The flyball between Indians outfielders Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall looked harmless. It turned out to be the exact opposite. The duo miscommunicated and allowed the ball to fall for a two-run double in the first inning of a 9-3 loss to the Cubs in Game 6 of the World Series. The gaffe opened the floodgates for the Cubs, who forced Game 7 by winning two in a row.
The double was credited to shortstop Addison Russell. He launched a grand slam two innings later, tying a World Series record with six RBI. Jake Arrieta held the Indians to two runs in 5 2/3 innings. Aroldis Chapman followed up his eight-out performance in Game 5 with a four-out collection in the seventh and eighth.
The stage is set for Cleveland ace Corey Kluber to duel with Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
A sizable contingent of Cubs fans filled any gaps in the crowd. The group made itself heard in the first inning, when Indians starter Josh Tomlin flipped an 0-2 curveball to Chicago third baseman Kris Bryant. Throughout this series, the Cleveland staff flummoxed the Cubs with offspeed pitches, preying on their eagerness to swing by inducing soft contact or whiffs. Neither occurred here.
Bryant bashed a hanger over the elevated wall in left. Tomlin could not replicate the offspeed success he experienced in Game 3. He gave up a single to first baseman Anthony Rizzo on a changeup and another single to outfielder Ben Zobrist on a curveball. Then Russell came up, and Cleveland's night unraveled.
The ball that Russell lifted into the outfield was routine. It was not a well-struck drive; it was not a sinking liner. It hung in the air in as Naquin and Chisenhall ventured toward it. The two men crossed paths. The ball landed in between them.
Rizzo scored easily. Zobrist plowed through catcher Roberto Perez, tagging him with a forearm in the head on the collision. The Cubs handed Arrieta a three-run lead as he took the mound.
The miscommunication by Chisenhall and Tomlin obscured a critical component of the first inning: Tomlin wasn't fooling anyone. He also wouldn't last much longer. The Cubs loaded the bases in the third with a walk by Schwarber, then singles from Rizzo and Zobrist.
Down three runs, Cleveland Manager Terry Francona did not want to concede defeat. But he did not utilize any member of his late-game trio of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw. Instead he went with sinkerballer Dan Otero to try and induce a double play against Russell.
Russell did not hit a groundball. He crushed a thigh-high sinker for his third homer of the postseason. The lead stretched to seven.
Cleveland tagged Arrieta for runs in the fourth and the fifth. Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis smacked a double in the fourth and scored on a single by first baseman Mike Napoli. An inning later, Kipnis delivered a solo home run.
In the seventh, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon displayed some urgency. After a pair of batters reached, he sent Chapman into the game. Chapman forced shortstop Francisco Lindor to ground out to end the inning.
Chapman worked around a single in the eighth. After Rizzo hit a two-run lead in the ninth, the Cubs regained the seven-run lead. And still Maddon stuck with Chapman, until he walked a batter to lead off the inning. Pedro Strop finished the Indians off.