CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Cleveland Indians moved within one victory of winning the World Series with a 7-2 rout of the Chicago Cubs on Saturday that gave them a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Fall Classic.
The Cubs, appearing in the World Series for the first time in 71 years and looking for their first title since 1908, were on the brink of elimination after a lackluster display in their second successive loss before a hushed Wrigley Field crowd.
The Indians were powered by home runs from Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis, and gifted with runs from some sloppy fielding and misfiring pitching. Kipnis and Santana had three hits each to pace Cleveland’s relentless 10-hit attack.
Ace Corey Kluber, the Game One winner, once again shut the door on the Cubs, holding them to one run in six innings of work for his second victory, putting the Indians in reach of their first championship triumph in 68 years.
The right-hander extended his outstanding postseason run to three earned runs in 30 1/3 innings for a 0.89 ERA.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona said he would not tinker with his team’s attitude or approach going into Sunday’s potential Series clincher.
“Nothing changes,” said Francona. “We’ll show up and try to beat a really good pitcher tomorrow and that’s what we always do.”
The Cubs gave their long suffering fans something to cheer about at the start, bouncing back from a 1-0 shutout loss in Game Three by getting on the scoreboard first.
Dexter Fowler led off the Cubs’ first with a double to left and came around to score on a single to center by Anthony Rizzo, who roared, “Let’s Go” as Wrigley rocked with thunderous noise.
The Indians, however, quickly responded.
Santana pulled a home run into the right-field bleachers leading off the second against starter and loser John Lackey and a pair of throwing errors by third baseman Kris Bryant led to another run for a 2-1 Cleveland lead.
Kipnis doubled leading off the third and scored on a single by Francisco Lindor to make it 3-1.
Cleveland added another run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Lonnie Chisenhall
In seventh, Game Three hero Coco Crisp, who drove in the only run of Friday’s win with a pinch-hit single, dropped a pinch-hit double into center that Dexter Fowler could not snare.
Crisp moved to third on a wild pitch and after Rajai Davis was hit by a pitch, they all trotted home ahead of Kipnis, who belted a three-run homer off Travis Wood, the fourth of five Chicago pitchers.
”We made mistakes. Absolutely, we made mistakes tonight,“ said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. ”That was part of it. But then again, we just have to do more offensively to give ourselves a chance.
“You’re going to make mistakes on occasion. You have to be able to play through the tough moments by doing something offensively, and we haven’t been able to do that.”
Fowler homered in the eighth for Chicago’s first round-tripper of the Series and one last cheer from disappointed Cubs fans who looked destined for another year of waiting for a championship.
The Cubs will try to avoid being swept out of the Series with a third straight loss at their venerable ball park when they send ace lefthander Jon Lester to the mound on Sunday against Trevor Bauer, Cleveland’s losing pitcher in Game Two.
Six teams have come back from 3-1 deficits to win the World Series, the last to succeed being the Kansas City Royals who overcame the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985.
Editing by Steve Keating