The Indians head home with a 3-2 Series lead.
It was the Indians who scored first, on a Jose Ramirez home run in the second inning, but Trevor Bauer, who to that point had been nearly unhittable for Cleveland, fell apart in the fourth inning, allowing three runs, thus putting the Cubs ahead to stay.
Given back the lead, Lester, the postseason veteran, stayed cool and ended up going six innings, with both Cleveland runs charged to him. He gave way to Carl Edwards Jr. for one out, but then Joe Maddon decided enough was enough and put in his closer, Aroldis Chapman, asking the reliever to get the final eight outs of the game.
There was a little drama for Chapman in the eighth inning, as his failure to cover first base let the speedy Rajai Davis reach first. Davis got in Chapman’s head, and stole second and third base, but the Cubs’ closer recovered to end the inning with a called strike three against Francisco Lindor, who for most of the postseason has been Cleveland’s best hitter.
With the series moving back to an American League park, the Cubs will once again be able to put Kyle Schwarber in the lineup at designated hitter, and Tuesday’s Game 6 will presumably feature a pitching matchup of Jake Arrieta of the Cubs, who won Game 2, and Josh Tomlin of the Indians, who was the starter in Cleveland’s Game 3 win.
David Waldstein: There is joy in Wrigleyville, and the fans can finally sing their corny song. The Cubs fought back and saved face and the city can exhale. There will be a Game 6 in Cleveland on Tuesday. Chapman pitched the biggest game of his life.
Top of 9th: There’s Joy in Wrigleyville
In the top of the ninth, Aroldis Chapman was at his dominant best. He got a groundout from Mike Napoli, a flyout from Carlos Santana and then he blew away Jose Ramirez, striking out the third baseman swinging to end the game. It was a huge performance for Chapman, who didn’t seem to struggle at all when asked to pitch nearly three times more than he usually does.
Bottom of 8th: Allen Does His Job
Addison Russell struck out, but then Jason Heyward singled to right center. Showing some aggressiveness, Heyward stole second base. Javier Baez’s struggles continued as he nearly fell down chasing strike three for the second out.
Because of the unusually long relief appearance, Aroldis Chapman was forced to bat with two outs, and in a head-to-head matchup between the team’s two closers, Cody Allen struck his counterpart out to end the inning.
David Waldstein: The crowd at Wrigley Field is so amped up as we head to the ninth. Chapman on the mound protecting a one-run lead against some good fastball hitters. The energy level is so high you can almost touch it.
Top of 8th: Chapman Gets Out of Trouble
Aroldis Chapman, being asked to get eight outs, now only needs three more.
He started the top of the eighth inning with a three-pitch strikeout of Yan Gomes. He then ran into some trouble when Rajai Davis hit a grounder to first and Chapman failed to cover, letting the speedy outfielder get on base.
With all eyes on Davis at first, Jason Kipnis seemed almost like an afterthought, but Davis was still able to easily steal second off of Chapman, with the strong-armed Willson Contreras having no shot on the throw.
David Waldstein: If Chapman closes this game, it will be the longest outing of his career at two and two-thirds innings. His previous high was two and one-third innings on July 9, which coincidentally came against the Indians. He threw 32 pitches then; he has already thrown 30 pitches tonight, with three outs still to get. It would have been a lot fewer if he had covered first base.
Chapman is getting that low pitch from the home plate umpire Tony Randazzo.
Chapman continued to focus on Davis at second base, but was able to retire Kipnis on a foul pop to left. Having to face hot-hitting Francisco Lindor, Chapman allowed Davis to steal third. But the closer recovered by striking out Lindor looking to end the threat.
Bottom of 7th: Indians Bring Closer Cody Allen In
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder dedicated his singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch to former Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray and did a better job of singing the song than Caray (or Bill Murray) ever did.
With the crowd fired up, the Cubs had Willson Contreras leading off against Bryan Shaw. The young catcher, who entered the game after David Ross was lifted for a pinch-hitter, grounded out to shortstop for the first out.
Terry Francona then came out and did a double-switch, removing Shaw for his closer, Cody Allen, and having Yan Gomes take over for Roberto Perez at catcher. The move will make Gomes the leadoff batter in the top of the eighth inning.
Allen, whose own brilliance has been overshadowed by Andrew Miller this postseason, started things off poorly by hitting Dexter Fowler in the left foot. Fowler managed to steal second but Kris Bryant struck out looking for the second out of the inning. Anthony Rizzo was walked intentionally to bring up Ben Zobrist, and with two on and two out, he popped up to shortstop to end the threat.
David Waldstein: What I love about Francona: He volunteered yesterday that he was going to flip-flop Andrew Miller and Cody Allen and he did. No need for secrecy. He knows it is about the players performing, not about him making secret genius moves. (But he is a genius.)
Top of 7th: Lester Out, Chapman In
Jon Lester was only at 90 pitches through six innings of work, but Joe Maddon decided it was time for a change and brought in Carl Edwards Jr. to start the top of the seventh. The 25-year-old right-hander left a fastball way up in the zone and Mike Napoli crushed it to left for a single. After Napoli’s hit, Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio came out for a chat, likely to stall for more warm-up time for Aroldis Chapman. Edwards threw an outside pitch that got by Willson Contreras and Napoli advanced to second. Edwards retired Carlos Santana on a fly ball to left and then Maddon came out to replace him with Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman had Jose Ramirez flailing at strike three for the second out of the inning, and then he hit Brandon Guyer on a pitch that may have caught his pants but did not make any solid contact. With two on and two out, Chapman nearly threw a wild pitch but Contreras was able to knock it down and prevent the runners from advancing. Chapman then ended the threat by getting Roberto Perez to ground out to second to end the inning.
David Waldstein: There was a mounting, organic buzz from the fans as they began to notice Aroldis Chapman walking off the bullpen mound and toward the infield. Then, like a drunk uncle bursting into a dining room, the P.A. started blaring heavy metal and Wrigley became just another artificially loud ballpark.
But there was nothing artificial about the noise generated when Chapman struck out Ramirez with 101 m.p.h. fire. It was a collective “YEAH” from 41,000.
Bottom of 6th: Shaw Strikes Out the Side
Bryan Shaw came in to start the bottom of the sixth, thus becoming Cleveland’s third pitcher of the game. He got Jason Heyward with a called strike three for the first out of the inning, which was the struggling hitter’s third strikeout of the game. Javier Baez, who has looked largely lost at the plate in this series, followed Heyward by flailing at a pitch in the dirt for strike three. Joe Maddon then made a somewhat surprising move by pulling Ross for a pinch-hitter, signaling that Jon Lester’s day is likely done. The batting swap did not matter, as Shaw struck out the side, retiring Miguel Montero on three pitches.
David Waldstein: Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are important, but don’t forget Bryan Shaw. That guy has been nails in some pretty big moments in the postseason. Lester is out and so is Ross. If the Cubs don’t win, that throw to second base nailing Lindor trying to steal is Ross’s last play in Major League Baseball.
Top of 6th: Davis Gets to Lester; Cubs Lead 3-2
With one out, Rajai Davis singled to left, setting up a much-anticipated showdown between Cleveland’s best base stealer and the pickoff-averse Jon Lester.
Lester, who chose not to throw to first base in Game 1 even when he clearly had caught Francisco Lindor cheating off the bag, let Davis get a huge lead on the first pitch to Jason Kipnis, but Davis wisely anticipated a pitch-out and was merely bluffing. On the next pitch, however, Lester threw a strike and Davis was already gone, sliding in to second without a throw as David Ross dropped the ball.
Kipnis then struck out looking on a borderline pitch and was clearly not happy with the call as he stared at the plate and then at home plate umpire Tony Randazzo. With two outs, Davis was taking comical leads off second base and Lester was clearly flustered. Lindor was able to take advantage with a flyball to center that dropped in front of Dexter Fowler. Davis, who had turned on the jets, easily scored from second to cut the Cubs’ lead to 3-2.
Lindor tried to take advantage of Lester’s inattention as well, but Ross was able to throw him out at second once again to end the inning.
David Waldstein: Lest Lester forget (see what I did there?), the Indians are a scrappy team capable of clawing their way back into this. As shown by the clutch run-scoring, two-out single by Lindor. He came into the game batting .370 in the postseason with five runs scored, five runs batted in and a .408 on-base percentage. Javier Baez’s sweep tag is one of my favorite things in baseball. He’s like a matador, except a matador does not have to catch a ball first. Then again, Baez doesn’t have to worry about getting gored by a bull.
Bottom of 5th: Cubs Threaten, but Come Up Short
Mike Clevinger came on in relief of Trevor Bauer to start the bottom of the fifth. He quickly retired Dexter Fowler on a fly to left. Kris Bryant came up to a few scattered “M.V.P.!” chants, and his one-out walk got a huge cheer from the crowd. Anthony Rizzo then flew out to center.
With two outs, Ben Zobrist was at the plate and Bryant took advantage of Clevinger’s deliberate move to home by stealing second. Roberto Perez’s throw was well out of Francisco Lindor’s reach and the ball sailed into center, which allowed Bryant to advance to third. Zobrist walked and then Addison Russell, whose infield single in the fourth gave Chicago the lead, lined out to right to end the inning.
David Waldstein: If the Cubs hold on, it will be their first World Series win at home since Game 6 in 1945, when they beat the Tigers, 8-7. Hank Borowy won the game with four innings of relief on a Monday after he started Game 5 on Sunday. Then he started Game 7 on Wednesday, which was not a good idea. The first three Tigers got hits, Borowy was yanked, and the Tigers scored five runs in the first inning of a 9-3 win.
Top of 5th: Lester Gets Out of a Jam
Looking to protect the two-run lead his teammates just gave him, Jon Lester allowed a leadoff double to Carlos Santana that traveled nearly all the way to the wall in the gap in right-center. That forced Lester to pitch out of the stretch for the first time, and Jose Ramirez was able to advance Santana to third on a groundout.
With a runner on third and one out, Brandon Guyer played with fire by not swinging at two borderline pitches that could have been strike three, and eventually did strike out looking on Lester’s ninth pitch of the at-bat. With Roberto Perez due up, and Coco Crisp already swinging in the on-deck circle in hopes of pinch-hitting for Trevor Bauer, Chicago’s pitching coach Chris Bosio visited the mound. Whatever he said worked because Lester got Perez to ground out on his first pitch.
David Waldstein: Trevor Bauer was much better than in Game 2, but once again he left while trailing. Now Mike Clevinger, the Jacob deGrom of the Midwest, is in the game. Bauer felt that if he faced 18 batters tonight the Indians would be in a position to win. I think he meant over six or seven innings, though. He faced exactly 18 batters in four innings. He was good until the fourth.
The temperature has dropped to 50 degrees. But it feels much colder, like Javier Baez’s World Series batting average. (That was a cheap shot, especially after he reached base.)
Bottom of 4th: Bryant and Rizzo Deliver
Kris Bryant started off the half-inning with a line-drive home run to center that tied the score. With Trevor Bauer finally proving to be human, Anthony Rizzo jumped on him as well, doubling to deep right with the ball caroming off the ivy before being picked up by Brandon Guyer. Ben Zobrist worked a 3-0 count before lacing a single to right field that advanced Rizzo to third.
That brought up Chicago’s trio of struggling young hitters. Addison Russell tapped a ball down the third-base line for a run-scoring infield single that gave Chicago the lead. Jason Heyward struck out on a checked swing for the first out of the inning, but then Javier Baez fooled everyone with a bunt to third that loaded the bases.
David Ross, who is hoping to extend the series and his career — he has already said this will be his last season — helped his own cause with a deep sacrifice fly to left to extend the Cubs’ lead to 3-1. Lester struck out to end the inning, but Wrigley is alive again and he’s now pitching with a lead.
David Waldstein: Cubs strike back, but you could tell people here wanted to see Kyle Schwarber hit for either Heyward or Ross. Maddon might have wanted to keep Heyward in for his defense once he had the lead, and maybe he didn’t want to remove Ross because he is Lester’s personal catcher. I would have used Schwarber for sure and tried to blow the game open right there. Seize the moment.
Top of 4th: Another Defensive Adventure
Jason Kipnis tried to bunt for a single, which was certainly a decent idea since Jon Lester is so wary of throwing to first base. But the ball only traveled a few inches before David Ross picked it up and threw him out. Francisco Lindor was retired on a soft popup and Mike Napoli popped up into foul territory on the first-base side. Ross and Anthony Rizzo once again converged on the ball, but this time Ross was able to hang onto it himself, even after Rizzo mistakenly bumped him to the ground.
David Waldstein: Ross and Rizzo are quite a foul-ball tandem. They could take that act on the road. In fact, they are hoping to.
There is something going on down the right-field line that is making observant Cubs fans very uncomfortable. Andrew Miller, the Indians’ almost-unhittable reliever, is on the mound warming up with a towel. When he’s done with the towel, he’ll start throwing warm-up pitches.
Bottom of 3rd: Bauer Cruising Through Cubs’ Lineup
Trevor Bauer retired David Ross with a groundout to shortstop. He struck out Jon Lester on three pitches, and then got Dexter Fowler to fly out to right to end the inning. This is a completely different pitcher from Game 2. Despite the efficiency, it was almost a letdown that the half-inning did not include a sensational defensive play after the memorable moments from the previous inning.
Top of 3rd: Heyward Climbs the Wall for an Out
Roberto Perez started things off with a towering popup that traveled only about 10 feet in terms of forward movement before Kris Bryant was able to catch it. Trevor Bauer then managed to make his opponent work with a seven-pitch at-bat before hitting a flyball into foul territory that Jason Heyward climbed the wall to snare for the second out of the inning.
It is worth noting after such a play that Heyward’s defense was a big reason he was given a $184 million contract by the Cubs.
David Waldstein: Cubs Manager Joe Maddon made Cubs batting practice optional Sunday, probably in the hope of getting his hitters to chill out a bit. It was also a way to promote normalcy. Baseball teams often don’t take batting practice on Sundays during the regular season, especially when it is a day game. Indians Manager Terry Francona said that it was good because football was on TV, and the players love to watch the games.
Bottom of 2nd: With a Lead, Bauer Gets Aggressive
Given a one-run lead, Trevor Bauer got Ben Zobrist to fly out to left for the first out. He ran the count full against Addison Russell, but the young shortstop was able to win the battle with a grounder right up the middle for a single. That brought up Jason Heyward, who has struggled for much of the season and postseason but had two hits last night. But Heyward, a patient hitter who typically has a strong knowledge of the strike zone, struck out looking. With two outs, Bauer toyed with Javier Baez, throwing a 1-0 strike past him before throwing consecutive pitches way out of the strike zone and watching the young second baseman flail at them wildly to end the inning. While Bauer has had his struggles, the at-bat against Baez in particular showed some veteran moxie.
Top of 2nd: Ramirez’s Blast Puts Indians on Top
The Indians get on the board as Jose Ramirez hit a deep two-out home run to left field that once again quieted the normally raucous crowd at Wrigley Field.
The scoring play was obviously the most important moment of the inning, but it overshadowed a truly odd play. With one out, Carlos Santana popped up into foul territory and David Ross nearly got under it before being blocked by a television camera. He tipped the ball with his glove, but as it was about to fall to the ground first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who had also been in pursuit, corralled it.
David Waldstein: Jose Ramirez homers and the Indians have that coveted early lead, which they are famously reluctant to hand back. Before the game, Terry Francona was asked what the key to the game was. He laughed and said, “To get the lead and let them face the dominant relievers. It’s really not rocket science. Joe (Maddon) knows that and so do I. If it was (rocket science), they’d probably have two other managers.”
This helps explain why Francona is such a great manager. But don’t think he isn’t prepared. He maps out every possible scenario and decision before the game begins and knows how he intends to address them. That kind of decisiveness rubs off on the players and makes them trust him implicitly.
Bottom of 1st: Bauer Matches Lester’s Intensity
After watching Jon Lester cruise through the top of the 1st, Trevor Bauer showed some nastiness of his own. He caught Dexter Fowler looking with a strike three that was fairly high in the zone. Bauer then set up Kris Bryant in the next at-bat with a similar pitch high in the zone before throwing a low curveball right past him for strike three. Chicago’s No. 3 hitter, Anthony Rizzo, the sixth batter of the game, became the first to not strike out, but he popped out to end the inning.
David Waldstein: Trevor Bauer looks so much sharper tonight than he did in Game 2. His curveball, which was useless his last time out, is crisp and he is throwing it for strikes. His fastball looks better, too. Bauer is throwing on three days of rest for the first time, and Terry Francona said he thought it would help him. Based on how everything else Francona has done this postseason has worked to perfection, you can count on Bauer throwing a perfect game.
Need we remind you, Bauer’s entire October was thrown into chaos when he cut the pinkie finger on his pitching hand while playing with a drone before the first game of the A.L.C.S.
Top of 1st: Lester Off to Strong Start
Jon Lester is clearly fired up. He got Game 5 started with a first-pitch strike to Rajai Davis. Five pitches later he struck Davis out on a nasty pitch that had the leadoff man flailing at a low pitch. He then needed only a combined seven pitches to strike out Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor to end an overwhelmingly dominant half-inning.
David Waldstein: Tone-setting first half-inning by Jon Lester. Before he came onto the field, the P.A. system blasted the “Rocky theme.” I thought Cleveland was the underdog, but whatever, it’s a great song.
Jason Kipnis, the Chicagoland kid who grew up as a Cubs fan, was booed when he came to the plate. That was not because he was a neighbor of Steve Bartman. It was because of his three-run home run, double, single and run scored in Game 4. I bet he loved hearing every boo from his former neighbors.
What to Expect in Game 5
■ Chicago’s Jon Lester, who pitched well but was outdueled by Corey Kluber in Game 1, will try to rescue the Cubs’ season in a matchup against Trevor Bauer, who did not make it out of the fourth inning in a Game 2 loss.
■ With the Cubs on the brink of elimination, and Bauer representing a below-average option as a starter for the Indians, the bullpens for both teams will be called upon at the first sign of trouble. The Indians’ Andrew Miller and Cody Allen have the ability to effectively shorten the game to five or six innings, so the margin of error for the Cubs is small.
■ The Cubs’ offense has been missing Kyle Schwarber, who carried the team in Games 1 and 2. In his lone at-bat since the series moved to Wrigley Field, he popped up in the infield in Game 3.
■ Francisco Lindor has been Cleveland’s top hitter with 17 hits. With three more he would tie Sandy Alomar for the franchise record for a single postseason. Alomar had 20 in 1997.
■ In the wild-card era, the team with the best record in baseball has made the World Series nine times, but have only won four titles. So the Cubs, after leading the majors with 103 wins, would not be much of an outlier if they were unable to win. That being said, a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series is hardly insurmountable. Just ask the fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It’s Cold and Tense at Wrigley
It is cold and clear here at Wrigley Field, with a little breeze blowing in from left field. My phone says 54 degrees, but it feels much colder out in the left field auxiliary press box. If there are any typos, chalk it up to frozen fingers.
Most of the fans are in their seats and Jon Lester is in the outfield playing long toss. The Cubs have placed much of their hope to avoid extinction in his capable hands for Game 5. The fans are going through their usual routines. They started filling up Wrigleyville before noon, but their mood was decidedly less festive and cocky than it was before Game 3.
I rode the elevator in my hotel with a couple decked out in Cubs garb this morning. They were both staring at the floor and I asked if they were nervous. The man didn’t even look up. He just nodded and said, “Yup.” — David Waldstein