Cubs fans were ready to party for their first World Series game at Wrigley Field since 1945. North Siders lined up outside bars in Wrigleyville as early as 7 a.m. local time for a 7 p.m. game, some of them paying a $250 cover charge or $500 for a table. Baby Boomers in vintage jerseys brought photos of long-dead relatives who never got to see their team win it all. Even Chicago manager Joe Maddon admitted that he’d taken his time driving to the park that morning, savoring the moment.
The Indians did not particularly care. On the strength of a pitching staff that has carried the club to a 9–2 record this postseason, Cleveland won 1–0 in Game 3 to take a 2–1 series lead.
The Indians' Josh Tomlin and the Cubs' Kyle Hendricks started the game and combined to throw 143 pitches over 4 2/3 and 4 1/3 innings, respectively. Only one of those reached 90 mph. (And that one, a first-inning Tomlin sinker that Anthony Rizzo grounded to first base, only hit 90.4 mph.) It was a potentially dangerous strategy—both offenses have actually had more success relative to the rest of the league on fastballs of 94 mph or slower than on fastballs of 95 mph or faster—but one that paid off. Tomlin allowed only three baserunners; Hendricks put on eight, but he benefited from the defense behind him—and at one point, within him, as he picked off Francisco Lindor in the first to snuff out a potentially big inning.
Like most other teams this postseason, Cleveland had lived and died by the home run in most of its games to this point. (Through the first 10 games of the playoffs, 20% of the team’s hits left the park. The regular-season league average was 13%.) But in Game 3, the club manufactured its only run. Roberto Perez led off the seventh by lining a Carl Edwards Jr. four-seamer into rightfield and was promptly replaced by pinch runner Michael Martinez. Tyler Naquin sacrificed Martinez to second, and he took third on a wild pitch. After Rajai Davis walked, Coco Crisp, hitting for reliever Andrew Miller, singled. Davis was out at third on the throw, and Jason Kipnis grounded out to end the inning, but it was all the offense the Indians would need.
The Cubs’ bats have gone cold in this World Series. A team that scored 808 runs in the regular season, good for third-most in baseball, has hit only .202 in the World Series, and that includes Chicago’s 5–1 win in Game 2. The Cubs have struggled in all facets—against lefties they’ve hit .167, against righties .209, at home .179, away .225, against starters .222, against relievers .184. But it’s hard to blame them. None of the Indians' October opponents have been able to figure out their cobbled-together pitching staff: In its eight wins this postseason, Cleveland has allowed a total of 10 runs. Even in its two losses, it’s only given up 11. There is still hope for Chicago, though: If it can find a way to scratch across a run, that might be enough to win—the Indians are only batting .237.