If Game 2 of the World Series, which took just over four hours to complete, felt like a slog to you at times, well, imagine how it felt for the Indians pitchers who spent a cold night getting five runs squeezed out of them by a relentlessly patient Cubs lineup.
Whether by design or by virtue of the fact that Corey Kluber wasn’t on the mound, the Cubs showed little interest in doing what the Indians’ pitchers wanted them to do. The Cubs struck out 15 times and drew just two walks while seeing 151 pitches in Game 1. Last night, they saw 196 pitches, drew eight walks, and went down on strikes just eight times.
Cubs hitters were working counts all night and shrugging at the Indians’ attempts to bait them out of the zone. The 3-4-5 hitters exercised the most patience, and just so happened to be the ones who did the most damage. Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, and Kyle Schwarber combined for five hits, four walks, four RBI, and just two strikeouts. The trio saw 76 pitches in their 15 plate appearances.
The lasting memory from this game will be Schwarber knocking in two runs in just his second game against major-league pitching in the last six months, but it was Rizzo’s patience that ignited the offense all night. He drew a six-pitch walk in the top of the third and came in to score after back-to-back singles by Zobrist and Schwarber. In the top of the fifth, Rizzo tortured Zach McAllister with a 10-pitch at-bat that eventually ended with a free pass to first. He came all the way around to score when Zobrist tripled in the next at-bat.
This is the Cubs’ offense in its most dangerous form. While other teams in the league have found a percentage in defense and high contact rates, the Cubs have kept alive the principles of Theo Epstein’s brawny Red Sox teams that worshipped the walk and the three-run homer. The Cubs led all of baseball in walks and were second in OBP during the regular season, and what they did last night is what they’ve been doing to overmatched pitchers all year.
The best way to beat a lineup like this is of course to introduce them to an ace with some truly nasty stuff. That worked out great for the Indians in Game 1 when Kluber was on the mound, but he can only win three games for his team in this series. At some point, Trevor Bauer or Josh Tomlin is going to have to withstand the Cubs’ methodical assault and deliver a lead to Andrew Miller and the rest of the bullpen. Bauer wasn’t up to the task last night; Tomlin gets his shot on Friday.