Cleveland Indians center fielder Tyler Naquin misplays a ball hit by Cubs shortstop Addison Russell in the first inning.
Addison Russell’s first hit Tuesday night in Game 6 of the World Series should have been an inning-ending flyout.
Indians center fielder Tyler Naquin and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall charged toward each other in the first inning at Progressive Field, then watched the ball fall between them as they crossed paths.
A one-run deficit grew to three because of the mistake, scored as a Russell double that drove in two Cubs runs.
It’s not accurate to say it silenced the ballpark — that would be ignoring the droves of Cubs fans throughout the park who made their voices heard — but it certainly put a damper on the festivities as the Indians returned home to try to clinch their first title since 1948.
Instead, they’re forced to play a deciding Game 7 on Wednesday after a 9-3 Cubs victory.
"It was just loud out there," Naquin said. "It was one of those in-betweeners. Lonnie got a good break. I had a break. It was one of those deals you wish you could take back the moment. Me being the center fielder, I need to take charge on that. … That’s my mistake."
Russell wasn’t done making the Indians’ night miserable.
Indians manager Terry Francona went to reliever Dan Otero with one out in the third inning after starter Josh Tomlin loaded the bases on a walk and two singles. Russell hit the third pitch Otero threw over the wall in left-center field for the first World Series grand slam since Paul Konerko’s 2005 shot — and a 7-0 Cubs lead.
"You get down like that early, it’s tough to scrap away against a good pitcher like (Jake) Arrieta," first baseman Mike Napoli said. "It’s unfortunate what happened in the outfield, but things happen. … We’re going to move on from this. There’s no time for anyone to hang their head or feel sorry for themselves. We’re playing Game 7 of the World Series tomorrow."
The Cubs’ surge ruined the night for Tomlin, who had been one of the feel-good stories of the postseason.
The 32-year-old had worked his way up through the minors, came back from elbow and shoulder surgeries in his seven-year tenure with the Indians and delivered the biggest performance of his career in the Indians’ Game 3 victory. He was also pitching in front of his father, who became paralyzed from the chest down in August because of a medical condition involving circulation near his spinal cord.
Tuesday, however, wasn’t his night.
Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Russell combined for seven hits in the first three innings, six off Tomlin. He was charged with six earned runs with one walk and no strikeouts in 21/3 innings, his shortest postseason start to date.
"I have to do a better job of executing pitches in that (first) inning to limit the damage as much as you can," said Tomlin, noting he didn’t have a good feel for his curveball in the first inning. "I left too many balls over the middle of the plate tonight, and they took advantage of it. You can’t do that to a team like that and a lineup like that."
But the Indians also still say they feel confident they can walk away the victors in their final chance.
"There’s one thing for certain — there will be a champion tomorrow," Napoli said. "We’re confident. We’re at home playing in front of our fans. We have (Corey) Kluber on the mound. The back end of the bullpen is rested. We’re going to come here and show up to play and do what we’ve done all year."