It’s either feast or famine with the Cubs hitters this postseason. Tonight, it was famine.
For the second time in three games, the Cleveland Indians shut out the Chicago Cubs, 1-0, to take a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven series. The Cubs only managed four hits against Josh Tomlin, Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen.
With the wind blowing out, we expected this to be a slugfest. No one told home plate umpire John Hirschbeck, who was calling any pitch that you could see from the strike zone a strike. Unless he decided not to. Hirschbeck’s zone was all over the place, and Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks especially took advantage.
The Indians got one rally going in the first inning when Jason Kipnis got a hit on a slow roller. Then Francisco Lindor put runners on first and third with one out with a clean single to center field. But Hendricks picked Lindor off first base for the first big play of the game. Then he struck out Mike Napoli to end the inning.
Hendricks wasn’t able to get out of his own mess in the fifth. Tyler Naquin led off the inning with a single. The pitcher Josh Tomlin bunted him over to second base. Facing the top of the order, Hendricks’ control abandoned him. (Or maybe he just thought Hirschbeck would still keep calling everything a strike.) Hendricks walked Carlos Santana and then hit Kipnis to load the bases with one out.
Joe Maddon went to the bullpen and called on Justin Grimm. This was probably a mistake. The game was on the line here. The Indians best hitter, Lindor, was up. I understand not calling on Aroldis Chapman here, but the Cubs really should have gone to Pedro Strop or Carl Edwards Jr. Grimm hadn’t gotten a single batter to ground into a double play all season long.
Grimm got Lindor to hit into a double play. The Cubs were out of the inning and no runs scored.
The “Carlos Santana in left field” experiment lasted five innings when Santana was taken out in a double-switch in the fifth inning. He had one ball hit to him, a lazy fly off the bat of Kris Bryant. He made a catch that Travis Wood would have made. Heck, most Little Leaguers would have caught it. So the Indians got away with that one.
The Indians took the lead in the top of the seventh off of Edwards. Roberto Perez led off the inning with a single and Indians manager Terry Francona pinch-ran Michael Martinez for him. A sac bunt sent Martinez to second base and a wild pitch sent him to third. Edwards then walked Rajai Davis, but Cubs catcher Willson Contreras gunned the ball to third to try to pick off Martinez. The umpires called him safe. On replay, it looked inconclusive. So the Indians had runners on the corners with one out.
Coco Crisp then singled to right to score the run. The Cubs caught a break when Davis tried to go to third on the single and Jorge Soler gunned him down. Then the Cubs caught another break when Rizzo misplayed a grounder by Kipnis, but Javier Baez was there to back him up and pitcher Mike Montgomery beat Kipnis to the bag. At least that’s what the umpire said. Once again, the call was challenged and again, the replay was inconclusive. Call stands.
Bill Murray sang the seventh-inning stretch as Daffy Duck. So that’s a thing.
The Cubs couldn’t capitalize on a break in the bottom of the seventh. Jorge Soler hit a fly to right field that the wind blew fair. Lonnie Chisenhall, who is having a bad postseason with the glove, misplayed the ball and it went for a triple. Soler didn’t hustle out of the box, but with his hamstrings, there’s no way he circled the bases on that one. The misery was exacerbated by Indians pitcher Bryan Shaw getting Baez to end the inning on a grounder to short.
The Cubs got a rally in the ninth. Anthony Rizzo led off the inning with a single and Chris Coghlan pinch-ran for him. But Indians closer Cody Allen then struck out Zobrist and got Contreras to ground out, sending Coghlan to second.
That put the game on the shoulders of Jason Heyward, who had been pinch-run for Soler. Wouldn’t that have been a storybook ending if Heyward had won the game? It almost happened. Heyward hit a grounder to first that Napoli booted. That put runners on the corners and two out. But Allen came back and struck out Baez to end the game.
The Cubs were 0 for 14 with runners on base in this game. They were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. The Indians pitching staff deserves a lot of credit for this. The Cubs hitters deserve some blame for this.
Game four is tomorrow night and the Cubs will send John Lackey to the mound to face Corey Kluber, who shut down the Cubs offense in game one. But Kluber is going to be pitching on short rest and as far as I can tell, the only time he’s ever pitched on short rest before was in the ALCS against Toronto. That was the one game the Blue Jays won. The record of pitchers in the postseason on short rest in the Wild Card era is also not good.
So this isn’t over yet. Save your teeth-gnashing until later. There will be plenty of time for misery in the off-season if the Indians win it all.
You knew that this wouldn’t be easy, anyway.