CHICAGO: With dreams of their first World Series crown since 1908 on the brink of ending, the Chicago Cubs avoided elimination Sunday (Monday in Manila) with a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Chicago’s Kris Bryant homered to spark a three-run outburst in the fourth inning and Cuban closing relief ace Aroldis Chapman pitched a career-high 2 2/3 innings to obtain the final outs as the Cubs pulled within 3-2 in Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship series.
“It didn’t feel like an elimination game,” Bryant said. “We had a big inning and Chapman coming in for eight outs, that was big.”
The showdown continues Tuesday in Cleveland, where a seventh game would be played Wednesday if needed.
The Cubs, in their first World Series since 1945, are trying to snap America’s longest sports title drought while the Indians own baseball’s second-longest futility streak, last taking the trophy in 1948.
Of 46 teams that trailed 3-1 in the World Series, only six have rallied to win the title, the most recent being the 1985 Kansas City Royals. And the Cubs have never won any playoff series after trailing 3-1.
Chapman effort ‘impressive’
Chapman, obtained last July in a trade with the New York Yankees, struck out four while allowing only one hit, an infield single.
“Chappy came in and did something he has never done before,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “When you have a guy that can pitch that many significant outs in the latter part of the game, it’s pretty cool.”
The Indians had the tying run in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings but Chapman ended the threat both times and retired the last three batters in order in the ninth, striking out Jose Ramirez for the final out.
“Joe talked to me this afternoon before the game,” Chapman said. “He asked if I could be ready possibly to come into the seventh inning and I told him, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready to go.’ And whatever he needs me to do or how long he needs me to pitch for, I’m ready for it.”
Indians manager Terry Francona was impressed by what he saw from Chapman, known for his 100-mph fastballs.
“Chapman, that was a big ask and he answered. That was impressive,” Francona said. “Sometimes you’ve got to respect what the other team can do, too. Sometimes they just beat you.”
Chicago’s Jake Arrieta, an 18-game winner, will take the mound against Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin in a matchup of right-handed pitchers on Tuesday.
“He’s a bull out there,” Bryant said of Arrieta, the reigning Cy Young Award winner as top pitcher. “Hopefully he can win out there and then anything can happen in a game seven.”
Tension grows as innings go
The Cubs, who led the major leagues with 103 wins this season, saw the white flag with blue W symbolic of victory raised over 102-year-old Wrigley Field for the first time since 1945.
Ramirez smashed a two-out solo homer off Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, a two-time World Series champion who took the victory, for a 1-0 Indians lead in the second inning.
The Cubs, who had gone 25 innings without scoring, equalized in the fourth inning when Bryant, who was batting 1-for-15 in the Series, smacked a solo homer over the rightfield wall off Indians starter and loser Trevor Bauer.
Anthony Rizzo then doubled to right, took third base on Ben Zobrist’s single and scored on Addison Russell’s infield single.
“High anxiety. Every pitch gets bigger and bigger,” Rizzo said. “It gets more intense as the game goes on.”
Javier Baez, who had been 1-for-14 in the Series with runners on base, tapped another infield single down the third-base line to load the bases and David Ross, 0-for-7 with runners on base in the playoffs, followed with a sacrifice fly to score Zobrist.
The Indians pulled within the final margin in the sixth inning when Rajai Davis singled, stole second base, took third on an error and scored on Francisco Lindor’s single.
Davis became, at 36, the oldest player to ever steal three bases in a World Series game. The game’s seven total stolen bases matched a World Series record set in 1907.