By Andrew Kahn
For the first time since 1945, the Cubs have won a World Series game. They beat the Indians 5-1 last night in Cleveland to even the series at 1-1. The earlier start time was smart, as the game lasted four hours and rain came down near the end. Wrigley Field hosts its first Fall Classic in 71 years tomorrow night.
1. Middle does damage for Cubs
The Cubs’ 3-4-5 hitters had a combined 15 plate appearances last night and reached base nine times. After getting shutout last night, Chicago wasted no time in Game 2, as Anthony Rizzo doubled to right to score Kris Bryant in the first. Older fans may recall the last time the Cubs scored in the World Series: Bill Nicholson drove in Peanuts Lowrey in Game 7 in ’45. The middle of the order was in the middle of things in the third and fifth innings as well: in both cases, Rizzo walked and Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber collected hits behind him.
Schwarber’s performance has been incredible. The Cubs certainly look smart for playing him. He swung at a 3-0 pitch in the third and cracked a single to center to make it 2-0. He drove in another run in the fifth. Improbably, he looks like Chicago’s most dangerous hitter right now, but will he play as the series shifts to the National League park? The left fielder wasn’t cleared to play defense in Cleveland, but will be reevaluated in Chicago. For what it’s worth, the Cubs Game 3 starter, Kyle Hendricks, is a ground ball pitcher.
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2. Jake the stopper
The first hit off Jake Arrieta came with one out in the sixth. It was the longest no-hit bid in the World Series since Jerry Koosman’s lasted six in 1969. He didn’t have his command in the first, walking two and throwing six balls in a row at one point. The third out was a well-struck fly to the warning track in center. But boy did he settle in. He allowed just one more baserunner until the sixth, when he was yanked with two outs after a double, wild pitch, and single. He finished with six strikeouts in his best postseason start since the wild card game last year. After Jon Lester lost last night, the Cubs needed Arrieta to step up and he did, displaying his signature movement on all his pitches.
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3. Pitching problem
Throughout the playoffs, the Indians haven’t gotten much length out of their starters not named Corey Kluber. That hasn’t been a huge problem—this was just their second postseason loss—but Trevor Bauer not getting through the fourth last night was. Bauer surrendered six hits and two walks, and the parade of relievers was no better. In total, the Indians walked eight batters in Game 2. They couldn’t put the Cubs hitters away—there were a lot of two-strike foul balls—and it cost them. The bullpen had been Cleveland’s strength, but without an early lead they didn’t turn to Andrew Miller or Cody Allen. Instead, Zach McAllister gave up a walk and a triple in the fifth. Bryan Shaw relieved him and allowed a hit and two walks. The good news is that Danny Salazar pitched for the first time in the playoffs. The All Star had been out since early September with a sore forearm.
4. Cleveland defense shaky, too
The Indians were uncharacteristically not sharp on Wednesday. On the Rizzo hit in the first, right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall threw to second base instead of hitting the cut-off man, who would have had a good shot to nail Bryant at the plate. He also fell down on Zobrist’s RBI triple. Until this season, Chisenhall had played more third base than outfield. Neither miscue was ruled an error, but second baseman Jason Kipnis made two last night. He mishandled a grounder and, later, dropped a flip from shortstop Francisco Lindor after a fabulous stop. The Indians had committed just one error previously in the playoffs, and that was by a pitcher.
5. Cubs fans in Cleveland
The Cubs split in Cleveland, but let’s not pretend that guarantees them a championship. Obviously falling behind 0-2 would have been really bad, but the 2009 Phillies, 2011 Rangers, and 2013 Cardinals are three recent examples of teams that split on the road to open the World Series only to come up short. It’s hard to imagine many Indians fans finding their way into Wrigley, but there were plenty of Cubs supporters at Progressive Field. They didn’t have much to cheer about in Game 1, but they could be heard last night. Now they get to witness a World Series home game for the first time since 1945. As others have pointed out, that is not to say there hasn’t been a World Series game in Chicago since then. The White Sox won it all in 2005 and made it in 1959.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about baseball and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn