After 71 years of waiting for a World Series game at Wrigley Field, those of us among the 41,703 in attendance, and millions more looking in via TV and radio around the world, couldn’t have asked for a better, more intense game.
We Cubs fans, though, could have asked for a better result. Javier Baez swung and missed at a pitch that was probably ball three with the tying and winning runs in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth and the Indians won Game 3 of the World Series 1-0, taking a two games to one lead in the series.
Again, there’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s rewind to the beginning of the game.
Kyle Hendricks simply didn’t have the pinpoint command he usually does. Sure, he struck out six in 4⅓ innings, but he kept getting in trouble by allowing hits. Some of them, like the little dribbler by Jason Kipnis in the first inning or the infield grounder by Jose Ramirez in the second that bounced off Anthony Rizzo’s glove or the ground ball single by Francisco Lindor in the fourth, weren’t hard-hit balls, but they were all enough to keep Hendricks constantly in trouble. He helped himself get out of one jam in the first inning by picking off Lindor, who had singled to put runners on first and third:
Lindor was called safe on the field, but it was overturned on review, and you can see Rizzo’s glove swiping Lindor’s arm just before his hand comes down on the base. At the time it seemed quite important.
Hendricks got out of another tough spot with a double play (in the second) and this diving catch by Addison Russell (includes Pat Hughes’ radio call):
Hendricks, usually efficient with his pitch count, had reached 85 and hit Kipnis with a pitch with one out in the fifth, loading the bases. That was enough for Joe Maddon, who replaced him with Justin Grimm. To be honest, this move did not fill me with confidence, but Grimm got Lindor to hit into a 4-6-3 double play, followed by one of the better fist pumps of the postseason:
Still, the Cubs could not break through against Josh Tomlin, even on a night where the wind was blowing almost straight out at 14 miles per hour. A 1-0 game was about the last thing you’d expect with the wind blowing that way, but I noticed in batting practice that the balls were not carrying the way you’d have thought they might in a wind like that. Humidity, something that often gives lift to baseballs, was nearly nonexistent, and the ball stayed in the park all night. There were only four putouts made by outfielders in the game.
The Cubs had just three baserunners off Tomlin before he, too, was pulled before the fifth inning ended. Fun fact time!
First time in #WorldSeries history both starting pitchers had scoreless outings of fewer than 5 innings.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 29, 2016
Ben Zobrist singled and went to second on an infield out in the second, but was stranded. Kris Bryant walked leading off the fourth, but was forced and no one got past first. Jorge Soler singled and similar to Zobrist, took second on a comebacker -- again stranded. Miguel Montero batted for Grimm in that inning, but even though he hit the ball hard against Andrew Miller, it was hit right at right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall to end the threat.
On the game went scoreless into the seventh. By this time Carl Edwards Jr. was working in his second inning of relief. Roberto Perez led off with a single. Michael Martinez ran for him and was sacrificed to second. Significantly, Edwards then wild-pitched him to third while Rajai Davis was at the plate. Davis walked, bringing up pinch-hitter Coco Crisp. During that at-bat, Willson Contreras nearly picked Martinez off third, but he just got in ahead of the tag, which was ruled “call stands” on review.
Then Crisp singled to right, scoring Martinez. Jorge Soler threw Davis out trying to take third. Here’s all the key plays from that inning:
Mike Montgomery entered the game to pitch to Kipnis and got him to ground out to end the inning.
Still, it’s just 1-0, and the Cubs have three more chances.
With two out and no one on in the seventh, Soler lofted a ball down the right-field line, just fair, and wound up on third with a triple [VIDEO]. There were comments on Twitter at the time that perhaps Soler could have scored if he hadn’t hesitated getting out of the box. I have watched this video a number of times. The hesitation was brief, very brief. If Soler had tried to score on that play he’d have been thrown out by a significant margin. Fun fact about Jorge’s triple:
Last two #WorldSeries triples by #Cubs at Wrigley Field:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 29, 2016
Jorge Soler (born 2/25/1992) Game 3, 2016
Andy Pafko (born 2/25/1921) Game 7, 1945
Jorge and Handy Andy, born on the same calendar day. I love baseball history coincidences like this.
Baez had the chance for heroics there, but grounded to short.
The Indians went down 1-2-3 in the eighth. Kyle Schwarber entered as a pinch-hitter to a deafening roar with one out in the bottom of that inning, but he hit a little popup to short. Dexter Fowler singled with two out, but again, was stranded after Terry Francona called on his closer, Cody Allen.
Aroldis Chapman had a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts, the roar of the crowd louder with each one.
The Cubs won eight games during the 2016 regular season in which they trailed going into the ninth inning. They did it again in the memorable clinching Game 4 of the division series against the Giants. So it certainly wasn’t unreasonable to think they could do it again against Allen, who was very good this year but did have three blown saves.
Rizzo led off with a single and Chris Coghlan ran for him. But Zobrist struck out and Contreras grounded to third, Coghlan taking second.
That brought up Jason Heyward, who had run for Soler after the triple and stayed in to play right field. Here’s where storybook endings get written, right? Much-maligned player having an awful year becomes World Series hero?
Heyward bounced a ball to first baseman Mike Napoli which should have ended the game. But Napoli booted it and Heyward was safe, with Coghlan taking third.
Baez time. You know Javy has a feel for these situations. While he was working the count to 2-2, Heyward stole second.
Now the tying and winning runs are in scoring position. Just poke a ball through the infield, Javy!
But he could not. Overanxious, perhaps, Javy swung and missed at a pitch high and out of the zone and the game was over.
I suppose I can’t fault Javy too much on that rising fastball. I’ve seen him hit baseballs like that a very long way, and so have you. But that one was nasty, and Allen is, after all, a very good pitcher.
Now let’s talk about the atmosphere around Wrigley Field before the game. I arrived quite early to just see what was going on. It was just like any other Friday afternoon in the neighborhood — as long as “any other afternoon” is one with 25,000 people walking around the streets doing the same thing I was doing, just feeling what it was like to be at a World Series game in Wrigleyville. The overwhelming majority of people I saw walking around didn’t even have tickets. They were either headed to the bars or just wanted to say they were near the ballpark. This was the line waiting to get into Murphy’s around 12:30:
Suffice to say that most of those people never got in. The line eventually got at least two-thirds of the way down Sheffield toward Addison.
These people were waiting in line around 12:35 hoping to get a last-minute ticket released by the box office:
This line stretched from next to the Cubs store on Clark Street all the way up to Waveland. And all those people were in line behind all of these people:
Some of the people in that photo had been waiting since Thursday evening. It’s my understanding that some of them did get rewarded for their long wait by being able to buy face-value tickets.
This Cubs fan from Arizona was likely not a happy person Friday afternoon or evening:
In all, the city did a very good job of keeping things orderly outside of the ballpark given the huge crush of people. City and state police were everywhere, many in bright yellow vests, and all that I saw were helpful and friendly. As far as I could tell there were no incidents on the street.
In the stands, the atmosphere was both electric and hopeful (the latter, at least, until the very last out). It wasn’t quite as loud as it was at the end of Game 6 of the NLCS, but then you might not have expected that to be the case, given that was a clinching game and this one wasn’t. But no doubt, fans were up and out of their seats when Hendricks had a chance for one of his six strikeouts, or when the Cubs had an attempted rally. If only they’d scored, or made more of one of those rallies. If Baez had singled in the ninth, I can only imagine how loud it might have been. There were also no incidents in the stands -- everyone was into the game.
Dignitaries and TV personalities were everywhere. Eduardo Perez of ESPN, who I had met and had a nice chat with last year when he was at Wrigley to cover a game, actually stopped by to say hello and say “Congratulations,” which I thought was really nice -- that he actually remembered meeting me and our little bleacher group. Seems like a really good guy, always with a smile on his face. And in the ninth inning, the MLB Network postgame crew of Greg Amsinger, Al Leiter and Harold Reynolds stood with us watching the game’s final out. This isn’t the best photo I could have taken of Amsinger and Leiter, but this was during Javy’s at-bat, everyone standing:
Despite the tough loss I still have faith. The last time the Cubs were shut out in the postseason (Game 3 of the NLCS), they won three straight and took the series. This team has been resilient all year, and I can’t imagine they’ll stop being so now. Unlike Game 3 of the NLCS, where the Cubs looked totally flat against Rich Hill, the Cubs had their chances even against the vaunted Cleveland bullpen. They just couldn’t get one key hit (from Baez in the ninth) when they needed it, if they had, we’d be celebrating a series lead right now.
One of the reasons John Lackey is here is because of his postseason experience, particularly his World Series pitching (six games, four starts, including starting Series-clinching games in 2002 and 2013). He’s called them “big-boy games.” Well, John, here’s one of those big-boy games, Game 4, Saturday night, and the Cubs need you to step up and be that 2002/2013 guy. Lackey hasn’t been great this postseason — hasn’t got out of the fifth inning in either of his starts — and was just decent in September, not great (3.00 ERA, 1.133 WHIP in five starts).
This is your stage, John Lackey. Step up and have the game of your life.
He’ll be opposed by Cleveland’s Game 1 starter, Corey Kluber. Kluber started one other time on three days’ rest this postseason, in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, and wasn’t quite as sharp as he’s been in other starts. It was the only game the Jays won in that series. The Cubs will be looking to get to him early, as the Jays did.
This World Series is still far from over, but the Cubs certainly do not want to go down three games to one. #LetsGo