CLEVELAND — You had to figure the Cub offense wouldn’t stay silent the whole World Series, especially since Corey Kluber can’t start every game and Andrew Miller can’t come through the bullpen door every time the Indians need a reliever.
So when the middle of the Cubs’ order created havoc Wednesday night in Game 2, a 5-1 Chicago victory in front of a sellout crowd of 38,172 at Progressive
Field, it was easy to think that the balance of power had taken a seismic shift in this Series.
Especially since Kyle Schwarber, the wunderkind who was playing in the Arizona Fall League earlier in the week to see if his surgically-repaired left knee was ready for the World Series, ripped two RBI singles, leading Cleveland manager Terry Francona to say, “I can see why Theo (Epstein) sent a plane for him. I would, too.”
Ben Zobrist, who had three hits in the opener, singled and tripled, and Anthony Rizzo started the scoring with an RBI double in the first inning and also drew a key 10-pitch walk.
It all sets up what should be a rollicking atmosphere for Game 3 at Wrigley Field, the first World Series game there since 1945.
“It’s always crazy good, but I’d have to imagine a little bit more than that, especially coming back at 1-1,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I think the folks will be jacked up about the win tonight.”
And about the Cubs’ chances in this Series, which soared when they took Game 2. Here’s why: When Kluber does not start, the Indians are especially vulnerable because the rest of their rotation is at a huge disadvantage against the Cub starters, which also include Jon Lester, John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks. Non-Kluber starters increase the likelihood of early Cub leads, which helps keep Cleveland’s biggest pitching chip, Miller, in a warmup jacket.
Now the Indians know the Cubs “have the staff we thought they did,” Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis said. “(Jake) Arrieta pitched a fantastic game. It took us to the third time through the order to start getting his pitches up.”
This is why the Indians have decided to use Kluber three times in the Series — he’s tentatively slated to start Game 4 and, if it goes this far, Game 7, both on short rest. Before this year’s ALCS, Kluber had never pitched on short rest in his career. Still, Francona called it “Plan A” to start his ace three times.
Why not? He’s the driving force behind the Indians rotation. He’s thrown 24.1 innings in four starts this October; the rest of the starters have pitched 24 in six starts.
It may take ace-level outings to silence the Cub hitters. Here’s a list of the pitchers who have thrived in starts against the Cubs this postseason:
Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Matt Moore and Johnny Cueto. They beat Cueto in a 1-0 game. And on the night they eliminated the Dodgers in the NLCS, they hit Kershaw.
To have a chance against the Cubs, the Tribe must win when Kluber starts. It’s even more vital considering Trevor Bauer, who lasted only 3.2 innings Wednesday, and Game 3 starter Josh Tomlin, will also make their second starts of the Series on three days’ rest. If Tomlin can do enough that the bullpen can lock down a Game 3 win, the Tribe could take extra momentum into Kluber’s pivotal Game 4 start.
Of course, if the Indians make the kind of mistakes they did last night, they won’t have much of a chance, anyway, and not even all the curses, billy
goats and ghosts milling around Wrigley can help. Second baseman Jason Kipnis made two errors, including one that helped the Cubs’ three-run third inning.
His other error came after shortstop Francisco Lindor made a spectacular stop and Kipnis missed the flip.
Kyle Schwarber, who was playing in the Arizona Fall League earlier in the week to see if his surgically repaired left knee was ready for the World Serieshas, has been a revelation for the Cubs.
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Bauer was misfiring and his pitch count soared early. He gave up six hits and two runs before Francona went to his relievers. There was a relay mixup in the first inning on the play where the Cubs scored their first run.
“We gave up nine hits, eight walks, two errors and we only gave up five runs,” Francona said. “We’re probably pretty fortunate because there was traffic all night. For us to win, we generally need to play a clean game and we didn’t do that.”
Plus, they couldn’t stop the Cub hitters, especially 3-4-5 — Rizzo, Zobrist and Schwarber combined to go 5-for-11 with four runs, four RBI and four walks. Schwarber’s doing it after only two games in Arizona and five plate appearances in the majors in April before he tore up his knee.
No wonder the Yankees lusted after him when dangling elite relievers at the Cubs during the trading season. Maybe the Cubs will find a way to get him in the field at Wrigley, where there won’t be a DH. But Schwarber wasn’t sure he’d be medically cleared for the outfield.
Now the Cubs are perhaps in position to do something special. Their hitting is getting contagious and Kluber can’t pitch every night.
“Especially with a young lineup, when you see a few guys go up there and take some good hacks, have good, quality at-bats, one happens after another,” Zobrist said. “It takes a lot of pressure off.”
The Indians would’ve preferred keeping pressure on the Cubs. Chicago’s title drought is longer, after all.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News