Rizzo drives in Bryant with Game 2's first run as Chicago knots Series
By Barry M. Bloom
CLEVELAND -- The Cubs needed Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to step up Wednesday night in Game 2 of the World Series at Progressive Field against Indians starter Trevor Bauer, and they did just that.
Fresh off a combined 0-for-7 in Game 1 against Corey Kluber and the Tribe's bullpen in what is shaping up to be an epic best-of-seven Series, Bryzzo struck in the top of the first inning, setting the stage for a 5-1 Cubs victory that sent the Series back to Wrigley Field on Friday tied at a game apiece.
Ben Zobrist followed their lead and had a run-scoring triple in a three-run fifth as the Cubs mounted a 5-0 advantage that never was challenged. Zobrist was 2-for-4 and is 5-for-8 in the first two games.
"I'm seeing the ball pretty good," Zobrist said. "I've been able to hit some line drives. Sometimes they fall in and sometimes they don't and they've been falling the first two games."
Rizzo also walked twice and both times scored key runs. The second walk in the fifth came as a result of a tough 10-pitch at-bat against Cleveland reliever Zach McAllister. Zobrist followed with his triple into the right-field corner, chasing Rizzo home.
"The Bryzzo combination is huge for us," said Zobrist, who batted fourth behind the pair of youngsters in the first two games. "Those two guys are the biggest cogs in our lineup. When those guys swing the bats, it really gives the rest of us confidence. You know some guys are going to get big hits for you. Sometimes you can take it granted.
"But for them to do that in the first inning and get us going I think did a lot for our confidence."
Bauer was coming off an injury to the pinkie finger on his throwing hand and lasted just two-thirds of an inning in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Blue Jays because the wound opened and he began to bleed profusely.
That didn't happen on Wednesday, but the right-hander still couldn't make it out of the fourth. The Cubs worked him hard and he threw 51 pitches by the end of the second.
Of the five pitches Bauer throws, his most effective is his curve. Opposing hitters batted .126 against that particular Bauer pitch this season.
Rizzo is most susceptible to the curveball and batted .169 against it with just three homers. Bryant, a dead four-seamed fastball hitter with a .329 average against that pitch, can be beaten by the change and is a .228 hitter against the curve.
It's no wonder that with one out in the first, Bauer threw Bryant a combination of curves and changeups and never went to his fastball.
The first two curves were taken out of the strike zone, and the next two changeups evened the count against Bryant at 2-2. It was a third changeup that Bryant smacked on a line into center for the opening hit.
"I wasn't expecting it," Bryant said. "I was fortunate to see a few earlier in the at-bat and see how it moved. That first at-bat is crucial and he threw pretty much every pitch he had. It's nice to be able to gather all the information you have. For me to get my first knock out of the way, it felt nice."
Bauer threw seven pitches to Rizzo and four of them were an array of two and four-seam fastball. His two curves bounced in the dirt and Rizzo took them for balls.
On another 2-2 pitch, Bauer fed Rizzo a two-seamer that he lined to right for the triple that scored Bryant.
"I thought, in the first inning, Rizzo had a really good at-bat," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "As a staff in general, we worked behind a lot tonight; a lot more than is helpful. I think some of their hitters deserve credit for that, also. They didn't chase. They had a lot of deep counts."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.