CHICAGO (AP) — One more win and baseball fans everywhere might finally believe in these Cleveland Indians.
That’s all it will take for Corey Kluber & Co. to clinch this World Series.
Kluber pitched six sparkling innings on short rest for another win, Jason Kipnis hit a three-run homer in his hometown and the Indians beat the Chicago Cubs 7-2 Saturday night to take a 3-1 lead.
Carlos Santana also connected for the first of his three hits as Cleveland moved closer to its first championship since 1948. Trevor Bauer gets the ball Sunday night at Wrigley Field in Game 5 when the Indians try for the franchise’s third World Series title against Jon Lester and the faltering Cubs.
“I think we like the position we’re in, but the task isn’t done yet,” Kluber said. “We still have one more game to win, and we’re going to show up tomorrow and play with the same sense of urgency we’ve played with until this point. We don’t want to let them build up any momentum and let them get back in the series.”
Still, not bad for a team that seemed like an underdog all year long. Manager Terry Francona’s club beat the defending champion Royals and star-studded Tigers for the AL Central title, and then eliminated David Ortiz and the Red Sox and the heavy-hitting Blue Jays on their way to the AL pennant.
Then much of the talk centered on the major league-leading Cubs and their 108-year championship drought. But it’s been mostly Indians once more as they moved to 10-2 in this postseason. They did it with Francona pushing all the right buttons while he improved to 11-1 in the World Series.
The Indians now will try to bring another crown to Cleveland, adding to the one LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned earlier this year.
Dexter Fowler doubled and scored in the first for the Cubs, and then homered against Andrew Miller in the eighth. Fowler’s drive to left-center was the first homer for Chicago in the World Series since Phil Cavaretta connected in Game 1 in 1945 and the first run allowed by Miller during his dominant postseason.
In between Fowler’s two hits, the Cubs came up empty every time they had a chance to put any pressure on Cleveland.
“So we made mistakes. Absolutely, we made mistakes tonight,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That was part of it. But then again, we just have to do more offensively to give ourselves a chance.”
The Indians won for the second straight day at Wrigley — those two wins matched the Cubs’ entire total of World Series victories in more than a century of playing at their famed ballpark.
“They’re obviously doing something right, taking advantage of our mistakes and my mistakes,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said.
Pitching on three days’ rest for the second time, Kluber allowed five hits, struck out six and walked one. The steady, stoic right-hander, who struck out nine in a dominant performance in Game 1, improved to 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA in five playoff starts this year.
Francona put Santana at first after starting him in left in Game 3, and Mike Napoli was out of the starting lineup for the time in the playoffs. And just like the rest of October, the decision worked out quite well for Francona and the Indians.
Santana led off the second with a drive to right against John Lackey, tying it at 1. Santana’s third homer of the playoffs silenced the crowd of 41,706, and the Indians seized the momentum from there.
Two throwing errors on Bryant, including one on Kluber’s infield single, led to an unearned run that put Cleveland ahead to stay. Francisco Lindor singled in Kipnis in the third, Lonnie Chisenhall added a sacrifice fly in the sixth and Kipnis’ second playoff homer made it 7-1 in the seventh.
“There are certain times you know when you take the crowd out of it,” Kipnis said. “You know in the game a late-inning home run, a crooked number can do that. It was a big swing and it meant a lot to me and meant a lot to this team and gave us some cushion to work with.”
Kipnis, who grew up a Cubs fan on the north side of Chicago, finished with three hits and scored two runs.
Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward made his first start of the World Series and responded with two hits. The 27-year-old Heyward, who signed a $184 million, eight-year contract with Chicago last winter, was just 2 for 31 in 12 playoff games coming into the night.
Indians: Bauer lasted just 3 2/3 innings in Game 2, allowing two runs and six hits. The right-hander had a career-best 12 wins during the regular season, but is 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in three playoff starts.
Cubs: Lester dropped to 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA in four career World Series starts when he allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings in the opener Tuesday night. The left-hander was the co-MVP of the NL Championship Series, going 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.