Some botched fundamentals kept the Indians off of the scoreboard in the top of the tenth, while everything fell into place for the Cubs in the home half. Ian Happ opened the inning at second as the designated runner and moved to third on a single to left-center by Kris Bryant. Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked to set up the force at home. Maton struck out Willson Contreras on three straight and got Kyle Schwarber swinging for out number two. Maton got ahead of Baez on two fastballs, but his 0-2 curveball on the outside edge was yanked into shallow left field for the walk-off hit with Happ scoring the winning run.
The Indians, now 26-23, last lost eight straight in 2013. They are 3-2 in extra-inning games this season. The Cubs moved to 30-20 on the year after sweeping all four games of the season series from the Tribe.
“That was a hanging pitch right there,” said Indians interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. of the pitch to Baez. “I felt we should have stayed hard on him, maybe elevate. Maybe they had a different plan when they went out there. You don’t want to bounce it, but they didn’t do it. That’s a tough one right there. The guys battled…but we didn’t hit very good with men in scoring position today. It seems like that when we hit, we don’t pitch well and when we pitch well, we don’t hit. We’ve gotta keep grinding, man. I don’t know what else to say.”
The night’s original matchup pitted Chicago’s Jon Lester against Cleveland’s Aaron Civale. Lester had dominated the Tribe in his career and put up a good showing against them earlier in the season, while Civale was facing the Cubs for the first time in his career.
The night started with a manufactured run gift-wrapped by Lester. He walked the first batter of the game, Francisco Lindor, after missing on four straight cutters. Delino DeShields, moved up in the order after a good night at the plate in the series opener on Tuesday, dropped down a sacrifice that moved Lindor safely to second. Jose Ramirez drove a 2-1 pitch to right for a base hit to put runners on the corners. Carlos Santana lined the next pitch to short for the second out, but with the struggling Franmil Reyes at the plate, Lester missed on a curve low that skipped past the catcher Contreras, allowing Lindor to score and Ramirez to slide over into scoring position. Reyes worked the count to full before striking out swinging on the payoff pitch.
Civale got out of the first safely after a two-out single the opposite way by Rizzo, while Lester stranded Jordan Luplow at second after his leadoff double in the second as the bottom of the lineup was retired in order over the next nine pitches.
The Cubs evened things up in the bottom of the second against Civale. Schwarber drew a leadoff walk. A single by Baez moved him over to third, with Baez being thrown out at second trying to stretch his hit to two bases. Jason Heyward made it 1-1 with a single to center. An error at third by Ramirez kept the inning alive on a grounder by Cameron Maybin, but Civale worked out of the inning with runners on the corners as he got Nico Hoerner to ground into a double play around the horn.
Lester got the top of the order in order in the third, while Civale’s glove turned a double play after Happ’s leadoff single was erased on a lineout double play off of the bat of Bryant.
Lester got a double play of his own after Reyes ended his hitless skid with a one-out single to left-center in the fourth, but he was doubled up after Luplow lined to short.
The Cubs took the lead as the Indians’ mistakes in the fifth gave the home club extra chances. Contreras was hit by the second pitch of the frame. Schwarber struck out swinging. Baez grounded to short, where Lindor tried to start an inning-ending double play. His flip to Yu Chang forced Contreras, but Chang’s throw got past Santana and down the right field line, allowing Baez to move up to third. A walk to Heyward put runners on the corners and Maybin delivered an RBI-single to shallow left. Civale had more work to do after walking Hoerner to load the bases, but he got a big grounder by Happ to Santana at first to leave the bags full.
The Indians got the run back quickly in the top of the fifth. Oscar Mercado found a fastball over the plate and jolted it just over the left-center wall to tie the game at two.
Civale faced the minimum in the fifth and sixth innings, allowing just a leadoff hit by pitch of Bryant in the fifth before he was taken out on a double play grounder by Rizzo. The Indians drew two walks off of Ryan Tepera in relief in the sixth, but DeShields’ leadoff walk went away when he was picked off of first (the seventh time the Indians have been picked off of a base this season). Santana was stranded after his two-out free pass when Reyes was cut down swinging. Rowan Wick silenced the Tribe in a 1-2-3 seventh.
The Cubs threatened in the bottom of the inning, knocking out Civale. A Maybin single to start the inning and a double over the head of Mercado by Hoerner put two in scoring position and the Tribe in a jam. James Karinchak got the call from the bullpen and was solid in relief, striking out Happ and Bryant. Rizzo was intentionally walked to bring on the right-on-right matchup with Contreras, who grounded out to short as the Cubs left the bases full again.
The Indians were held in check in regulation, as Craig Kimbrel retired the side in order in the eighth and Jeremy Jeffress, a night after a blown save against Cleveland, worked around a leadoff single to right by Ramirez by striking out a pair and getting Tyler Naquin to ground out to short to end the inning. The Cubs were handled in the same innings by the Tribe bullpen as Oliver Perez and Cal Quantrill each pitched perfect innings in the eighth and ninth.
The Indians, starting with Naquin at second in the tenth, had an opportunity against Cubs reliever Jason Adam but could not deliver as was the case all night and for much of the year. Josh Naylor was walked to put two on. Mike Freeman pinch-hit for catcher Austin Hedges, but a bad bunt was fielded easily by Adam. He threw wildly to third, but a good reach from Bryant forced the lead runner. Two pitches later, Cesar Hernandez flied out to shallow center before Lindor struck out swinging in what proved to be the Tribe’s last hope on the night.
Civale avoided a loss, but the no-decision was still painful. He worked six-plus innings on the night, leaving after facing two batters in the seventh to record his tenth game of six innings or more on the year. He threw 107 pitches, his second-highest total this season, and was charged with two runs on seven hits with three walks, two hit batters, and three strikeouts.
“He didn’t command early,” said Alomar Jr., “but he managed to keep us in the game. He found a way to go to the seventh inning. Even though he threw 30 pitches in one inning, he went back out there. He wanted to go back and battle. Did a great job.”
Maton took the loss, allowing an unearned run on two hits with a walk and two strikeouts in a 14-pitch tenth before the game-winner from Baez.
Lester’s good luck against the Tribe continued in some regard. He only made it through five innings on the night, exiting after throwing just 34 of 62 pitches for strikes. He allowed two runs on four hits with a walk and a strikeout. The bullpen fired off five innings of one-hit shutout relief behind him, with Adam getting his second win of the season with his scoreless tenth.
Cleveland had just five hits on Wednesday after a stronger showing the night before. Ramirez had two of the hits. Mercado’s homer was his first of the year. Reyes struck out three times to go along with his single. The team combined for a 1-for-9 effort with runners in scoring position while leaving six.
The Cubs had nine hits on the night, with two each from Baez and Maybin. The club went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left eight, including the bases loaded twice.
The game was delayed for a period of time midway through as a drone hovered over the field of play and eventually landed on the edge of the warning track, forcing both clubs to be pulled from the field while waiting it out.
Prior to the game, the Indians optioned reliever Kyle Nelson to their alternate training site to make room on the roster for Hernandez’s return. Catcher Roberto Perez did not play to rest his sore side.
The Indians will pack up and head out of town quickly with Detroit the final destination on the team’s three-city road trip. The Clevelanders will begin a key four-game series with the Tigers in the last road games on the 2020 season slate.
Shane Bieber (7-1, 1.53 ERA) will look to get back into the win column in his first time out since suffering his first loss of the season. The Tigers will send out rookie right-hander Casey Mize (0-1, 5.85 ERA) for his first game against the Tribe and sixth start overall.
First pitch from Comerica Park is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET on Thursday.
Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images