Staying alive: Cubs take Game 5 of World Series
Defensive excellence, especially on behalf of first baseman Anthony Rizzo, was a major factor behind the Chicago Cubs' Game 5 victory. - Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Staying alive: Cubs take Game 5 of World Series

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO -- As usual, Steve Goodman’s “Go, Cubs, Go” blared over the loudspeakers at Wrigley Field following the Cubs’ victory on Sunday night, but it would have been equally as fitting if the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” served as the celebratory tune. Winning their first World Series game at home since 1945, the Chicago Cubs earned a hard-fought 3-2 triumph over the Cleveland Indians that, ironically enough, made the series stand at three games to two in favor of the Tribe. Led by first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who went 1-3 with one walk, a run scored and several web gems, and closer Aroldis Chapman, who pitched 2.2 solid innings on the rubber, the Cubs forced a Game 6 in Cleveland on Tuesday night.

Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester faltered in his Game 1 start but looked primed to redeem himself from the inception of his Game 5 outing, striking out the side in the top of the first. Lester finished with five Ks on the night. Lester continued to pitch well in the following inning, with the exception of one bad pitch to Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez, who smashed it over the ivy-covered wall in left for his first home run of the postseason and first on the road since May 23. The round-tripper was the third given up by Lester in these playoffs.

Aside from Ramirez’s blast, the top half of the second featured an excellent defensive display on behalf of the Cubs, with Rizzo fully showcasing his prowess in the field. Reminiscent of a signature play made by the great Pete Rose in the 1980 World Series, Rizzo caught a pop-up in foul territory after catcher David Ross was unable to complete a snow cone catch of it. Once the ball fell from Ross’s mitt, it ricocheted off of Rizzo’s hand, but the crafty first baseman was able to snag it with his glove. To end the inning, Rizzo displayed his flexibility by leaning far off of first to snatch a difficult throw from third baseman Kris Bryant. Rizzo’s acrobatic fielding put an exclamation mark on Bryant’s impressive diving stop of a screamer hit down the third-base line.

The most incredible defensive play of the night, however, occurred in the third inning. Right fielder Jason Heyward performed his best Torii Hunter impression by scaling the brick wall behind the visiting bullpen in foul territory and reaching back to catch a fly ball hit by Cleveland starting pitcher Trevor Bauer. Bauer, as he was walking back to the dugout, could not help but smile and applaud for J-Hey's effort. The catch exemplified why Heyward, who has been struggling mightily with the bat this postseason, was in the starting lineup, as the three-time Gold Glove Award winner is arguably the best all-around defensive outfielder in the game.

During the fourth inning, the wily Ross, who made perhaps the final start of his career tonight, involved himself in the defensive action with two great plays. Grabbing a leadoff bunt before it could roll foul and commencing to throw the runner out at first, Ross revealed his characteristically high baseball IQ. For the third out, Ross and Rizzo crossed paths in foul ground again, this time lightly colliding in an attempt at catching a high pop-up. Much to the delight of the Wrigley faithful, Ross corralled the baseball while falling down to end the inning.

The Cubs showed off their offensive skills in the bottom of the fourth, amassing three runs to take a 3-1 lead. Bryant led off with his second home run of postseason action and first of the World Series, hitting one just over the wall in left-center for the Cubs’ first run of the game. Bryant, the only third baseman wearing a Cubs uniform to ever hit a World Series homer, went 1-3 at the plate. Rizzo followed Bryant’s blast with a double that hit off of the wall in right, and Zobrist next singled in the gap between first and second to put runners on the corners with no outs.

Speedy shortstop Addison Russell then reached base on an infield single that had the effect of a swinging bunt. The dribbler toward third base plated Rizzo to provide Chicago with a 2-1 lead. Following a Heyward strikeout, second baseman Javier Baez laid down a gutsy bunt, which the Indians were not anticipating, to load the bases, and, soon after, Ross brought home Zobrist on a sacrifice fly to deep left field. At 39 years of age, Ross became the oldest catcher to get credited with an RBI in a World Series game.

The Cubs entered the fifth inning with a 3-1 advantage, and Lester held strong to keep it that way, avoiding giving up a run after allowing Indians left fielder Carlos Santana to reach base on a double to right-center at the beginning of the frame. Not flustered by Santana’s “evil ways,” Lester outed three consecutive batters to neutralize the Cleveland scoring threat.

Bauer did not retake the mound to begin the bottom of the fifth, becoming the first pitcher to make four starts without reaching the fifth inning in a single postseason. His replacement on the mound was Indians reliever Mike Clevinger. Clevinger walked Bryant with one out, and Bryant proceeded to steal second and also take third due to a throwing error committed by Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez in an attempt at throwing Bryant out. With the steal, Bryant earned the honor of being the first Cubs player to hit a home run and steal a base in a World Series game. After that, Clevinger walked Zobrist to place runners on the corners with two outs, but the Cleveland hurler avoided seeing his team’s deficit increase when the succeeding batter, Russell, lined out to right and ended the inning.

Indians center fielder Rajai Davis reached base to kick off the sixth frame, hitting a single to shallow left. Davis, who led the American League with 43 regular season steals, then took advantage of Lester’s reluctance to throw to first by garnering a vast lead on a steal attempt. Reaching second base without having to face so much as a throw-out attempt, Davis put himself in scoring position. Following a strikeout for the second out of the inning, dangerous hitter Francisco Lindor sauntered into the batter’s box for the Indians. The star shortstop, who went 1-3 at the dish, came through with an RBI single to center that scored Davis easily and made the score 3-2 in favor of the Cubs. If not for an impressive trapping of the ball by Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler, the hit could have been stretched into a double, and Lindor attempted to make up for that by trying to swipe second base soon afterward. However, Lindor was foiled, as Ross, in what might have been the final highlight of his MLB tenure, threw him out, thanks in large part to a stupendous behind-the-back tag by Baez.

Lester, presumably starting for the final time this series, was pulled after the sixth, along with his battery mate, Ross. The two veterans hugged in the dugout, signifying an end to one of the closest longtime pitcher-catcher relationships in MLB history. Lester allowed only four hits on the evening and earned the win for his efforts, moving to 3-1 this postseason. Neither Lester nor his pitching adversary, Bauer, walked any batters in Game 5.

Carl Edwards, Jr., replaced Lester on the hill and was shaky, giving up a leadoff single and allowing the runner to advance to second on an ill-advised pitch that was scored as a passed ball by catcher Willson Contreras, although Contreras was clearly not prepared for the low, outside pitch. After that, Edwards earned an out on a fly ball to cap off a long at-bat and was then immediately replaced by Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman. Despite hitting a batter, Chapman ended the seventh without allowing a run to score, maintaining the Cubs’ 3-2 lead.

After a riveting seventh-inning stretch rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that featured a duet by Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, a lifelong Cubs fan, and a recording of Harry Caray, the late, great Cubs announcer, the North Siders failed to take advantage of an auspicious situation in the bottom half of the seventh. With one out, Fowler was hit by a pitch from Indians reliever Cody Allen, who had just entered the game. Although Fowler was clearly in pain as he hobbled to first after being pelted in the foot, evidently, he overcame the injury quickly enough to steal a base, taking second for his first steal of the playoffs. But the Cubs could not capitalize, as Bryant struck out for the inning’s second out, and, following an intentional walk of Rizzo, Zobrist popped out just behind shortstop to eradicate the Chicago scoring opportunity.

Davis stole his second bag of the game in the eighth after reaching first on an infield single. Rocketed up the first-base line, Davis’s hit was prevented from reaching the outfield by a diving Rizzo, but, unfortunately for the Cubs, Chapman did not hustle to cover first, which resulted in Davis reaching base safely. Davis finished the game 2-4 with one run scored. Later in the inning, Davis coasted to third with two outs for his third steal of Sunday night’s outing, pulling off the steal standing up. Davis’s thievery was all for naught, though, as Chapman struck Lindor out looking to move the game into the bottom of the eighth.

It was then that Heyward picked up his only hit of the night, a one-out single to right-center that passed under Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis’s glove and into the outfield. Heyward stole both second and third in the aftermath, thus making him the first Cub to steal multiple bases in a World Series game since Billy Jurges did it in 1932, but nothing came of it, as his fellow Cub hitters left him stranded. Steals were aplenty on Sunday; Game 5 featured seven of them in total, which tied the World Series record.

Chapman, who was struck out to bring the eighth inning to a close, was allowed to bat in a crucial situation simply because Cubs manager Joe Maddon was unwilling to pull the fireballer from the game prior to the decisive ninth inning. The decision proved to be wise, as Chapman went three up, three down in the ninth to lock up the 3-2 Chicago victory and collect his first career World Series save. Throwing a season-high 42 pitches and striking out four batters in his eight-out save, Chapman was poised throughout his Game 5 appearance and was the literal and proverbial savior for the Cubs because of it.

With seven hits, as compared to the Indians' six, the Cubs did just enough to eke out the must-win on Sunday. The critical decision by Maddon to bring Chapman into the game far earlier than usual made the ultimate difference for Chicago, and the impressive defensive showing by the Cubs bolstered their winning effort. Speaking after the game about Chapman's marvelous performance, Indians skipper Terry Francona said, "Chapman, that was a big ask. And he answered. That was impressive."

With an off day tomorrow, the Cubs will travel to Cleveland for Tuesday's Game 6, in which the Cubs' Jake Arrieta, who pitched marvelously in Chicago's Game 2 win, will battle the Tribe's Josh Tomlin on the hill. First pitch is slated for 7:00 PM CST at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.

Comment on this story
Send Feedback to Cole Little: Email | Comment
Post your comments!