The Chicago Cubs held off elimination for one more game as they beat the Cleveland Indians 3-2 in game 5 of the 2016 World Series. The Indians now have a 3 games to 2 lead going back home to Cleveland.
Cubs starter Jon Lester was on his game today. He struck out the side in the first inning. He looked just as strong in the second inning, but then Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez took a mighty swing on a low, inside fastball and drove it into the left field bleachers. At that point, you’re thinking it’s just not the Cubs night. Lester made a good pitch. Ramirez just ran into the pitch and drove it.
The Cubs had trouble with the curve of Indians starter Trevor Bauer the first time through the order, but they figured him out in the fourth inning. Bauer made a mistake on an inside fastball in the fourth inning to Kris Bryant. Bryant did not miss. He put the ball into the left-center seats to tie the game.
The next batter up, Anthony Rizzo, almost went back-to-back with Bryant, but the wind held up his fly to right field and it died in the ivy for a double. Ben Zobrist then singled to right field to put runners on the corners with no outs. Next, Addison Russell gave the Cubs the lead with a slow roller down the third base line. Considering that the Indians scored a key run on a similar play earlier in the series, it was a fitting turnabout.
After Jason Heyward struck out, Javier Baez laid down a perfect bunt single to load the bases. David Ross hit a sac fly and the Cubs had a 3-1 lead.
The Cubs wouldn’t score again. Aroldis Chapman made sure they wouldn’t have to.
The Indians got a run back in the sixth off of Lester. Rajai Davis, whom the Cubs had been so good this series at keeping off the bases, singled with one out. He then stole second and scored on a single by Francisco Lindor that just eluded the glove of center fielder Dexter Fowler. But the threat was ended when Lindor tried to steal second base and a terrific Ross throw and another spectacular Baez tag nailed him.
In a move that would have been debated for a while if it backfired, Joe Maddon took Jon Lester out after six innings and turned it over to Carl Edwards Jr. for the seventh. I know what Maddon was thinking—the first two Indians hitters, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana, are very good against lefties and it would be their third look at Lester. But putting the game in the hands of Edwards was risky. Edwards gave up a leadoff single to Napoli and then a pitch got away from him and Willson Contreras was charged with a passed ball. After Edwards retired Santana, Maddon called on his closer, Aroldis Chapman, with only one out in the seventh. Chapman got out of the jam, albeit not before hitting human baseball magnet Brandon Guyer.
Chapman got into a jam in the 8th when Davis hit a screamer down the first base line with one out that Rizzo stopped but Chapman didn’t get over to cover. To be honest, Davis probably beats Chapman to first base nine times out of ten. But he’s still got to get over there. Davis stole second base and then stole third after two were out. But Chapman struck out Lindor to end the threat and keep the Cubs one run ahead.
After striking out to end the eighth inning with Jason Heyward on third (don’t ask), Chapman came out to pitch the ninth. Chapman had never before in his major league career gone more than 2.1 innings. (Although he had been a starter in the minors and in Cuba.) Tonight, Maddon was asking him to go 2.2 innings.
Napoli grounded to short. Santana flies to right. Jose Ramirez struck out. Cue Steve Goodman for the final time this year.
So now the Cubs go to Cleveland and they have to win both games to be World Champions. It can be done. The Cubs have a favorable pitching matchup in game 6 again with Jake Arrieta going against Josh Tomlin on three days rest. If the Cubs survive that, then Kyle Hendricks on full rest goes against Corey Kluber, pitching on short rest for the second time in a row. The odds are against the Cubs. But it is doable. I seem to remember a team coming into Wrigley Field and winning both games on the road (after winning game 5 at home) to advance to the World Series a dozen years ago. The Cubs can pay it forward.
Keep the faith. Fly the W. We’ll see you Tuesday in Cleveland.