CLEVELAND — The Indians’ unraveling that eventually forced a decisive Game 7 against the Chicago Cubs began in the first inning on Tuesday at Progressive Field. Addison Russell lifted what appeared to be a harmless fly ball to the right side of the outfield for the final out of the inning. But given some of the adventures the Indians’ outfield has endured in this series, the play was anything but routine.
Lonnie Chisenhall, a solid right fielder, went for the ball. So did Tyler Naquin, a rookie center fielder. But neither one caught it.
The Cubs were leading, 1-0, and when the ball fell in two more Chicago runners scored — including Ben Zobrist, who collided with, and ran through, Indians catcher Roberto Perez in a play at the plate.
The postgame answers revealed — as if confirmation were needed — that the Indians were not on the same page at a critical moment.
“As Lonnie was kind of pulling off, Naquin was yelling: ‘It’s yours. You got it,’” Indians Manager Terry Francona said.
“We definitely called for it,” Naquin said. “Both.”
“Nobody said anything,” Chisenhall said later.
The Indians eventually fell to the Cubs, 9-3, and the World Series will be decided on Wednesday. Russell hit a grand slam off Indians reliever Dan Otero to put the game out of reach in the third, but the first-inning miscue undermined the home team by forcing starter Josh Tomlin to throw more pitches. He was chased from the game in that fateful third inning.
“It was frustrating,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “You never want to start a game off like that down three right away.”