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Indians 4, Cubs 3: A Most Unusual Move

Cleveland's manager Terry Francona might have won the game for his team by making a move most managers wouldn't after a long rain delay.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Curiously, the second rain delay in Cleveland Thursday night might have cost the Cubs the game, a 4-3 loss to the Indians.

Delayed for 25 minutes before the game could commence, the Cubs did not start off well. The first three batters in the bottom of the first reached off Jason Hammel, and Michael Brantley's double scored a run. Later in the inning, a passed ball charged to Miguel Montero gave the Tribe a second run. The Cubs got one of those back in the third. Kyle Schwarber singled and wound up chugging all the way around the bases to score on a Dexter Fowler single. The Indians threw the ball all over the place, and Francisco Lindor's error allowed Schwarber to score.

Cleveland had extended the lead to 3-1 when the Cubs finally started to break through on Danny Salazar in the top of the fifth. Chris Coghlan led off with a single and one out later, Schwarber hit his first major-league home run to tie the game. So far in his three-game big-league career, Schwarber has been nothing less than a hitting machine, going 6-for-10 with a triple, a home and four RBI.

The inning continued, and the Cubs loaded the bases. Addison Russell walked (he had a really good at-bat working the walk, too), Dexter Fowler singled, and with two out and rain starting to fall, Kris Bryant dribbled a ball down the first-base line and beat it out for a hit when Salazar didn't cover first base.

Then it started raining too hard to play. The tarp was brought out and the game was delayed for over an hour.

When play resumed, Terry Francona had brought his closer, Cody Allen, into the game. Most managers wouldn't do this. (Would Joe Maddon have done that? Maybe.) Clearly, this was a game situation -- bases loaded, two out, tie game -- even though it was only the middle innings. Allen got Montero to fly to left and the inning was over.

What we didn't know then was that the Cubs' offense was going to be shut down for the remainder of the evening and that the Indians bullpen would register nine strikeouts in the 12 outs they recorded from the sixth through the ninth inning. Of those nine K's, seven were called. Did plate umpire Tony Randazzo have a too-generous strike zone? A little... maybe. But mostly, Indians relievers were just dealing. Allen threw another inning, striking out all three batters he faced, and the Cubs had just three more baserunners: a Starlin Castro single in the sixth, a walk to Montero in the eighth, and Castro being hit by a pitch on his left forearm just above the wrist. You could see it start to swell up as Castro took first base -- hope he's OK. That walk and HBP were back-to-back and the Cubs had the tying run in scoring position with one out, but David Ross struck out and Mike Baxter, batting for Chris Denorfia, bounced into an inning-ending force play.

The Cubs' bullpen did a decent enough job over five innings, but two straight singles off Travis Wood in the seventh brought Justin Grimm into the game. Giovanny Urshela singled off Grimm and a run scored, enough to win the game for the Indians.

Would the Cubs have scored a run or more had the rain not held up play in that bases-loaded situation? We'll never know. But Francona's call for his closer to halt that situation with no runs likely won him the game.

I know you'd like to see Schwarber's opposite-field home run again, so here it is:

It's been made absolutely clear that Schwarber's heading back to the minor leagues, to Triple-A Iowa, after Sunday's game, and that was reiterated by Maddon on Thursday:

The Cubs still want Schwarber to be a catcher, and he's got to have more minor-league time to work on that. I'm sure he'll be back later this season, maybe even to DH in the three interleague games at the Cell in August (although the White Sox have four lefthanded starters, so that might not work out as well as it has this week).

The Cubs had a late-night flight to Minnesota and will take on the Twins in the first game of a three-game series Friday evening. Kyle Hendricks goes for the Cubs and Phil Hughes for the Twins.