I’ll admit when I sat down to watch tonight’s game that I was thinking this should be a kind of pitchers’ duel, much like yesterday’s game. And I was very wrong. As one of those pitchers seemed to bring a “knife to a gun fight”, to borrow an old phrase (from a really good movie).
The Indians brought out the big guns in this case, using starter Kluber on short rest to repeat his excellent performance from Game 1. Except he was better. Kluber clearly came to play and his lone weak inning was his 1st. Fowler hit a lead-off double and then scored on Rizzo’s 1-out single. And that was it for Kluber’s allowed runs. Overall, Kluber threw an efficient 81 pitches in his 6 innings, giving up just 5 hits (3 after the 1st inning) and a walk, and struck out 6 Cubs’ batters.
In a surprising move (at least in my armchair manager’s opinion), Miller came on in relief of Kluber for the 7th and 8th innings, and while he certainly kept things under control, he proved that he is, in fact, human in this postseason, giving up a lead-off home run to Fowler in the 8th. That was Miller’s first postseason allowed run. Other than that lone play, Miller sailed through the other 6 batters with his usual ease. Indians’ reliever Otero closed things out in the 9th in just 15 pitches to give the Indians (and Kluber) the victory.
The Cubs certainly had their “sharp” moments (trying to stick to my original metaphor here). But it certainly wasn’t enough. The Indians were ready to pounce on any moment of weakness in the Cubs’ pitching staff, and they certainly made their impact early and often.
Down 1-0 going into the 2nd inning, the Indians didn’t waste much time in tying up the game and then turning it into their favor. Santana led-off the 2nd with a solo home run. Chisenhall reached 1st on a throwing error, moved to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on Kluber’s single and another throwing error. Then Kipnis led-off the 3rd with a double and then scored on Lindor’s single to add the insurance run the Indians thought they’d need.
Cubs’ starter Lackey clearly had a rough start tonight, but he can share the blame with the sloppy defense. His pitch count was high, but those errors certainly gave the Indians a chance they shouldn’t have had. So when the Cubs went to their bullpen in the 6th inning, things didn’t get any better.
In the 6th, with 1 out and runners on the corners, Chisenhall’s sacrifice fly scored the lead runner. And in the 7th, pinch-hitter Crisp doubled to lead off the inning and ended up at 3rd on a wild pitch. Davis was hit by a pitch, and Maddon did the right thing and pulled his reliever. Well, it was the right thing except for the fact that the new guy promptly gave up a 3-run home run to Kipnis before he finally got the 3 out needed for that inning. That homer was the final shot needed in tonight’s fight.
Final score: 7-2 Indians, Indians lead series 3-1.
Tonight’s game defied the statistic that teams that score first go on to win the games. But if there’s something I’ve learned this postseason is that the Indians aren’t going to do anything to affirm the statistics or the so-called “normal”.
And that’s why their magic number is 1. Yes, the Indians need to win 1 more game in the next three to be World Champions. Meanwhile, if the Cubs want to take the title, they have to win all 3. Technically, the Indians have an easier job in that respect. But the postseason, especially this postseason, is anything but easy to predict.
Like in life, take nothing for granted. Fight as if it’s your last game, because for the Cubs, tomorrow night really could be this season.