October 26, 2016
World Series Game 2: Cubs vs. Indians at Progressive Field
Well, let’s give this another try.
The night before, the Cubs played in their first World Series game in 71 years, but on the scoreboard it was a disaster as Corey Kluber and the Indians dominated Game 1, 6-0. Now the object was to win four out of six games, and Game 2 became critical because even going home for Games 3-5, you don’t want to be down two games to none in a best-of-seven series.
Joe Maddon changed the order of the starting rotation after using Kyle Hendricks in Game 2 of each of the past two playoff series. (Jon Lester started Game 1 of all three.) Since Hendricks was only on three days’ rest at this point after pitching Game 6 of the NLCS – along with the fact that Maddon seemed to prefer using Hendricks at home – Jake Arrieta got the ball on this night. Given Arrieta’s late-season regression, plus his struggles in Game 3 of the NLCS, it was difficult to have the same confidence in him that we had during his amazing run in late 2015.
Trevor Bauer took the ball for Cleveland. His drone accident that delayed his start from Game 2 to Game 3 during the ALCS against Toronto gained a lot of laughs, but injury forced him to leave his Game 3 start after only recording two outs in a game the Indians’ bullpen helped them win. Cleveland’s rotation had been hit hard by injuries, and they were counting on Bauer to come through for them here.
For the Cubs, the game got off to a much better start. With one out in the first, Kris Bryant singled, and Anthony Rizzo knocked him in with a double to right. They didn’t score any more in the inning, but the Cubs were on the board and had the lead, both for the first time in the series. Remembering the offense’s disappearance for a large portion of the NLCS, we could breathe a little easier early in the game.
Jake Arrieta appeared to have control problems from the beginning, as he took the mound in the bottom of the first. After getting the first two outs, he walked Francisco Lindor on four straight, then walked Mike Napoli on a full count. Arrieta then fell behind 3-1 to Jose Ramirez, who cranked a fly ball deep to center. It looked like big-time trouble off the bat, but Dexter Fowler was able to get underneath it and catch it on the warning track. A major sigh of relief there.
After an uneventful second inning, the Cubs came to bat in the third. Aside from the long championship droughts of the two participants, one of the biggest stories of this World Series was that of Kyle Schwarber. After his knee injury in the first week of the season, most of us thought there was no chance he’d come back and play this year. But while the rest of the Cubs were running away with the NL Central, Schwarber was hard at work recovering. Against all odds, he was cleared to play in this year’s Fall Classic, the first time he would play since early April.
The Cubs were able to get a two-out rally going, as Anthony Rizzo drew a walk and Ben Zobrist followed with a single. Schwarber then came up and, on a 3-0 count, slammed a single up the middle to score Rizzo. Schwarber could barely contain his enthusiasm as he settled at first base. Besides the fact that the hit gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead, it also signaled a triumph of the human spirit. Regardless of what team you’re pulling for, how can you not feel good about that?
Meanwhile, despite at times struggling to throw strikes, Jake Arrieta continued to put zeroes on the board. After Trevor Bauer left in the fourth, the Cubs’ offense put the game away in the fifth with a three run rally: Ben Zobrist tripled home a run, Kyle Schwarber had another RBI hit, and Addison Russell drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 5-0. Arrieta made it to the sixth, when he threw a wild pitch to allow the Indians’ first run. Joe Maddon pulled him after a laborious 5.2 innings in which he threw 98 pitches and fought command issues to keep the Indians’ offense down. It was not a bad effort.
Unfortunately, the Cubs missed a chance to blow it wide open when they left the bases loaded in the fifth, and they were unable to do anything else against the Indians’ bullpen the rest of the night. But it didn’t matter, thanks to two solid relief innings from Mike Montgomery. Once again, Joe Maddon avoided using Pedro Strop or Hector Rondon, two of his most important bullpen pieces over the past two years, during this postseason. He clearly didn’t trust them, even with a four-run lead, but thankfully Montgomery came through.
The multiple-inning save was a big story throughout the postseason, and Joe Maddon brought Aroldis Chapman into the game in the eighth. Chapman got the final four outs, the final out being a groundout to shortstop by Roberto Perez, and the Cubs finished the 5-1 win to take Game 2 and even up this year’s World Series. Hometown fans who sat through over long four hours of baseball on a cold, rainy night in Cleveland left disappointed.
It was a big win, and now the series shifted to Chicago for the next three games. For the first time in 71 years, the World Series was coming to Wrigley Field. For Cubs fans, it was going to be the event of a lifetime.
Brian Johnston is the author of the book The Art of Being a Baseball Fan, his story of following the 2015 Chicago Cubs, available on Amazon. He lives in St. Joseph, Michigan with his wife and two children.