CHICAGO -- Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona has proven to be masterful at baseball chess, seeming to make all of the right moves at the exact right time during the 2016 postseason.
Whether it be a decision with his pitching rotation or his usage of double shifts, Francona has managed the Indians to their first World Series appearance in 19 years, where they are just one win away from beating the Chicago Cubs and claiming their first championship since 1948.
“The biggest thing we can do is be prepared by advancing the other team, and then, knowing our guys,” Francona said.
Over 4.2 innings of work in a 1-0 win against the Cubs in Game 3, Indians starter Josh Tomlin allowed just two hits and one walk with one strikeout.
However, Tomlin was relieved by left-handed fire-baller Andrew Miller in the bottom of the fifth inning and got pinch hitter Miguel Montero to line out to right field for the final out of the frame. Then, in the sixth, Miller set down the Cubs in order, 1-2-3, all on strikeouts.
Despite allowing two hits over 1.2 innings of work, Bryan Shaw kept the Cubs at bay by getting out hard-hitting Kyle Schwarber.
“He ran a cutter,” Francona said. “He ran a power cutter in on him really well. Now, we got him out. He’s probably going to get a chance to hit again.
“You don’t just pound your chest too much too quickly against good hitters because he’s going to get another chance, but Bryan made a really good pitch, and we found out not just in this series, but last year. When you don’t, you generally pay for it.”
After Shaw was pulled, closer Cody Allen nailed down the four-out save. Allen more than earned his sixth save of the postseason though as he had to go through the heart of Chicago’s order, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras, and get second baseman Javier Baez to strike out swinging with the tying and winning runs in scoring position to lock down the victory.
Offensively, it took a pair of pinch hitters and a substitute runner to do it, but the Indians finally broke through in the top of the seventh inning in Game 3.
A looping single to right field off the bat of pinch hitter Coco Crisp drove in Michael Martinez and gave the Indians a 1-0 lead over the Cubs.
“(That) was one of the more agonizing games I’ve ever been a part of,” Francona said. “Usually, I really do enjoy them, but there was a lot going on and we were running out of players at a quick rate to the point where when we got into the ninth inning, if they would have had second and third with less than two outs, we would have probably played the infield in just to win or lose.
“That wasn’t how we drew it up, believe me. It’s just as you go, you kind of have your guys ready for each situation, and then, you react to it and do the best you can.”