CHICAGO – After watching Terry Francona get the most out of Andrew Miller this postseason, Joe Maddon decided to try the same with his own ex-Yankees reliever.
The move paid off as Aroldis Chapman got the final eight outs of Game 5, locking down a 3-2 Cubs win over the Indians to send the World Series back to Cleveland.
The Indians still hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, which they will try to close out in front of their home fans Tuesday night at Progressive Field.
Jon Lester allowed two runs over six innings, departing with a one-run lead thanks to the Cubs’ three-run fourth inning against Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer.
But after Carl Edwards Jr. allowed the tying run to get to second base with one out in the seventh, Maddon called on Chapman to record the final eight outs to keep the Cubs’ season alive.
Chapman walked a tightrope in the seventh and eighth, but he threw a perfect ninth to finish off Cleveland, giving the Cubs their first home World Series win since 1945.
Only six teams out of 46 have ever overcome a 3-1 deficit in the World Series, the last being the 1985 Royals.
With the series shifting back to Cleveland, the Cubs will attempt to become the first team since the 1979 Pirates to come back from 3-1 by winning the final two games on the road.
Lester struck out the side in the first and retired the first five batters he faced, but Jose Ramirez launched an 0-1 fastball into the left-field bleachers, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
The lead might not have seemed significant, but Cleveland had been a perfect 8-0 in the postseason when scoring first and 10-0 when holding a lead at any point in the game.
Bauer allowed only one single through the first three innings, striking out five Cubs the first time through the lineup.
The fans at Wrigley seemed to be sensing the worst, the crowd noise a mixture of excitement with nerves, terror and impending dread.
Kris Bryant changed that with one swing, leading off the fourth with a home run to left-center, knotting the game at 1.
Anthony Rizzo delivers a fist pump after scoring the go-ahead run in the fourth inning.
Anthony Rizzo kept the party going with a double off the ivy-covered wall in right field, then Ben Zobrist singled, putting runners at the corners. Addison Russell hit a soft grounder to third for an infield hit, scoring Rizzo to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.
One out later, Javier Baez bunted for an infield single, loading the bases.
Maddon had a decision to make: fire his big bullet by pinch-hitting Kyle Schwarber, or stick with veteran catcher David Ross, who was Lester’s personal catcher for 199.2 of his 202.2 innings this season?
Maddon stuck with Ross, who rewarded his manager with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1. Lester struck out to end the inning, but the Cubs had given him a lead to work with.
If he could protect it, they would be heading back to Cleveland.
Carlos Santana started the fifth with a double, bringing the crowd noise back down to an anxious hush as the tying run came to the plate. But Lester retired the next three Indians, holding the lead.
Kris Bryant ignites the Cubs with a solo blast in the fourth.
Cleveland threatened again in the sixth as Rajai Davis singled with one out and stole second. Francisco Lindor drove him in with a single, trimming the lead to 3-2. But Lindor was caught stealing by Ross, ending the inning with Chicago still ahead by a run.
Maddon went to his bullpen in the seventh, bringing in Edwards Jr. Mike Napoli led off with a single, moving to second on a passed ball. Edwards retired Santana, but Maddon moved quickly to get Chapman – who had been warming up since Napoli’s hit – into the game.
Chapman had only thrown more than two innings once in his career, going 2.1 innings this past July 9 with the Yankees. His longest career postseason outing came in Game 6 against the Dodgers, when he recorded the final five outs to clinch the pennant.
Ramirez struck out, then Chapman hit Brandon Guyer, putting the go-ahead run on base. But the lefty got Roberto Perez to ground out to end the inning, leaving six outs to go.
Davis singled with one out in the eighth, then stole second. He stole third with two out to move the tying run 90 feet from home, but Chapman froze Lindor with a 102 mph fastball down in the zone, ending the Indians’ eighth on his 30th pitch.
Chapman, who had never thrown more than 44 pitches in an outing and had topped 40 only twice in his career, fired a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out Ramirez with a 101 mph fastball on his 42nd pitch of the night to save the game – and the Cubs’ season.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News