Chicago's Jake Arrieta was almost unhittable and the middle of theCubs lineup delivered at the plate in a 5-1 Game Two win over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday which leveled the best-of-seven World Series.
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Dazzling Cy Young winner Arrieta used his repertoire of fastballs, cutters, sinkers and sliders to baffle the Indians as he threw 5-1/3 innings of no-hit ball before Jason Kipnis doubled with one out in the sixth.
While Cubs manager Joe Maddon hailed his "great stuff", Arrieta said he had focused on throwing with less effort.
"I wanted to come out and pitch my game. I tried not to pitch with over-effort, trying to take my foot off the gas a little bit and throw some quality breaking stuff," said Arrieta.
"I was able to spin the ball in the zone, and in and out of the zone well and keep them off balance with the sinker pretty much all night."
Arrieta and relievers Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman combined on a four-hitter on a chilly night on the shores of Lake Erie to ensure the Cubs headed back to Chicago for the next three games with the series all square.
Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber, the numbers three through five hitters in Chicago's lineup, combined for five hits, four runs scored and four runs batted in after the hard-hitting Cubs were blanked 6-0 in Game One in Cleveland.
In contrast to the overpowering pitching from the Cubs, Cleveland used six relievers after removing starter Trevor Bauer in the fourth. The seven Indians pitchers issued a combined nine hits and eight walks with the normally reliable second baseman Kipnis making two errors.
"There was traffic all night," Indians manager Terry Francona said of all the baserunners for theCubs. "For us to win, we generally need to play a clean game and we didn’t do that."
After being shut out in the opener, the Cubs scored their first run of the World Series in the first inning.
Kris Bryant, who before the game received the National League Hank Aaron Award as most outstanding offensive player, stroked a one-out single and dashed around the bases to score when Anthony Rizzo followed with a double to right.
Chicago extended their lead to 2-0 after two outs in the third.
Rizzo fell behind 0-2 but worked a walk and Zobrist, who had three hits in Game One, singled up the middle.
Facing a 3-0 pitch from Bauer, slugger Kyle Schwarber was given the green light and drilled a single to center to score Rizzo and double Chicago's advantage.
The Cubs sent nine batters to the plate in a three-run fifth that broke the game open, with the middle of the lineup coming through again.
Rizzo walked and scored when Zobrist tripled into the right-field corner off Zach McAllister before Schwarber singled home Zobrist. The Cubs tacked on another run when Bryan Shaw walked Addison Russell with the bases loaded to make it 5-0.
Arrieta, who threw the only no-hitter in the majors this season, gave up Cleveland's lone run in the sixth, when his wild pitch scored Kipnis from third. After Mike Napoli singled for the second hit off him, the right-hander was lifted.
Montgomery went two scoreless innings and fireballing Chapman got the last four outs to secure Chicago's first World Series win since 1945.
With the Fall Classic shifting to Wrigley Field, the Cubs on Friday will host their first World Series game in 71 years with Kyle Hendricks taking the mound against Cleveland's Josh Tomlin.
(Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Steve Keating/Nick Mulvenney)