The Associated Press

2h ago

David Richard / USA TODAY Sports

CLEVELAND – Addison Russell lofted a fly ball, and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall and center fielder Tyler Naquin converged.

Probably an easy play in a half-filled ballpark on a hot summer night, the 284-foot, first-inning fly turned into a dangerous and disorienting disaster for the Cleveland Indians.

With a loud, raucous crowd packing Progressive Field hoping to witness Cleveland’s first World Series title since 1948, Chisenhall pulled up and looked at the onrushing Naquin, who was a few feet behind him.

“Nobody said anything,” Chisenhall said.

“We (both) definitely called for it,” Naquin said.

A 25-year-old rookie who made his debut on opening day, Naquin had no chance by then to make the catch. The ball bounced past him for a two-run double as Anthony Rizzo scored and then Ben Zobrist, who bowled over catcher Roberto Perez. The Chicago Cubs built a three-run lead before Jake Arrieta threw his first pitch.

Cleveland never recovered, and Chicago coasted to a 9-3 win Tuesday night that forced the Series to a deciding Game 7.

Baseball practice says corner outfielders defer to their teammate in center. Chisenhall, a 28-year-old converted third baseman in his sixth big league season, appeared to follow the protocol.

By the third inning, Chisenhall took charge and cut in front of Naquin to catch Kris Bryant’s fly with a runner on. Chisenhall and Naquin had a long discussion during a pitching change later in the inning, joined by left fielder Coco Crisp. Three pitches later, Russell hit a grand slam off Dan Otero for a seven-run lead.

In the crucible of the World Series, defense can go awry.