Masterpiece Theatre couldn’t come close to matching the 3½ hours of lip-chewing, teeth gnashing drama enacted in Game 3 of the 2016 World Series Friday night.
The Cleveland Indians won it, 1-0, but the perspiration level was at drench level until the final out.
The Chicago Cubs had the potential tying run on third and the potential winning run on second in the bottom of the ninth with two outs.
Cleveland closer Cody Allen took away all that potential by striking out Javier Baez on a shoulder-high 2-and-2 fastball.
AND THAT LEFT THE Cubs 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and they stranded seven runners. It was that kind of night, a picturesque pitching excursion for the Indians (and the Cubs), beginning with Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin.
Much was made of the mystique of Wrigley Field, the hostile environment of Wrigley Field that would work against Tomlin.
Much was made of a 20 miles an hour wind blowing out that would work against Tomlin, who gave up 36 home runs during the regular season.
Much was made of the invincibility of Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks in Wrigley Field, a 1.37 earned run average in the Friendly Confines, that would work against Tomlin.
WITH APOLOGIES TO MR. William Shakespeare, it was much ado about nothing as far as Jason Tomlin was concerned.
Tomlin painted more corners than a house painter for 4 2/3 innings.
Then manager Tito Francona used his tried-and-true prescription out of the bullpen — Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen — and it produced a two games to one lead for the Tribe.
Not only did Tomlin not give up a home run, he didn’t permit a ball to be hit that backed up any of his outfielders a single step and he gave up only two hits.
WITH TWO OUTS AND a runner on second in the fifth inning, Miller replaced Tomlin and retired Miguel Montero on a hard liner to right.
Then he struck out the side in the sixth.
Shaw replaced Miller in the seventh and with two outs Jorge Soler tripled down the right field line where the foul line runs against the brick wall. But Shaw retired Javier Baez on a ground ball to short.
Dexter Fowler singled with two outs in the eighth and it was time for closer Cody Allen. He struck out Kris Bryant.
THEN CAME THE EVENTFUL bottom of the ninth. Andrew Rizzo led with a single. Ben Zobrist struck out. Chris Coghlan pinch-ran for Rizzo and took second on a hit-and-run ground ball to third by Willson Contreras for the second out.
The drama heightened. Jayson Heyward, 2 for 30 in the postseason, hit one hard toward first and first baseman Mike Napoli booted it for an error — putting runners on third and first.
But Allen struck out Baez to end it.
Cleveland put Cubs starter Hendricks in problematical situations early and often, but couldn’t score.
WHEN ROBERTO PEREZ singled to open the seventh, it was the fourth time the Tribe had put the leadoff hitter on base, but hadn’t scored.
Until the seventh.
After Perez singled, Tyler Naquin sacrificed him to second and relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. wild pitched him to third. Rajai Davis walked. Pinch-hitter Coco Crisp picked on the first pitch and single to right field to produce the game’s only run. That made the Tribe 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position and they also stranded seven runners in this ultimate pitching battle.
Hendricks struggled, but didn’t give up a run. Over his 4 1/3 inning he gave up six hits and a pair of walks, but kept the Tribe off home plate.
For the first time in World Series history, both starting pitchers went more than 4 1/3 innings without giving up a run.
So the first World Series game in Wrigley Field since 1945 was a defeat for the Cubs as they seek their first World Series championship since 1908.
The Tribe, practically ignored in all the electric atmosphere in Wrigley for the Cubs, hasn’t won a World Series since 1948, but are only two victories away.