards Jr. unleashed a wild pitch, allowing Martinez to scamper to third with one out. With light-hitting left fielder Rajai Davis at the plate and the pitcher’s spot due next, Maddon ordered Edwards to work around Davis with the unintentional-intentional walk. After Davis trotted to first, Francona sent pinch hitter Coco Crisp to the plate with runners at the corners and one out. Crisp lined the first pitch he saw into right field, allowing Martinez to trot home and score the run.
However, on the play, Davis attempted to take third and Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler was having none of it. He unleashed a perfect throw to third and Davis was out by… a lot. Too much, really. Instead of runners at first and second with one out, the Indians had a runner at first and two outs. Mike Montgomery then replaced Edwards on the mound and forced Jason Kipnis to weakly ground out to first, which resulted in an out – after a replay review.
In the bottom half of the inning, Francona sent Bryan Shaw to the hill. He induced the first two batters – Ben Zobrist and Contreras – to ground out but with two down, Soler ripped a 1-1 pitch into the right field corner and raced around the bases to stand at third with a triple. However, after Shaw tossed Javier Baez two balls to start the at-bat, the Indians’ righty got a groundball to short to end the inning.
Montgomery twirled a 1-2-3 top of the 8th, keeping the score at 1-0 in favor of the Indians. Shaw returned to the mound in the bottom half, and quickly retired Addison Russell with a strikeout and then got Game Two hero Kyle Schwarber to pop out in his pinch hitting appearance. Dexter Fowler then singled with two outs, ending Shaw’s outing. Francona went to his bullpen one more time, summoning closer Cody Allen, who struck out likely NL MVP Kris Bryant on three pitches to end the 8th.
Maddon called for his closer Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. The flamethrower came out of the pen primed and ready to scorch the Indians’ bats. The lefty quickly sent Lonnie Chisenhall back to the bench after a four-pitch strikeout. Martinez was next and he battled, seeing a total of seven pitches before succumbing to the strikeout on a 3-2 count. Yan Gomes – who replaced the catcher Perez after he was pinch run for in the seventh – managed to avoid the strikeout, but he ended the inning with a grounder to second.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo led off the ninth for the Cubs with a single on the first pitch he saw from Allen. Maddon then sent out Chris Coghlan to pinch run. Zobrist strode to the plate and struck out – chasing a pitch out of the zone for strike three. Contreras then grounded to third on the first pitch he saw, advancing the runner ot second, but recording the second out of the inning. Jason Heyward – who was 3-for-30 in the postseason and has been benched – came to the plate with two and the tying run at second. Heyward tried to end the game with a grounder in between first and second but Indians first baseman Mike Napoli botched the play, allowing Heyward to reach via error and sending Coghlan to third. To the plate came the Cubs playoff MVP thus far, Baez. On a 0-1 pitch Heyward took second without a throw, putting the winning run in scoring position. But Allen then buckled down and induced Baez to chase three pitches, striking him out to end the game, 1-0.
The Indians have now racked up five shutouts in the 2016 playoffs, and have taken a 2-1 series lead. Both Maddon and Francona emptied their benches and bullpens, and their masterful management made this game a classic. Tight, and tense, the pressure was on for both teams all night – and Cleveland’s ability to manufacture a single run was the difference. Game 4 is tonight, with the Cubs sending one their veteran playoff-tested starter John Lackey to the hill to face Corey Kluber for the Indians.