CLEVELAND — What Jake Arrieta did Wednesday night in terrible weather during Game 2 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians made little sense. He threw a first-pitch strike to only half the batters he faced. He fired 98 pitches in all, but only 55 were strikes.
Yet there he was at the start of the sixth inning, carrying the longest no-hit bid in a World Series game since the Mets’ Jerry Koosman in 1969. By the time Arrieta left the mound in the sixth, he had allowed only one run and two hits. In a slow-paced and sloppy game that nonetheless finished before the predicted heavy rain arrived, Arrieta guided the Chicago Cubs past the Indians at Progressive Field in a 5-1 slog of a win that lasted 4 hours 4 minutes. The series is tied at one game apiece, and it will shift to Chicago for Game 3 on Friday.
Arrieta overcame his early problems with command to neutralize the Indians’ lineup. “We didn’t realize he had a no-hitter until the fifth inning,” Cubs second baseman Javier Baez said.
The home team did little to help its cause, with the Indians’ starter, Trevor Bauer, lasting only three and two-thirds innings because of a ballooning pitch count.
The Indians committed two official errors and many more miscues. Two mistakes by right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall and an error by second baseman Jason Kipnis contributed to three Cubs runs. The normally stout Indians bullpen was not as sharp as it has been through the postseason.
The Cubs’ offense was powered by the veteran Ben Zobrist and by Kyle Schwarber, the 23-year-old hitting prodigy who was thrust into the lineup after missing six months because of knee surgery. Two days earlier, Schwarber was playing in front of 900 people in the Arizona Fall League. On Wednesday, he drove in two runs in front of 38,172 spectators, easily catching up to 93-mile-per-hour fastballs despite his long layoff.
“He should totally skip spring training next year,” his teammate Kris Bryant said of Schwarber.
The Cubs had a 2-0 lead in the third, but the game felt more lopsided. Indians Manager Terry Francona, who had never before lost a World Series game, began cycling through relievers in the fourth, and the Cubs padded their lead with a three-run fifth inning.
The Cubs tore through the regular season and reached the World Series for many reasons. They have one of the best defenses in recent memory and a lineup stuffed with talented young hitters. Most important, statistically they had the best starting rotation in baseball.
A year after winning the N.L.’s Cy Young Award, Arrieta was surpassed by his teammates Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Arrieta struck out fewer batters and walked more than he had in 2015, but he logged fewer innings with the hope of having a bigger and more positive impact in October.
Arrieta’s two postseason starts entering Game 2 of the World Series were solid, if not spectacular. But on Wednesday he delivered his best outing of the playoffs, although it looked initially as if he would struggle. He threw 23 pitches in the first inning and walked two batters, perhaps a sign he was going to be as inconsistent as Bauer. Unlike his Indians counterpart, Arrieta honed his pitches enough to take charge of the game.
Major League Baseball moved the start of Wednesday’s game up by an hour because the weather forecasts called — accurately, as it turned out — for rain later in the night. The temperature at the first pitch was 43 degrees, but Arrieta pitched in short sleeves while Bauer was in a red undershirt that covered his arms to his elbows. Several position players covered their faces and wore long sleeves.
“It was cold,” Francona said. “I mean, it was so cold I tried to go to the bathroom in the fourth inning and I couldn’t.”
With both starters struggling with their command, the game dragged and the rain grew closer. It took one hour to complete the first two innings.
Although the Indians chewed through relievers, Arrieta’s improved pitching sped up the game. His two-seam fastball was effective against the Indians’ left-handed batters, and his slider produced outs.
“I kind of had my foot on the gas a little too much at the start, trying to do more than I needed to,” Arrieta said. “Then I really got back to just executing pitches towards the bottom of the strike zone.”
The Cubs provided Arrieta some early wiggle room. Bryant singled off Bauer in the top of the first and scored on a double by Anthony Rizzo for the Cubs’ first run of the series when Chisenhall elected to throw to the infield instead of trying for a play at the plate.
The Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the third when Schwarber drove in Rizzo with a single. From first base, Schwarber flailed his arms in glee, pointed at the Cubs’ dugout and at Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, who gave Schwarber a chance to complete his improbable return to action in time for the World Series.
Chisenhall had another misadventure in the field in the fifth. With Rizzo on after his second walk of the game, Zobrist lined a ball into the right-field corner off reliever Zach McAllister. Chisenhall slipped chasing down the ball. He recovered in time to throw the ball back into the infield for a relay home, but Rizzo scored easily.
Another run scored on a single by Schwarber off Bryan Shaw. Willson Contreras reached base when Kipnis muffed a ground ball that could have been the third out of the inning. Shaw then walked the next two batters, including Addison Russell with the bases loaded, to give the Cubs a 5-0 lead.
So when Arrieta gave up his first hit of the game, a double by Kipnis with one out in the sixth inning, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon did not need to push him further. Arrieta allowed a run on a wild pitch and was replaced after allowing a single to Mike Napoli.
As light rain fell during the eighth and into the ninth, Maddon brought in closer Aroldis Chapman to get the final four outs.