Athletics

Indians crush Cubs in Game 4, take commanding 3-1 World Series lead

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Indians crush Cubs in Game 4, take commanding 3-1 World Series lead

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- 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.

STEPPING UP:
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.

UP NEXT:
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.

Watch Khris Davis' three-run ninth-inning home run give A's tie in Japan

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Watch Khris Davis' three-run ninth-inning home run give A's tie in Japan

Bob Melvin has seen this before. Even in Japan, Khris Davis is clutch.

With two outs and the A's down 6-3 in the ninth inning, Davis smashed a three-run homer over the left field wall to tie it up at 6-6 at the Tokyo Dome. The exhibition against the Nippon Ham-Fighters prevents extra innings and ended in a tie. 

"I literally said, 'I've seen this happen before,'" A's manager Melvin said to reporters after the game. 

The tie ended the A's exhibition series against the Fighters before their Opening Series games start against the Mariners. Oakland won the first exhibition, 5-1.

Davis was the hero, but Matt Chapman was the A's best player once again in the tie. Chapman went 2-for-2 with a walk, and went 5-for-5 in the two exhibition games. 

[RELATED: Five A's players who were cut but still could make impact]

The A's first run of the game came off in the second inning. Stephen Piscotty smashed a solo shot to left field to give Oakland an early lead. 

Brett Anderson started on the hill where he allowed two unearned runs while striking out four. Shortstop Marcus Semien committed two errors on the day. 

The A's open the regular season against the Mariners in Tokyo on Wednesday morning at 2:35 a.m. PT.

Five A's players who could make impact in 2019 season despite being cut

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Five A's players who could make impact in 2019 season despite being cut

One of the biggest keys to the A's success last season was their depth, and not just at the major league level. Oakland got significant contributions from several players who started the season in the minors. Names like Lou Trivino, Ramón Laureano, Nick Martini, Mark Canha and countless others played crucial roles after earning call-ups.

The A's hope to receive similar production from their farm system this season. With that in mind, here are five spring training cuts who could make an impact later this year:

Dustin Fowler

Fowler put together a strong spring, batting .293 (12-for-41) with two home runs, four RBI, and two stolen bases. That followed a terrific season in Triple-A last year, where he slashed .341/.364/.520. He will likely be the first outfielder called up this year.

Fowler struggled at the major league level last season but his upside is enormous. Still just 24 years old, he has plenty of time to put it all together in Oakland. With his combination of power and speed and the A's uncertainty in left field, Fowler will likely get another big league opportunity sooner rather than later.

Daniel Mengden

Mengden has already proven he can retire major league hitters. He just has to do it consistently. Last season, the right-hander went 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, certainly respectable numbers in the American League.

Unfortunately for Mengden, the A's were granted a fourth minor league option and elected to use it in his case. The 26-year-old struggled a bit this spring, but with Oakland's questionable starting rotation, he will almost certainly get another chance in the coming months, or even weeks.

Tanner Anderson

The A's were very high on Anderson when they acquired him from the Pirates this offseason, and they're still high on him now, despite optioning him to Triple-A. The 25-year-old looked extremely sharp this spring, allowing just one earned run in nine innings, with 11 strikeouts.

Anderson has experience both as a starter and reliever, and the A's love his versatility. The right-hander could be a prime option as the second pitcher in "opener" games later in the season.

Jorge Mateo

Mateo has loads of natural ability but is still a bit raw at the plate. Still, the 23-year-old middle infielder is a dynamic talent with top-end speed and could be a tremendous weapon for the A's late in the season.

Mateo slashed just .230/.280/.353 last year in Triple-A but notched a league-leading 16 triples as well as 25 stolen bases. This spring, he went 5-for-18 with a double, triple, and three walks. At the very least, Mateo will be a valuable pinch-runner in September.

[RELATED: Mateo impresses A's in spring training]

Sean Murphy

Murphy is unquestionably the A's catcher of the future. The only question is when that future begins. Oakland appears set for now with Nick Hundley, Josh Phegley, and Chris Herrmann splitting time behind the plate, but Murphy will put pressure on all of them to perform.

MLB Pipeline ranks Murphy as the A's third-best prospect, behind only pitching phenoms Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk. Murphy is already MLB-ready defensively and his offensive production is improving rapidly. If he puts up big numbers in Triple-A, he could earn a promotion sometime this year.