Terry Francona and his Cleveland Indians have been the underdog all throughout the postseason. Facing the best team in baseball at their home field - a National League park in which Francona had to bat his pitcher - made things tougher on the manager who entered the postseason, really without a healthy or reliable pitcher, save for Corey Kluber.
Experts said Francona, despite his genius, had no chance of combatting the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, due to the lack of a designated hitter, and how that would affect his masterful bullpen selections. However, Francona used every resource available to him, as he pulled all 13 men off his bench to play in the game, to go along with four pitchers, doing just enough to secure a 1-0 victory in Game 3, giving the Indians a 2-1 Series lead.
Andrew Miller got the win on the bump for the Indians, going 1.1 innings with 3 strikeouts in his relief of starter Josh Tomlin. Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen also contributed to the victory on the mound. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor chipped in offensively with a pair of hits apiece, but it was the RBI single from Coco Crisp that gave the Indians the victory. Jorge Soler was the only Cub with multiple hits in the contest. Carl Edwards Jr. took the loss, giving up a run and two hits over 1 2/3 innings.
Tomlin dazzles, Hendricks escapes trouble in early going
Two pitchers that had been very impressive this postseason continued to dazzle in the World Series. Hendricks was coming off a performance in which he pitched into the eighth inning, surrendering just two hits. He had much more trouble against the Cleveland lineup, as the Indians knocked on the door several times, but Hendricks escaped each timed.
The Indians threatened immediately in the first inning, putting runners on the corners with one out, courtesy of singles from Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor. However, Lindor was picked off by Hendricks for the all-important second out, and the Cubs' hurler fanned Mike Napoli to end the threat. Hendricks mostly avoided trouble until the fourth inning, as he induced a double-play ball in the second and allowed just a two-out walk in the third inning.
The fourth inning brought another big opportunity for the Indians, but they could not cash in once more. Singles from Lindor and Jose Ramirez sandwiched around a Napoli strikeout, began the inning. Hendricks again saved a run, but this time, it was with his glove.
The right-hander induced a ground ball to first base. Anthony Rizzo whipped it to Addison Russell for the force out, but the young shortstop uncorked a low throw to Hendricks, who was hustling to cover first. Hendricks made the pick while in full stride, saving a run, although the runner was called safe. With runners on the corners once more, Hendricks won an eight-pitch battle with Roberto Perez, fanning the Cleveland catcher to end the threat.
Meanwhile, Tomlin breezed through a very clean four innings, cruising through two perfect frames and facing minimal trouble in the others. He began the game with a perfect inning, but he allowed a leadoff single to Ben Zobrist to begin the second. However, Tomlin remained collected on the mound, inducing a ground out that advanced Zobrist to second. He whiffed Jorge Soler on a nasty curve-ball, before he ended the inning by forcing a pop-out from Javier Baez. Tomlin had a perfect third inning, and he worked around a leadoff walk in the fourth inning to keep the game scoreless.
Game becomes Battle of Bullpens in 5th inning
Although each hurler had not given up a run, both managers had a very short leash, especially with the sense that runs would be at a premium in this contest. With his pitch-count rising, Hendricks ran into more trouble in the fifth inning. A leadoff single by Tyler Naquin started the trouble, allowing Tomlin to bunt the speedster over to second base.
With Carlos Santana up, Hendricks refused to throw a fastball, working the corners with curves and changeups against the Indian's leadoff hitter. Santana worked the walk, putting two runners on for Jason Kipnis. Hendricks got a 2-2 count on Kipnish, but his next offering a sinker that didn't sink or go over the plate. Kipnis took it off the shoulder to load the bases. Manager Joe Maddon had seen enough, yanking Hendricks in favor of Justin Grimm.
Grimm was given the unenviable task of facing the hottest hitter in the series, Francisco Lindor. He quickly got ahead 0-2 on curveballs, but he continued to nibble, leaving two curves in the dirt, and elevating a fastball much too high to run the count full. However, even with the threat of walking in a run, Grimm stuck with his bread-and-butter pitch - his curveball.
Lindor took a big swing at the looping curve and grounded it to Javier Baez at second base. Baez flipped to Addison Russell, who fired it on to first base for the critical double-play, eliciting a roar of celebration from almost every Cubs player of the field, as well as a big sigh of relief from Hendricks.
Tomlin gave up a leadoff single in the fifth inning, just the second knock he had allowed. He induced two ground-outs, the latter moving the runner to second base. With pinch-hitter Miguel Montero coming to the plate, Francona made one of his bold moves that has made him a renowned manager, especially during this postseason.
Despite Tomlin's success thus far, Francona didn't want to risk anything, so he yanked Tomlin for his bullpen ace, Andrew Miller. The lefty put Montero in a 1-2 hole with 2 sliders and a 96mph fastball before he got the pinch-hitting catcher to line out to right field to end the inning.
Indians squeak out lone run in bullpen battle
With both starters out of the game, it became a game of matchups, clever pinch-hitting, and strategic switches. Despite being an American League manager, Francona looked just as able as the brilliant Maddon. He used all 13 of his position players and two double-switches during the game.
In the sixth inning, both relief pitchers fired clean innings. Edwards, who replaced Grimm, got a ground-out, pop-out, and a strikeout for a perfect inning. Miller was unhittable again, striking out the side on 13 pitches, eight of which were sliders.
Roberto Perez started the game-winning rally for the Indians, singling to lead off the seventh inning. He was replaced by pinch-runner Michael Martinez. Tyler Naquin advanced Martinez with a sacrifice bunt, bringing up Rajai Davis, who had been brought into the game via a double switch, up in the #9 spot in the order. Davis worked a walk in a long at-bat, in which Edwards uncorked a wild pitch that moved Martinez to third base.
With runners on the corners and 1 out, and Andrew Miller due up, Francona had to decide whether to pinch-hit or keep his ace reliever in the game. He made the tough decision to take Miller off the mound and out of the game, sending up Coco Crisp in his place. Crisp responded, drilling a single to right field to score Martinez for a 1-0 lead. The Cubs escaped further damage, but it was the only damage Cleveland would need.
Shaw and Allen close things out for the Indians
With Miller out of the game, Francona turned to Brayan Shaw and Cody Allen to save the game for Cleveland. Shaw worked around a 2-out, windblown triple in the seventh inning to hurl a scoreless frame, bringing Clevleland within six outs. He was able to get two outs in the eighth inning, dealing with Maddon's biggest weapon off the bench in Kyle Schwarber, before giving way to Cody Allen with a runner on first and Kris Bryant up. Allen didn't falter, fanning Bryant on four pitches to end the threat.
After Cubs' closer Aroldis Chapman fired a 1-2-3 ninth, Allen came back out to close the game out for the Indians. Anthony Rizzo began the frame with a single, but he was replaced by a pinch-runner in Chris Coghlan. Allen rebounded to whiff Zobrist and induce a ground-out that put Coghlan on second with two outs for the struggling Jason Heyward. Heyward grounded into what should have been the final out, but a critical error put runners on the corners for Javier Baez.
Heyward stole second base during the at-bat, meaning a hit would likely win the game for the Cubs. After fouling off a juicy fastball on the first pitch, Baez worked a 2-1 count. However, the young infielder chased a curveball that bounced before the plate to level the count. Following that, Allen elevated a 94mph fastball, and Baez could not lay off of it, ending the game, and giving the Indians the 2-1 series lead.
The two teams play on Saturday night, at 8pm, with John Lackey taking on Corey Kluber, who will be going on short rest after dominating the Cubs in Game 1.