It all seemed like things were going to plan for the Cubs in the bottom of the first inning. Dexter Fowler doubled after a six pitch lead-off at-bat, Anthony Rizzo singled to drive Dex in and the inning ended after Kluber had thrown 18 pitches. At that point in the game it certainly felt like everything was working precisely in the Cubs favor. That was, until the top of the second inning.
John Lackey has had trouble giving up early runs – by early, I mean the third inning or earlier – all year long.
His first inning of work Saturday night was a masterpiece, inducing a ground-out followed by two strikeouts. Things started to crumble in the second inning. John almost looked shocked when his 3-2 fastball got slammed into the bleachers by Carlos Santana. Lonnie Chisenhall reached on a rare fielding error by Kris Bryant, who made a great play to stop the ball – with plenty of time to make the throw – but uncorked the ball way over the head of Anthony Rizzo.
With a man on and two outs, the Indians eighth man in the lineup came to the plate with Chisenahll standing on second base. Joe Maddon elected to intentionally walk Tyler Naquin to pitch to the Indians Corey Kluber. This was a call I did not understand. To me, it felt forced. This isn’t a call Joe would ever make in the course of a normal game. Of course, this is far from a normal game but to give context, Naquin is batting under .200 in the playoffs. And wouldn’t it be better to have the pitcher spot batting lead-off in the third inning, if possible? These are the thoughts that bounced around my head when I saw Contreras toss his hand up to the side, indicating the intentional walk was on.
As Corey Kluber walked up to the plate, the only hope I had was that the intentional walk wouldn’t back-fire. As Kluber snubbed the ball off the end of his bat, Kris Bryant charged and made a desperate throw – one he should’ve held – that bounced off the glove of Anthony Rizzo and allowed Chisenhall to score from second base on the play. And sure, the score was only 2-1 at that point, but it felt like such a gut-punch after the first inning the Cubs mounted.
After that inning the Cubs could only manage to get two runners in scoring position off Kluber the rest of the way. When Kluber left after six innings, Andrew Miller came on and, at that point, with the Cubs trailing 4-1, it was turning into an ideal game for the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians would tack on three more runs in the top of the seventh inning to bust the game open and take a 3-1 series lead (Box Score).
Stats that matter
- Lackey has had better days – 5.0IP, 3R, 4H, 1BB, 5Ks, HR allowed, 84 pitches
- Montgomery, Grimm, Wood and Rondon – 4.0IP, 4R, 6H, 2BB, 5Ks, HR allowed
- Dexter Fowler played well and led the way for the Cubs – 2-for-4, 2R, 1RBI, HR, 2B
- Great to see Jason Heyward back in there and he produced – 2-for-4
That was a stinker at the worst time. The Cubs now face the prospect of a win-or-go-home scenario. It’s certainly not a position anyone thought the Cubs would be in at the start of the weekend, but it was always a possibility.
Beyond the hype and bright lights, beyond the multitude of TV cameras and the sea of people – a large chunk seeing the inside of Wrigley Field for the first time this year – is the searing reality. This is baseball and baseball does not come easy often. It’s time to step up, boys.
If someone asked me, ever, if I’d take the Cubs being 3 wins from a World Championship with 3 games left, I’d take that every time. #Believe
— Cubs Kingdom (@CubsKingdom) October 30, 2016
The Cubs and Indians clash in game 5 of the World Series at 7:15 PM CT. Jon Lester will get the start for the Cubs as they face elimination for the first time all year.