By Andrew Kahn
With Saturday night’s 7-2 victory, the Indians took a 3-1 lead in the World Series. They’ll have a shot to win the franchise’s first title since 1948 tonight at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs will hope to send the series back to Cleveland.
1. Kluber controls Cubs, again
Before this World Series, there were plenty of fans who weren’t all that familiar with Corey Kluber, the 2014 Cy Young winner and Cleveland’s unassuming ace. There can’t be too many now. So what if he wasn’t quite as dominant as he was in Game 1? He still went six innings, allowing just one run and striking out six. Stats show that teams that have seen Kluber previously don’t usually fare any better the second or third time. While his fastball was the difference in Game 1, it was his breaking ball that baffled the Cubs last night. Kluber allowed a lead-off double and a one-out single in the first, so three batters in he trailed 1-0. But that was the only time the Cubs broke through against him. With two men on in the third, he won a tough battle with Ben Zobrist, who fouled off five straight pitches before striking out. The stoic right-hander improved to 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA in his five playoff starts this year. The Cubs are hoping they can get this series to a seventh game and get a third crack at Kluber.
2. If at first you don’t succeed…
The Cubs struggled with their infield defense last night, particularly with throws to first base. In the second inning, Kris Bryant made a nice pick at third only to spin and throw the ball well past first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Three batters later, with runners on first and second, Bryant charged a slow roller off Kluber’s bat and made a throw that nicked Rizzo’s glove and rolled away far enough for a run to score. Bryant was charged with errors on both, though the second one was tough. In the sixth, Carlos Santana hit a rocket that knocked reliever Mike Montgomery’s glove off, and the pitcher’s throw to first was nowhere near the bag. The Cubs aren’t doing the little things this series on defense or offense.
3. Power outage
The Cubs hit 12 home runs in the first two rounds of the playoffs but didn’t leave the yard in the World Series until the eighth inning last night, when Dexter Fowler did it. The Indians hit two last night to bring their total to four. Santana tied the game at one with a solo blast in the second and Jason Kipnis, who grew up in a suburb of Chicago, hit a game-sealing three-run homer in the seventh. (Even Kluber showed some emotion in the dugout after the Kipnis dinger.)
The Indians delivered two-strike hits early against Chicago starter John Lackey: Santana’s homer, Kluber’s infield hit, and Francisco Lindor’s RBI hit in the third all came with two strikes. The Cubs are having enough trouble getting runners on, and when they do they haven’t gotten them over and in consistently. Fowler doubled to start the game and Bryant popped out, failing to advance him. Rizzo doubled to start the sixth and was stranded on second. The Cubs are 5 for 35 with runners in scoring position this series.
4. Miller time
It took Andrew Miller until he appeared in his 25th inning of postseason ball to allow a run. Fowler, leading off the eighth, hit a homer after Miller had pitched a perfect seventh. He recorded two strikeouts and now has 29 this postseason, a new record for a reliever. Terry Francona, who improved to 11-1 as a manager in World Series games, has managed the bullpen beautifully. Could he deploy this approach in the regular season? No, but with more off-days and the impending offseason to rest, guys like Miller and closer Cody Allen, who did not pitch yesterday, can be stretched more than usual.
5. On the brink
According to MLB.com correspondent Richard Justice, Joe Maddon has instructed his players to show up just 90 minutes before the game tomorrow. Whether that is mandatory or not is unclear, but the idea is that extra batting practice or reviewing scouting reports aren’t what the Cubs hitters need. Show up and play like they did most of the season and they’ll have a chance to send the series back to Cleveland for Games 6 and possibly 7.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about baseball and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn