Looking for first World Series title since 1948, Indians trust Bauer

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26 October 2016: Cleveland Indians Starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (47) composes himself after walking a batter during the third inning of the 2016 World Series Game 2 between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Chicago defeated Cleveland 5-1. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

CHICAGO — Trevor Bauer’s arm strengthening program is as strenuous as any pitcher in baseball, punctuated by long-tossing sessions that can cover as much as 350 feet.

Thus, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona has no trepidation about having the 25-year-old right-hander start on short rest for the first time in his five-year career Sunday night as his tries to close out the Chicago Cubs and ace left-hander Jon Lester in Game 5 of the World Series at Wrigley Field.

The Indians are within one win of their first World Series title since 1948 after notching a 7-2 victory on Game 4 on Saturday night. The Cubs are one loss from a century-old drought continuing as they last won the Fall Classic in 1908.

Francona’s only concern about Bauer was the 10-stitch cut on his right pinkie finger that was sustained Oct. 13 while repairing one of the drones he flies as a hobby. The cut opened in the first inning on Oct. 17 and Bauer was forced to leave Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Bauer returned to the mound this past Wednesday in Game 2 and lost to the Cubs, lasting just 3.1 innings and needing 87 pitches to get 10 outs.

However, Francona is confident that Bauer will pitch better Sunday night. He bypassed rookie left-hander Ryan Merritt, who pitched 4.1 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays in the clinching Game 5 of the ALCS.

“Ryan did a really good job in his game in Toronto, but Trevor’s been a really good pitcher for us for four years,” Francona said. “If we thought that the finger was getting in the way, I understand it, but he’s come so far and battled this thing so much that I think his better game is ahead of him.”

October 26, 2016: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (47) pitches during Game 2 of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. The Cubs defeated the Indians 5-1. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

(Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

Bauer is 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in his three postseason starts following a regular season in which he had a 12-8 record and 4.26 ERA in 35 games, including 28 starts.

Bauer is admittedly very routine-oriented and was not happy to begin the season working out of the bullpen. However, despite his irregular schedule in the postseason, Bauer said he feels prepared despite pitching on three days’ rest.

“I don’t think it’s really that difficult at all,” Bauer said. “You prepare for the game the same way, and some games you go out there and you have a feel right away, and some games you go out there and you don’t. So, for whatever time I’m in the game, I do the same thing. I try to go with what’s working and find a feel for what’s not.”

Lester was the losing pitcher in Game 1 as he gave up three in 5.2 innings. He is 2-1 with a 1.71 ERA in postseason starts this season and 8-7 with a 2.60 ERA in 20 career appearances, including 18 starts.

Pitchers don’t normally face the same opponent in back-to-back starts and Lester believes he can benefit, especially after not facing the Indians in the regular season as the two teams did not meet in interleague play.

“There are a few guys over there that I haven’t faced a lot, if at all,” Lester said. “So, you’ll be able to draw from that information, make the adjustments that you need to make from the previous start and just kind of go from there.”

Lester, 32, went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA in 32 starts, his .792 winning percentage leading the NL. Last season, his first after signing a six-year, $155 million deal as a free agent, he had an 11-12 record with a 3.34 ERA in 32 starts.

“He’s just been a different cat all year,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “More comfortable in his Cubs skin this year, and you could see that from day one.”

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Kipnis, Santana have Indians on brink of World Series title

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19 August 2016: Cleveland Indians Second base Jason Kipnis (22) [7617] is congratulated by Cleveland Indians Designated hitter Carlos Santana (41) [7519] after scoring a run during the sixth inning of the Major League Baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Cleveland defeated Toronto 3-2. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

CHICAGO — Jason Kipnis had played the dream out in his head so many times growing up that he had a hard time believing that his childhood fantasy had become a reality.

The kid from Northbrook, Ill., 20 miles north of Wrigley Field, hit a three-run home run in the World Series on Saturday night.

In the backyard, the homer always came while playing for his beloved Chicago Cubs. As an adult, it came from the Cleveland Indians against the Cubs.

However, the second baseman wasn’t complaining after his three-run home run in the seventh inning broke open a close game as the Indians went on to a 7-2 victory in Game 4, giving them a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and putting the franchise within a win of its first World Series title since 1948.

The home run off Travis Wood pushed the Indians’ lead to 7-1 and was more than enough cushion as Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Dan Otero combined on a seven-hitter.

“I’ve had a lot of joy in playing this game, and to be put into a situation like this and actually have something happen like that is, for lack of a better term, a dream come true, like they say,” Kipnis said.

The Indians have scored just 42 runs in their 12 postseason games, though they’ve gone 10-2. Kipnis had gone 7-for-42 in the playoffs until breaking out with a 3-for-5 night that also included a double.

“To have my family in the stands, friends in the stands, but to be able more importantly to help this offense, which I’ve been struggling to do up until this point, I think that was one of the bigger enjoyments for me,” Kipnis said. “It felt good to finally contribute and to kind of take some pressure off Corey and the rest of the staff, that they don’t have to win a tight ballgame.”

Carlos Santana also homered and had three hits. He connected off losing pitcher John Lackey leading off the second inning to tie the score at one-all.

Santana also realized a dream by hitting his first World Series home run.

“Excited, very excited,” Santana said with a smile. “Especially with the first run of the game for us. I could feel the energy with the team when I hit it.”

Santana was the Indians’ primary designated hitter during the regular season when he and first baseman Mike Napoli tied for the team lead with 34 home runs. However, the DH rule is not in effect at Wrigley Field, a National League park.

Francona got creative in Indians’ 1-0 victory in Game 3 on Friday night by playing Santana in left field for just the second time in his seven-year career. However, Francona wanted to put a better defense behind Kluber, his ace, in Game 4 and opted to play Rajai Davis in left, Santana at first base and Napoli on the bench.

Before the game, Francona said he “agonized” over benching Napoli. After the game, Francona said Napoli would be in the starting lineup for Game 5 on Sunday night for the potential clincher.

“I thought Carlos swung the bat really well,” Francona said. “I still wasn’t pleased that Nap didn’t play, because he’s kind of the heart and soul of our team.”

Now Kipnis’ friends and family are agonizing. The Cubs hadn’t been to the World Series since 1945 and haven’t won it since 1908.

However, he was sure those close to him were happy for his success in Game 4.

“It’s been all positive,” Kipnis said. “All of it has just been positive reinforcement from people. Just go out, have fun. Enjoy yourself. Take it in.”

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Indians’ pitching staff making its mark on World Series

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CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) throws a pitch during the 2nd inning of the 2016 World Series Game 4 between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians on October 29, 2016, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. The Cleveland Indians defeated the Chicago Cubs by the score of 7-2. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

CHICAGO — When the postseason started, a lack of pitching depth was supposed to doom the Cleveland Indians after losing Nos. 2 and 3 starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to injuries during the final weeks of the regular season.

That seems so long ago now. Especially with the Indians on the brink of their first World Series title since 1948.

Ace right-hander Corey Kluber allowed one run over six innings and combined with Andrew Miller and Dan Otero on a seven-hitter as the Indians beat the Chicago Cubs 7-2 on Saturday night in Game 4 of the World Series at Wrigley Field.

The Indians hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series after winning the first two World Series games played at Wrigley since 1945. They can wrap things up Sunday night in Game 5.

The Indians have held the Cubs to six runs in four games and have allowed 22 runs in 12 games while going 10-2 in this postseason. Cleveland swept the Boston Red Sox in three games in their American League Division Series and beat the Toronto Blue Jays in five games in the American League Championship Series.

Conversely, the Indians have scored just 42 runs in 12 games.

“They deserve all the credit in the world,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said of the pitching staff. “They’re the reason we’ve got to this point and the reason we’ll get to where we’re going, hopefully. It’s the pitching staff that’s done the dirty work and the hard part.

“So you win 1-0 games like we have and you look no further than the staff. Guys like (Kluber) coming back on short rest, they’re the reasons we’re in these games.”

The Red Sox led the major leagues in scoring during the regular season, while the Cubs were third and the Blue Jays were ninth. Yet the Indians have made them look more like the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that scored the fewest runs.

Manager Terry Francona, though, says his staff is just pitching up to his expectations.

“I think our guys have done terrific, but I think the people that are surprised don’t know our pitchers very well,” he said.

Kluber was again outstanding as he scattered five hits, struck out six and walked one in beating the Cubs for the second time in the series. In Game 1, he shut them out on four hits over six innings.

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) pitches during the first inning of the 2016 World Series Game 4 between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs on October 29, 2016, at the Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

“They were definitely more aggressive this time around,” Kluber said. “But that’s how most lineups approach me, so it wasn’t anything we had to really figure out on the fly. We just kind of stuck with our gameplan that we usually stay with when that’s the case.”

Francona was also able to limit Kluber to 81 pitches as he was pitching on short rest for the second time in the postseason and would do so again next Wednesday night if a winner-take-all Game 7 is necessary at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

“I thought Kluber was tremendous,” Francona said. “I thought he had to work early. He didn’t have his best breaking ball. I thought later in the game he sort of defined it, actually. I think in a perfect world we wanted to keep him around 80. We were fortunate enough to be able to do that.”

Kluber had never pitched with just three days off between starts in his six-year career until Game 4 of the ALCS on Oct. 17 against the Blue Jays.

The Cubs scored the game’s first run in the first inning when Dexter Fowler hit a leadoff double and scored on Anthony Rizzo’s one-out single, but that was all the Cubs got off Kluber.

Though he won the AL Cy Young Award in 2014, Kluber has stepped up to a higher level while making the first five postseason starts of his career this October. He is 4-1 with a microscopic 0.89 ERA, giving up three runs and 22 hits in 30.1 innings while striking out 34 and walking eight.

“I think he’s proving over and over just how good he is,” Francona said.

Miller finally proved human as he gave up the first postseason run of his career in 15 games and 25.1 innings, a solo home run to Fowler in the eighth inning. It didn’t make much of a difference, though, as the Indians had already built a 7-1 lead when Kipnis hit a three-run homer in the seventh.

Francona brought Miller in to start to the bottom of the seventh even though Kipnis’ shot had given Cleveland a six-run lead.

However, Francona would not second-guess himself for using Miller with the big lead and said he would be available for Game 5 despite throwing 27 pitches on Saturday night and 17 in the Indians’ 1-0 victory in Game 3 on Friday night.

“We’re trying to win a World Series,” Miller said. “I’ll pitch in every game if that’s what we need.”

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Rumors & Rumblings: Veteran leadership hidden key for Cubs

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06 May 2016: Chicago Cubs Starting pitcher John Lackey (41) [2828] and Chicago Cubs Catcher David Ross (3) [3068] walk prior to a game between the Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

CHICAGO — One of the traits that makes the Chicago Cubs so good is their talented corps of good young players.

It is a big reason why they won a major league-best 103 games in the regular season, then beat the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers to win their first National League pennant since 1945. Now, they are in their first World Series in 71 years, facing the Cleveland Indians.

Manager Joe Maddon also feels that part of the Cubs’ success stems from having a group of well-respected veterans that includes left-hander Jon Lester, right-hander John Lackey, left fielder Ben Zobrist and backup catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero.

“Believe me, as a manager, when you have a group within the peer group that’s able to carry the message for you, oh, my God, it makes all the difference in the world,” Maddon said.

Maddon understands that clubhouse leadership is often hard to define to those on the outside. However, he knows it when he sees it and is appreciative of having it on a team that is on the rise.

In fact, Maddon feels having that veteran leadership on a team laden with younger players is one of the strongest resemblances between the 2016 Cubs and his other pennant-winning team, the 2008 American League champion Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays’ veteran leaders included Eric Hinske, Troy Percival and Cliff Floyd. Hinske is currently the Cubs’ assistant hitting coach.

“People don’t understand sometimes when we reference that in the papers why you talk about the leadership in the clubhouse and why that’s so important, because there’s a lot of things I should never hear about,” Maddon said. “If I hear it that means there’s a stool pigeon out there somewhere. So, they’re privy to these conversations in the clubhouse, and if they hear something really bad or awry, take care of it.”

“You need that peer group that brings to their attention when they’re going off line a little bit, because I should be the last guy to hear about it if it’s working properly. I explained that to the veteran players upfront and they’ve been fabulous.”

June 9, 2015:  Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester (34) and Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross (3) talk in the dugout after the fourth inning during the game on Tuesday evening, Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan.

(Steven King/Icon Sportswire)

*****

Derek Falvey is enjoying the best of both worlds during the World Series.

Falvey is the Indians’ assistant general manager and has a chance to win a championship ring. Once the Series is over, Falvey will begin work in the Minnesota Twins’ newly-created position of executive vice president and chief baseball officer.

While the Twins announced the move Oct. 3, they allowed Falvey to remain with the Indians through the postseason. They will not hold an introductory press conference until the World Series is over.

“It just didn’t feel right to leave the Indians while we were still playing,” Falvey said. “I’m really excited about getting started with the Twins. It’s going to be hard to leave the Indians because we are really like a family here but there a lot of good people in Minnesota and it’s a great franchise. I’m honored to have the opportunity.”

While Falvey understandably doesn’t want to talk about the Twins’ situation with the Indians still alive, it is obvious he will look to upgrade a pitching staff that finished last in the AL with a 5.08 ERA.

Falvey also reportedly will hire Texas Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine as GM. An executive from another AL club thinks Levine would be a great addition.

“You’d be bringing two of the sharpest assistant GMs to a franchise that needs to make some changes,” the executive said. “That would be quite a duo, a real coup for the Twins to hire them both.”

*****

Despite his team’s 78-83 record this season, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is in no danger of being fired anytime soon. He led the franchise to three consecutive playoff berths from 2013-15 following a streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons.

The 59-year-old also has given no indications that he is contemplating retirement despite having replacement surgery on both hips in recent years.

However, it appears the Pirates might have put a line of succession in place Saturday by promoting Tom Prince and Joey Cora to the major league coaching staff. Prince was the organization’s minor league field coordinator and Cora was the manager at Double-A Altoona.

Prince managed in the Pirates’ farm system for 11 seasons form 2005-15. Cora was Ozzie Guillen’s bench coach when the Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005.

“You never know what might happen, but I could see either one of them eventually becoming the manager when that days comes,” a Pirates’ person said. “They are both very well-regarded.”

*****

Hank Aaron is 82 years old and been retired from the major leagues in 1976 when he then held the all-time home run record with 755.

However, don’t accuse Aaron of living in the past like so many former players. He believes the game and those who play it are better than ever.

“I think the state of baseball is in good hands,” Aaron said. “Let me tell you a story. I was talking to Willie Mays about three weeks ago. I told Willie, I said, ‘Willie, you and I would probably be in the minor leagues compared to these guys.’ I said, ‘Hell, we couldn’t keep up with them the way they’re playing.’

“It tickles me. It makes me feel good when I can see these kids. I saw (the Cubs’ Javier Baez) make a play at second base against the Dodgers, and the only person I think that could have made that play was Red Schoendienst with the Cardinals.

“I think the game is in good shape. I think these kids are playing well. I can stay up and watch them play all night long, really.”

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John Lackey no stranger to big moments as World Series Game 4 looms

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CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 27: Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey (41) in action during workouts prior to game three of the 2016 World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs on October 27, 2016, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

CHICAGO — On his 24th birthday, John Lackey pitched in the most pressure-packed situation possible.

He started for the then-Anaheim Angels in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series and beat the San Francisco Giants, allowing one run in five innings. That remains the only world championship in franchise history.

Lackey has gone on to pitch in 25 postseason games, 22 of which have been starts, and has an 8-5 record with a 3.26 ERA. That includes being the winning pitcher in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series when the Boston Red Sox closed out the St. Louis Cardinals.

So while the atmosphere figures to be electric again at Wrigley Field on Saturday night when Lackey starts for the Chicago Cubs against the Cleveland Indians and ace Corey Kluber in Game 4 of the World Series, the 38-year-old will know how to handle the situation.

The Indians hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series after winning 1-0 on Friday night at Game 3.

“Once you’ve done it, you know you can do it,” Lackey said of succeeding in big games. “So I guess there’s a lot of guys this time of year that are hoping to do it. But once you’ve actually done it before, I guess, it makes it a little bit easier. No matter what happens, nobody can say, ‘I can’t win the big one.’ So that’s kind of comforting.”

Lackey admits that this start will be different than the others he has made in October. The Cubs are in the World Series for the first time since 1945 and are trying to win their first Fall Classic since 1908.

“It’s a little magnified, I’m sure, with the history and the time there has been since there’s been World Series games here,” Lackey said. “Just driving into the ballpark, trying to get to the players’ parking lot is an experience. There’s a lot of people out there. It’s really cool.

“This is why you play the game. This is why I’m still playing at this stage of my career at this age. I’m trying to win championships and trying to be a part of something special.”

After signing with the Cubs as a free agent in the offseason, Lackey went 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA in 29 regular-season starts. He has started twice in this postseason, not factoring in a decision either time while compiling a 5.63 ERA.

He last pitched Oct. 19 against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, meaning he will have eight days off between starts.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 19: Chicago Cubs Starting pitcher John Lackey (41) throws a pitch during game four of the National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 19, 2016, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

“It’s kind of been a crazy schedule for me, for sure,” Lackey said. “I feel like I’m pitching an every-two- weeks-kind of deal but I’ve thrown a little more on the side, off the mound, trying to stay sharp. Once you get into the game, you kind of fall back on the things you’ve been doing all season, and hopefully you do execute.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon believes Lackey is ready to turn in a big performance despite pitching a total of eight innings in his two starts in this postseason.

“I really anticipate John’s going to pitch well,” Maddon said.  “I know he’s going to be prepared for it. He’s come out relatively early in the last two, so I know that he’s well and strong.”

Kluber will be pitching on three days’ rest for just the second time in his six-year career. He also did it on Oct. 18 in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, taking the loss as he allowed two run in five innings.

While Kluber had never pitched on short rest until this month, he said doing so does not cause a major change to his routine.

“It’s just basically doing the same stuff in one less day,” Kluber said. “The sides are a little shorter and things like that, but still able to get in the things I need to get in in between starts. I don’t really feel like the last time I did that it made a big difference in the way I felt the day I pitched.”

Kluber is 3-1 with a 0.74 ERA in four starts during the postseason after going 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA in 32 regular-season starts.

Indians manager Terry Francona said Kluber was worried his legs might get tired quickly when he made the start against the Blue Jays but that didn’t happen.

“He was laughing about it after and said, ‘You know, I was trying to be so conscious of my legs,’ and he goes, ‘I looked up, and my stuff was exactly the same,’” Francona said. “In other words, I think he understands now that it was probably mental and that I think he’ll have a lot more sense of being able to be himself going into this start than he did the first time. And I thought the first time he did just fine.”

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Coco Crisp provides exactly what Indians hoped

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CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28: Cleveland Indians left fielder Coco Crisp (4) hits a single RBI during the seventh inning of the 2016 World Series Game 3 between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs on October 28, 2016, at the Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. Indians won 1-0. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

CHICAGO — Moments like this are why the Cleveland Indians traded for Coco Crisp.

Scoreless game. Top of the seventh inning. Runners on the corners. One out.

Manager Terry Francona sent Crisp to the plate to pinch-hit for left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, and the veteran outfielder delivered with an RBI single off reliever Carl Edwards Jr. to plate the game’s only run as the Indians slipped by the Chicago Cubs, 1-0, on Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series at Wrigley Field.

Crisp put the underdog Indians ahead 2-1 in the best-of-seven series and ruined a festive day in the Windy City. The party started before noon as Wrigley played host to its first World Series game since 1945.

“It obviously feels good,” Crisp said. “No matter if you get the big hit or lay the bunt down, you want to do something that can possibly help the team. Fortunately enough for me today, it was the hit, but whatever I can do, defense, maybe a conversation and just try to help out in any way possible.”

The Indians knew they needed to acquire an outfielder because Abraham Almonte wound be ineligible to play in the postseason after being suspended for 80 days to begin the season for violating Major League Baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

They traded for Crisp on Aug. 31 and he hit .208 with two home runs and three stolen bases in 20 games while won their first American League Central title since 2007.

Crisp is just 4-for-19 (.211) in the postseason but most of his hits have been important. He belted home runs in Indians’ series-clinching victories in Game 3 of the American League Division Series over the Boston Red Sox and Game 5 of the American League Championship Series over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Two days away from his 37th birthday, Crisp delivered the game-winning hit in his first World Series plate appearance since 2007 when he played a hand in the Boston Red Sox sweeping the Colorado Rockies.

Cleveland Indians' Coco Crisp hits a RBI-single against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning of Game 3 of the Major League Baseball World Series Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Cleveland Indians’ Coco Crisp hits a RBI-single against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning of Game 3 of the Major League Baseball World Series Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Francona held the same job then with the Red Sox. Thus, he was on board when Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonelli and general manager Mike Chernoff informed him in late August that they had an opportunity to deal for Crisp.

“He’s got a ton of playoff experience, and our club, we don’t have a ton,” said Francona of Crisp, who has appeared in 39 postseason games spread over six years. “It’s a switch-hitting bat that knows how to play the game, can run the bases. Certainly, the big spotlight is not going to get in his way, as he showed tonight, and he’s showed a lot of times with us.”

When Crisp was announced as the pinch-hitter, Cubs manager Joe Maddon had a choice between sticking with Edwards or calling on left-hander Mike Montgomery, in which case Francona almost certainly would have counted with right-handed hitting outfielder Brandon Guyer.

Guyer raked lefties during the regular season, hitting .336 with six home runs in 157 plate appearances.

“Just talking it through, we liked that match-up,” Maddon said. “That’s it. So, it’s one or the other. You have to pick your poison right there. It just didn’t work out. But that’s what we knew, and we chose that and he got a hit.”

Crisp’s RBI single turned out to be all the Indians needed, even on a night when the infamous wind was blowing out at Wrigley Field, as Josh Tomlin, Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen combined on a five-hit shutout. Miller got credit for the win and Allen notched the save.

“Not after BP,” Crisp said with a smile when asked if he anticipated a 1-0 under the conditions. “We’re out there and the balls were flying all over the place. I even hit a few out. So I didn’t think that. I thought it might be a little higher-scoring game. But on both sides, the pitchers did an amazing job tonight, and we just end up getting the victory because of the one run. But what a well-pitched game.”

Now the Indians are two wins away from their first World Series title since 1948. Not as long as the Cubs’ drought, which stretches to 1908, but pretty long.

While Crisp already has one World Series ring, he’d loved to add a second with the Indians. He made his major league debut with Cleveland in 2002, so long ago that it came right after he was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in a trade for left-hander Chuck Finley.

Finley retired after that season. Fourteen years later, Crisp is back with the Indians.

“We had some amazing players and amazing teams back then,” Crisp said. “I thought we might have had an opportunity to make a run like this, and we fell short, and I ended up getting traded and kind of moved on.

“I have a lot of love for this franchise and the fans in Cleveland. They’ve treated me so well the first time I was here and treating me well this time around as well. Everybody has a lot of love for the first club that they break in with. Being able to ride the wave that these guys started and being a part of this franchise at this time of the year is truly a blessing.”

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Rumors & Rumblings: Indians take gamble on Santana in left

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24 October 2016: Cleveland Indians Designated hitter Carlos Santana (41) walks in from the outfield after shagging fly balls during workouts in preparation for the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

CHICAGO — Seemingly every move Terry Francona has made in this postseason has worked out.

Yet the Cleveland Indians manager’s latest idea has raised some eyebrows. Designated hitter/first baseman Carlos Santana is scheduled to start in left field Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Santana has appeared in only one game and played four innings in left field during his seven-year career. Yet with the DH rule not in effect in a National League park, Francona wants to keep Santana in the lineup.

“It’s no big secret, we’re trying to balance scoring more runs than them,” Francona said. “He’s a big part of our offense.”

Santana’s 31 home runs in the regular season tied first baseman Mike Napoli for the team lead.

Napoli has played 11 games in left field during his 11-year career, all last season with the Texas Rangers. He respectfully declined when Francona asked if would play left field at Wrigley, believing he would hurt the team with his defense.

Santana, though, is willing to give left field a try, just as he was open to playing third base at the start of the 2014 season. That experiment ended after he made six errors in 26 games.

Santana also reached the major leagues as a catcher in 2010 but has not seen any action behind the plate during the last two seasons.

While has shown versatility during his seven-year career, he has been a slightly-below-average defensive player overall with minus-3 defensive runs saved in his career.

“If he messes up a ball out there, you can blame me,” Francona said.

With the weather forecast calling for a windy night, the possibility of Santana misplaying a ball seems greater.

“I give Tito credit for creativity but I don’t know about this one,” a scout from an American League team said. “There’s an old expression in baseball — the ball will eventually find you. Well, you can count on the ball finding Santana at least once. We’ll see what happens.”

*****

Game 3 will mark the first time a World Series game has been played at Wrigley since the Detroit Tigers beat the Cubs in Game 7 in 1945.

Having the opportunity to end the Cubs’ World Series drought was part of the allure for Joe Maddon to leave the Tampa Bay Rays following the 2014 season. A five-year, $25 million contract, of course, didn’t hurt.

22 October 2016: Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester (34) and Chicago Cubs third baseman Javier Baez (9) receive Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) waves to fans after their victory for the National League Championship between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

Having the chance to call Wrigley Field home also played a factor. After two seasons in Chicago, Maddon has fallen even more in love with the 102-year-old facility, especially with it situated in the Wrigleyville neighborhood.

“I remember going to Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium (in Philadelphia), when I was a kid with my dad and my mom. I felt more neighborhood-esque,” Maddon said. “I love the new downtown ballparks. I love when the venue is situated in a vibrant part of the urban setting. I think that really matters a lot, and I think obviously that it can help reestablish an urban setting in a particular market.

“Then I drive down Clark every day from Downtown, and as you get closer, you see all the venues that support all this, and also the people milling around. Anyplace I’ve been, I haven’t seen that with any ballpark to that level. So its enormity in its entirety, it’s just different, but to have actual living spaces surrounding the ballpark is pretty cool.”

*****

The Indians’ first appearance in the World Series since 1997 has again brought up criticism about the franchise’s continued use of the “Chief Wahoo” logo, which depicts a smiling Native American with a large nose and big teeth.

“The Chief” has been relegated to the team’s alternate logo over the last three years as the Indians have replaced it with a block C. However, some groups feel the logo should be completely abolished.

Manfred said he plans to meet with Indians owner Paul Dolan to discuss use of the logo.

“I understand that that particular logo is offensive to some people, and all of us at Major League Baseball understand why,” Manfred said.

Conversely, Manfred said that he also understands the attachment that Indians’ fan have to the logo.

*****

While the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Manager of the Year Awards for both leagues won’t be revealed until next month, the Washington Nationals’ Dusty Baker has been named the winner of the 2016 Chuck Tanner MLB Manager of the Year Award by the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh.

Baker will be honored at the 10th annual Chuck Tanner Awards Banquet, which will be held Nov. 12 at The Rivers Club in Pittsburgh.

Baker led the Nationals to a 95-67 record and the National League East title during his first season in Washington, a 12-win improvement over their 2015 mark. The Nationals lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series.

Baker has managed in the major leagues for 21 seasons, compiling a 840-715 record with the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Nationals.

“There were several outstanding candidates for the award this year, and the committee was very impressed by the improvement that Dusty Baker brought to the Washington Nationals from last year to this year,” said baseball author Sam Reich of the Tanner Selection Committee. “The committee also takes into account career achievement and, of course, Dusty rates very highly in that regard as well.”

The post Rumors & Rumblings: Indians take gamble on Santana in left appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

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Tomlin will have special fan on hand for Game 3 start

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DCT161024010_Cubs_Indians_Workouts.jpg

CHICAGO — The emotions figure to be running exceptionally high Saturday night.

When the Chicago Cubs host the Cleveland Indians in Game 3 of the World Series at Wrigley Field, it will mark the first Fall Classic game played at the century-old park since 1945. Cubs fans have waited 71 years — more than a lifetime for many of them — to witness the moment.

However, it will be also an emotional game for Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin, who will start against Cubs right-hander and major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks with the best-of-seven series tied at 1-1.

Tomlin’s father, Jerry, had a major health scare two months ago. Though wheelchair bound, Jerry Tomlin will be at Wrigley Field to see his son pitch in his first-ever World Series game.

“It means a lot that he’s going to be here,” Tomlin said during Thursday’s off day when both teams worked out at Wrigley Field. “He hasn’t been to a game in quite a while, and it wasn’t looking like he was going to get to come to a game at all. So, to have him here and just to be able to see him is the thing I’m most looking forward to. The fact that we get to experience the World Series together is pretty neat.”

Jerry Tomlin, 57, fell ill in August while working at his job at a power plant in Whitehouse, Texas, experiencing severe stomach pains. He was taken to a hospital and doctors originally felt he would need to have his gall bladder removed.

However, when Tomlin’s body went numb, he underwent an MRI and was rushed into surgery, when he was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malfunction, a condition that affects blood circulation near the spine.

Jerry was released from a rehab facility on Oct. 19, which happened to be Josh’s 32nd birthday. Jerry is still wheelchair bound and doctors are unsure if he will ever be able to walk again.

While Jerry Tomlin was going through his medical ordeal, Josh Tomlin was having an awful August in which he went 0-5 with an 11.44 ERA in six starts. He was briefly removed from the rotation, then reinserted Sept. 14 and went 2-1 with a 1.85 in his last four regular-season starts.

Tomlin has gone 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA in two starts during his first postseason after compiling a 13-9 record and 4.40 ERA in 30 regular-seasons games, all but one a start.

OCT 15, 2016: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin (43) makes a pitch during the game against the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Cleveland defeated Toronto 2-1. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

(Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

Despite a fastball that has averaged 87.8 mph this season, Indians manager Terry Francona has no qualms about sending Tomlin to the mound on a historic night at the Friendly Confines.

“I just think he’s built to pitch good all the time,” Francona said. “When you get challenged, it feels good to send him to the mound. He’s going to compete, and he makes the opposing team beat him. Doesn’t walk people. You can’t run on him.

“Since he had a hiccup in August, he’s been pretty good. Kind of top of the league. He’s been one of the better pitchers in baseball.”

Hendricks has certainly been one of the best pitchers in the game this year. He was 16-8 with a 2.13 ERA in 31 games, including 30 starts, in the regular season and is 1-1 with a 1.65 ERA in the postseason.

In five career postseason starts, Hendricks has a 1-1 record and 2.88 ERA.

He won the clinching Game 6 over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series last Saturday, pitching 7.1 innings. Now, he will make another historic start.

“How often do you get these opportunities?” Hendricks said. “You dream of it as a kid. This is what you work all year long for. It’s not just me out there, like I said. We’ve got this group of guys, offense, the at-bats they were putting together in Game 2 were awesome to see. Hopefully they can stay hot, keep it rolling, get a lead.”

Like Tomlin, Cubs manager Joe Maddon will have a special person on hand. His 83-year-old mother, Albina, better known as Beanie, is making the trip from Hazleton, Pa.

“It’s going to be an absolute blast,” Maddon said. “It’s going to be great. I know that people have been waiting for this for a long time are going to savor it, and hopefully on our part we can do something to really make it even better.”

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Jason Kipnis puts fandom aside for World Series homecoming

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Cleveland Indians Second base Jason Kipnis (22) fields a ground ball during workouts in preparation for the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

CHICAGO — Jason Kipnis will get a chance to live out a lifelong dream Friday night.

The Chicago-area native will play in Game 3 of the World Series at Wrigley Field. It will be the first Fall Classic game at the venerable ballpark on the city’s North Side since 1945.

Kipnis will have plenty of family and friends in the stands. Yet they all be rooting against him when the Chicago Cubs host the Cleveland Indians with the best-of-seven series tied 1-1.

Kipnis is the Indians’ second baseman. On the other hand, his family and friends are die-hard Cubs’ fans, who are not switching allegiances now with their favorite team three wins away from winning its first World Series since 1908.

“I guess you can throw the blood is thicker than water thing out the window,” Kipnis said with a smile.

If the Cubs were playing any other team, he would be rooting for them after growing up idolizing Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg while being mesmerized by slugger Sammy Sosa’s home run feats and listening to the calls of legendary broadcaster Harry Caray.

Like all Cubs’ fans, Kipnis has had his heart broken many times over the years and believes the franchise is cursed.

“There’s not one part of me that doesn’t wish this curse would keep going,” Kipnis said before both teams worked out Thursday.

Kipnis has spent his entire career in the Indians’ organization. He was selected in the second round of the 2009 amateur draft and made his major league debut two years later.

Thus, the 29-year-old has a good understanding of how Indians fans feel as they hope their team wins its first World Series title since 1948.

“They have the only drought that could make our drought look small,” he said. “They’ve got us by 40 years. Both franchises have been yearning for this championship, but it’s pretty neat one of them will come to an end.”

Kipnis was 16 in 2003 when the Cubs returned to Wrigley with a 3-2 lead over the Miami Marlins in the National League Championship Series.

The Cubs blew a 3-0 lead and lost Game 6 in part because fan Steve Bartman interfered with left fielder Moises Alou attempting to catch a foul ball. The Cubs then lost again in Game 7 the next night and the Marlins went on to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series.

While Kipnis does not know Bartman personally, they both graduated from Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Ill. They also lived close to each other 13 years ago and Kipnis vividly remembers police guarding Bartman’s house in the days following the NLCS loss.

Unlike some Cubs’ fans, Kipnis has never held any ill feelings toward Bartman.

“He didn’t deserve that,” Kipnis said of the fan backlash. “He never asked for all the stuff that probably happened to him afterward. I don’t think he deserved any of that. He was probably actually a pretty loyal fan and he wanted a ball, and it’s just the way events turns that turned him into this scapegoat.”

In fact, Kipnis would like to see the issue finally put to rest this weekend by Major League Baseball and the Cubs having Bartman throw out a ceremonial first pitch before one of the three games at Wrigley Field.

“The place would go nuts,” Kipnis said. “Absolutely nuts. It’d be crazy. I might even clap for him and I’m on the other team.”

And what would Kipnis say if he had a chance to meet Bartman.

“I’d tell him he should have caught the ball,” he said with a grin. “He made Glenbrook North look bad by dropping it.”

The post Jason Kipnis puts fandom aside for World Series homecoming appeared first on Todays Knuckleball.

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Bauer healthy but ineffective in taking Game 2 loss

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26 October 2016: Cleveland Indians Starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (47) delivers a pitch to the plate during the first inning of the 2016 World Series Game 2 between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Chicago defeated Cleveland 5-1. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

CLEVELAND — The most famous drone-related accident in professional sports did not bother Trevor Bauer this time.

The cut on the pinkie finger of the Cleveland Indians right-hander’s pitching hand didn’t reopen Wednesday night, but the bone-chilling cold and the Chicago Cubs’ lineup gave Bauer problems.

Bauer lasted just 3.2 innings and took the loss as the Cubs beat the Indians, 5-1, in Game 2 of the World Series at Progressive Field.

The Cubs evened the best-of-seven series at 1-1. Following an off-day Thursday, the series resumes Friday night with the first World Series game since 1945 at 102-year-old Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Bauer allowed two runs on six hits while walking two and striking out two. He needed 87 pitches to record 11 outs.

“They never let him settle into the game,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”

After being shut out 6-0 in Game 1, the Cubs scored a run in the top of the first inning as Kris Bryant hit a one-out single and scored on Anthony Rizzo’s double. Kyle Schwarber’s RBI double in the second made it 2-0.

That was enough to pin the Indians with the loss as Jake Arrieta, Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman combined on a four-hitter.

Bauer left his previous start after facing just four batters in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Oct. 17 when the 10 stitches on his cut reopened. He had injured the finger four days earlier while repairing a drone.

Though the Indians were privately furious with Bauer, Francona would not criticize him publicly following the accident. Again on Wednesday night, he treaded softly when asked about Bauer.

“I thought in the first inning Rizzo had a really good at-bat,” Francona said. “As a staff in general, we worked behind a lot tonight, a lot more than is helpful. I think some of their hitters deserve credit for that, also. They didn’t chase. They had a lot of deep counts.”

Seven Indians pitchers threw a combined 188 pitches, just 116 for strikes. Bauer threw 53 strikes in his 87 pitches.

Bauer has the reputation of being one of the brightest players in baseball but also possessing one of the more condescending personalities. He was not happy to have to face a second wave of reporters asking similar questions as the first wave after starting his post-game press conference before the media corps had been allowed into the clubhouse.

Thus, Bauer gave non-elaborative answers to most questions.

“I tried to follow a game plan and I didn’t do a good job of it,” Bauer said when asked about his performance.

October 26, 2016: Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (47) pitches during Game 2 of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. The Cubs defeated the Indians 5-1. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

(Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

Bauer did say that the finger injury was not the issue with his shaky first inning. Instead, it was the 43-degree temperature on a damp night on the shores of Lake Erie.

Bauer said he went into the indoor batting cages after the first inning and threw between 20-30 curveballs to get the feel for his signature pitch.

Francona confirmed before the game that the Indians will start ace right-hander Corey Kluber in Game 4 on Saturday night in Chicago on short rest. If the series goes the distance, he would also pitch a second time on three days’ rest in a winner-take-all Game 7 next Wednesday night at Progressive Field.

Kluber pitched six shutout innings to win Game 1 and is 3-1 with a 0.74 ERA in four postseason starts.

“We tried to look at our team and how we best set up, and what’s in our best interest to win four games before the Cubs do, and that’s how we came to this conclusion,” Francona said.

Bauer has one of the most unique workout routines of any pitcher in the big leagues and his arm strength is legendary. Though the 25-year-old has never pitched on short rest in his five-year career, Bauer is a possibility to come back and start Game 5 on Sunday night at Wrigley Field.

The Indians are missing right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who broke his pitching hand Sept. 17 when truck by a line drive off the bat of the Detroit Tigers’ Ian Kinsler.

Right-hander Danny Salazar has been ruled out as a starter, though he pitched one scoreless inning of relief Wednesday night in his first major league appearance since leaving his Sept. 9 start against the Minnesota Twins with forearm tendinitis.

Beyond Kluber, that leaves right-hander Josh Tomlin, who will start Game 3, as one of three Indians’ starting options. The others are Bauer and rookie left-hander Ryan Merritt, who has made two career major league starts.

Thus, Bauer could get the nod in Game 5.

“Trevor’s a guy that can pitch all the time,” Francona said.

Bauer will be ready.

“I’ll pitch whenever I’m needed,” he said.

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