Andrew Miller, Coco Crisp Deliver Again For Indians
Andrew Miller was the ALCS MVP (Photo by Diamond Images) CHICAGO—One was acquired in a blockbuster trade, one in a deal that went virtually unnoticed. But Coco Crisp and Andrew Miller are playing important roles again and again in the postseason for the Indians.
Crisp, acquired from the Athletics on Aug. 31—after he passed through waivers unclaimed—in exchange for 31-year old minor league righthander Colt Hynes, delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in the top of the seventh inning to break a scoreless tie and lift the Indians to a 1-0 victory over the Cubs on Friday night in Game Three of the World Series, spoiling Chicago’s first Fall Classic contest at Wrigley Field since 1945.
Crisp’s knock put the Indians up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series and came as a pinch-hitter for Miller, who earned the win after delivering yet another scoreless outing in the postseason, this time 1 1/3 frames with three strikeouts.
"It obviously feels good,” Crisp said. "No matter if you get the big hit or get the bunt down you want to do something that could possibly help the team and fortunately for me today it was the hit."
It was the latest in a series of big postseason hits for Crisp. The veteran outfielder delivered a key two-run homer in the clinching Game 3 of the ALDS in Boston. He hit a backbreaking solo home run in the clinching Game 5 of the ALCS in Toronto.
And his latest, a first-pitch line drive off Carl Edwards Jr. into right field to score pinch-runner Michael Martinez from third base, was just his fourth hit in 24 plate appearances this postseason, but all have come at the right time.
"He’s done that all year,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Lot of it was with Oakland. Getting him was under the radar, but not in our clubhouse.”
Dominant pitching and a little small ball set the stage for Crisp’s heroics. Josh Tomlin, Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen combined for a five-hit shutout, the fifth shutout in 11 postseason games for the Tribe, a new playoff record.
Tomlin didn’t throw a single pitch harder than 90.4 mph but allowed only three baserunners in 4 2/3 scoreless innings before Francona surprisingly pulled him after 58 pitches with the go-ahead run on second base. Miller came in and got pinch-hitter Miguel Montero to line out to right to end the threat.
"I wasn’t surprised at all I got pulled there,” Tomlin said. "The bullpen has been lights out for us all year long and the situation we’re in now, pinch-hitter coming up, that was our best option.”
It was vintage Miller after that. The ALCS MVP struck out the side on 13 pitches in the sixth, setting the stage for Indians to take the lead in the top of the seventh with some classic run-manufacturing.
Game One hero Roberto Perez led off the seventh with a single. A sacrifice bunt by Tyler Naquin and wild pitch moved the pinch-runner Martinez to third, and Crisp delivered the tiebreaking single off Edwards.
"Cleveland against the world, that’s our motto,” said Crisp, who began his major league career with the Indians from 2002-05. "Coming here and seeing all the blue in the stands, the support for the Cubs is worldwide, so coming in here and getting one tonight was big for us.”
Shaw and Allen finished it. Shaw retired the side in the seventh and got the first two outs of the eighth with ease before being pulled in favor of Allen after surrendering a two-out single to Dexter Fowler.
Allen took care of the rest, albeit not without some drama. He struck out Kris Bryant swinging at a knuckle-curve in the dirt to end the eighth, but in the ninth allowed a leadoff single to Anthony Rizzo and had to work around an error by first baseman Mike Napoli that put runners on the corners with two outs. Jason Heyward took second on defensive indifference, putting the winning run on second.
Allen didn’t flinch, getting ahead on an 0-1 count with Baez and striking him out swinging on a 2-2 fastball at his eyes to put the Indians two wins away from their first World Series title since 1948.
"We weren’t going to give into him,” Allen said. "You don’t want to load the bases on a situation like that so you got to shorten the plate with him and make sure you get ahead. We were going to go after him but also be careful, so (catcher) Yan (Gomes) and I had a game plan and stuck with it.”
The Cubs staff held their own in respect to their counterparts.
Cubs righthander and National League regular season ERA leader Kyle Hendricks started out strong enough, getting through four scoreless innings with six strikeouts despite not throwing a pitch harder than 89.8 mph, per Statcast.
His run of success ended in the fifth, however, as his control left him. Hendricks allowed a leadoff single to Tyler Naquin and walked Carlos Santana and hit Jason Kipnis back-to-back, ending his night as Justin Grimm was summoned in to escape the bases-loaded, one-out jam.
Grimm got the job done, inducing Francisco Lindor to ground into the inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play on a full count curveball to keep the contest scoreless.
It was that kind of night for the Cubs pitching staff, which worked out of jams throughout the evening to strand seven Indians baserunners. Even with Crisp’s decisive single, the Cubs have allowed only two runs in the last 18 innings of the Series.
That just wasn’t enough against an Indians staff on historic run.
"That's a good ol' National League game right there,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "But, yeah, they did their thing. They all came and pitched. I liked a lot of the matchups. We just, from our perspective, we got out of the zone way too much. We've got to get our strike zone organized again for tomorrow night's game. I thought our guys were ready to play tonight. They had a good vibe about them. We just failed to stay within our strike zones.”
Still, the Cubs were in position to win but couldn’t get the timely hit that Crisp ultimately delivered, making him already more than worth the price the Indians paid for him in August.
"He’s got a ton of playoff experience,” Francona said. "That’s something we don’t have a lot of. The bigger spotlight isn’t going to get in his way.”