The World Series finally returned to Wrigley Field on Friday night, about 12 hours and a few hundreds of kegs behind the daylong celebration in the streets and establishments around the ballpark.
And, apparently, at least nine innings too early for the Cubs’ bats.
Whether it was the “electric” atmosphere surrounding the first World Series game at Wrigley field in 71 years – fans cramming every nook of the ballpark and cranny at the corner of Clark and Addison – the Cubs were shut out for the fourth time this postseason.
Their 1-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Game 3 on Friday night might have been the least likely of the four.
“All the things adding up was like negatives to it,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who opened the ninth with a single to start a rally that fell 90 feet short of tying it. “Fly ball pitcher, wind’s howling out [to left], it’s October. So of course, it’s a 1-0 game, with a broken bat to win it.”
That was pinch-hitter Coco Crisp’s one-out single to right in the seventh off rookie Carl Edwards Jr., to drive home Michael Martinez from third base.
“’Cleveland against the world’ — that’s kind of been our motto,” said Crisp, who was reacquired by his original team in a trade from Oakland over the summer. “Coming here and seeing all the blue in the stands and all the [Cubs] blue that was at our ballpark, you know the support for the Cubs is worldwide. You know what you’re dealing with coming into the game.”
How could anybody within a half-mile not feel the emotions pouring forth for blocks in either direction of Wrigley Field from early in the morning through the final pitch of the night?
The Cubs certainly did.
“We were so anxious to win this game that we tried to do too much,” rookie catcher Willson Contreras said. “We were first-pitch swinging. We didn’t see a lot of pitches.
“We were trying to do too much to [Indians starter Josh] Tomlin, and he made the right pitch in the right spots.
The Cubs’ best chances to score came in the seventh and ninth, when the Cubs put men at third, each time with two out — each time with Javy Baez ending the inning.
In the seventh, Jorge Soler hit a two-out fly near the padded side wall in left that went for a triple when right-fielder Lonnie Chisenhall made an awkward leap for it, only to have it carom and roll past him. But Bryan Shaw induced an inning-ending grounder from Baez.
After Rizzo’s single in the ninth, pinch-runner Chris Coghlan took second on a one-out grounder, then third when Jason Heyward drove a chopper off first baseman Mike Napoli for an error. After a stolen base put the Cubs in position to win with a hit, Baez struck out.
“Tomorrow’s a new game and we’re looking forward to it,” Contreras said.
Not every hitter in the Cubs’ clubhouse saw it as an issue of emotions over the moment or pressing.
But many seemed surprised that they hit only one ball in the air to left field in 17 plate appearances against Tomlin, a fly ball pitcher starting on a night anything squared up better than Kris Bryant’s high fly in the first would have
“When you hit the ball with that trajectory it would have been a home run easy, but neither team did that,” veteran left fielder Ben Zobrist said.
Tomlin lasted just two outs into the fifth before Indians manager Terry Francona lifted him for bullpen ace Andrew Miller to face Miguel Montero – who lined hard to right for the final out.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Rizzo, whose Cubs face a 2-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series for the second straight time in the postseason. “We’ve been in this situation before, last series, and we’ve just got to come back and do what we do.”
If the Cubs thought getting back to the World Series for the first time in 71 years was tough, beating the Indians to win it has proved to be even harder.
Friday night’s slow offensive start in Game 3 came just three days after the Cubs were shut out by Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Co. in the Series opener.
And next up is a second date Saturday night with Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young winner, who starts on short rest (as the Indians look at him for a potential Game 7 start as well).
“He’s coming off three days rest so I just throwing it out there, he’s not going to be as sharp as he was in the first game,” Rizzo said. “I’m convincing myself even if he is.”
The celebration outside the ballpark that began before the workday for non-revelers impressed even the front office imports from Boston – who headed that city’s baseball-curse-busting championship 12 years ago.
“The biggest difference so far is that in Boston they had been to the World Series every 20 years or so,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “And when we came back from 3-0 [deficit in the American League Championship Series] against the Yankees, that seemed like the pinnacle to a lot of people.”
The Red Sox wound up sweeping the Cardinals in a World Series that snapped an 86-year title drought – but that also seemed to many in Boston “anticlimactic in some respects,” Epstein said.
“Here just getting to the World Series has been this incredible triumph and celebration,” said Epstein, who found himself reminding fans and selfie-takers of the larger goal much of the early part of the day.
“Winning it is what we’re all focused on,” he said.
That’s where NLCS hero Kyle Hendricks was supposed to play such a huge role in giving the Cubs an advantage in this pivotal Game 3.
And the National League ERA champ, who beat Clayton Kershaw with 7 1/3 dominant innings six days earlier to get the Cubs to this round, did keep the game scoreless during his start.
“I wasn’t sharp. But they had a good game plan against me,” said Hendricks, who lasted just one out deep into the fifth, pitched into and around traffic throughout his start, and had the bases loaded with one out when he handed the game over to Justin Grimm in the fifth.
A single, sacrifice bunt, walk and hit batter put the dangerous Francisco Lindor at the plate as Hendricks departed.
Grimm quickly jumped ahead 0-2, but then drifted to a full count before Lindor grounded sharply to second baseman Javy Baez, who started a 4-6-3, inning-ending double play as Grimm exulted.
“This team has never hung their heads all year,” Zobrist said. “We won’t do it now.
“Hopefully, we can get a different outcome tomorrow night.”