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Indians bullpen throws 4 1/3 scoreless innings in World Series Game 3 win over Cubs

Indians bullpen throws 4 1/3 scoreless innings in World Series Game 3 win over Cubs

There were nine outs left in a scoreless contest on Friday night and Andrew Miller once again was pitching like The Terminator, striking out Cubs hitters at will.

But with his team desperate for a run and in a prime position to score, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona didn’t hesitate to pinch hit for his superstar reliever in the top of the seventh inning.

Not only did Francona and his coaches believe Coco Crisp would come through, they also had implicit trust in their rest of the bullpen. Crisp singled in a run and Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen rewarded the staff for their faith with three more scoreless innings to close out a 1-0 win over the Cubs in Game 3 of the World Series in front of 41,703 at Wrigley Field. The first World Series crowd at Wrigley in 71 years was treated to 4 1/3 scoreless innings by the Indians bullpen, which lowered its postseason earned-run average to 1.60 in 45 innings.

“It’s always tough to take (Miller) out, but we knew we had to score to win,” pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. “That’s the right move every time. And we trust Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen and Dan Otero to get the job done.”

In the midst of what could be a record-setting postseason, Miller has dominated the headlines.

An outstanding pitcher in each of the last four regular seasons, Miller has almost reached mythical status this October as he churns out dominant performance after dominant performance.

He struck out three more batters on Friday to give him 27 in 15 scoreless innings, one shy of the all-time postseason mark established by Francisco Rodriguez in 2002.

But the July 31 acquisition of Miller from the New York Yankees wasn’t made to fulfill a massive hole in the bullpen. Rather, it was made to put an already strong bullpen over the top.

[RELATED: Indians push the right buttons while Cubs can't in Game 3 of World Series]

With Miller, Allen, Shaw and Otero, who had a career season in 2016, Cleveland’s bullpen finished the season with a 3.45 ERA, the fourth-lowest in the majors.

And the group has only improved in October.

“There’s all the trust in the world,” said starting pitcher Josh Tomlin, who handed over the keys after needing only 58 pitches to complete 4 2/3 scoreless innings. “Those guys have been done an unbelievable job since the regular season and they haven’t changed their routines, changed their plans, changed their attack. They’ve been doing that for a long time. For them to do it on the biggest stage is nothing new for us and we have that comfort in them.”

Comfort enough to turn to Shaw even though Miller -- who has a postseason strikeout rate of 49.1 percent -- had only thrown 17 pitches.

Pitching with a 1-0 lead after Crisp’s RBI single, Shaw retired Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras to start the seventh inning. Right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall then misplayed Jorge Soler’s fly ball down the line into a two-out triple. But Shaw escaped the jam as Javier Baez grounded out. Shaw also recorded the first two outs in the eighth inning and gave way to Allen after he gave up a single to Dexter Fowler. But Allen escaped that jam with a four-pitch strikeout of Kris Bryant.

The situation got a little hairy in the ninth for Allen after Anthony Rizzo led off with a single and a two-out error by Mike Napoli extended the inning and led to two Cubs runners in scoring position. But Allen rebounded after he fell behind Baez 2-1 in the count to strike him out and give the Indians their second win in three Series games.

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The performance gave the Indians a 4-0 postseason record with seven saves in eight tries. The group has struck out 60 batters in 45 innings with only 34 hits and 15 walks allowed.

“I think they’re all built from the same mold,” Callaway said. “They’ve all had to go through something pretty tough in their careers. And they’re stepping up like there’s no pressure on them.”

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

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USA TODAY

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

The last three games have been more than forgettable for the Cubs.

From Wednesday’s 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Phillies to back-to-back walk-off losses on Thursday and Friday, the Cubs’ current road trip has looked much like those that preceded it. At various times, the offense has scuffled, the rotation has pitched a clunker and the bullpen has cracked.

The solution to the latest road trip woes? Give the ball to Jon Lester and get the hell out of the way.

Lester —  who pitched a clunker himself Aug. 6 against the A’s — did what the Cubs have become so accustomed to see him do over the past four seasons. The 35-year-old tossed 6+ shutout innings, allowing just four hits, leading the Cubs to a 2-0 win.

Lester had no room for error on Saturday, as the Cubs offense went hitless for the first 4 1/3 innings. While the Cubs bats were asleep, the Pirates threatened to break the game on open multiple times, loading the bases with one out (first inning), no outs (fifth) and getting runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth.

The latter two of those instances were assisted by errors by third baseman Kris Bryant, but that’s neither here nor there. Point being, with how the Cubs looked offensively, any Pirates runs could have proved critical on Saturday. Instead, Lester worked out of every jam, stymying the Pirates bats to an 0-for-12 line with RISP.

Winning Saturday’s game was obviously important for the Cubs, as it puts them a game ahead of the Cardinals in the win column (pending the outcome of St. Louis's game against the Reds later Saturday). But it was equally important for Lester, who called himself the “weakest link” in the Cubs starting rotation after that tough outing against the A’s.

The beautiful thing about baseball is that the regular season is 162 games long. Each day presents teams with a new slate, a chance to forget about what happened in the previous game and move forward.  If Saturday’s start shows anything, it’s that Lester and the Cubs are more than capable of putting a tough game in the rearview mirror and keep moving forward.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

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NBC Sports Chicago

Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, we get to know Kelly Crull. Kelly tells Luke Stuckmeyer about her love of bowling growing up, why she became a reporter and some of her favorite moments covering the Cubs.

01:00 Kelly's love of tennis at an early age

04:00 Following basketball while growing up in Indiana

06:00 Possible tennis showdown between Kelly and Megan Mawicke

09:30 Kelly talks about working in London & interviewing J.K. Rowling

14:00 When did she decide to become a reporter?

15:00 What is her favorite food?

16:00 Kelly's go-to karaoke song

18:00 Kelly's favorite NBA story (it involves Kevin Durant)

21:00 Favorite moments covering the Cubs

24:00 Dealing with the weather at Wrigley Field

28:00 Something we don't know about Kelly

31:00 What does Kelly enjoy watching at home the most?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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