Indians’ Coco Crisp clutch again with game-winning hit in Game 3

Jorge L. Ortiz.

CHICAGO – Four years ago, Marco Scutaro earned the playful nickname “Blockbuster” when, after joining the San Francisco Giants in a low-profile July trade, he became a postseason hero during their championship run.

Coco Crisp hits the go-ahead single in the seventh inning.

Into that role now steps in one Coco Crisp, who may soon come to be known as “Under the Radar.”.

That’s the term frequently used to describe the Indians’ late-season acquisition of Crisp, who earned a special spot in franchise lore Friday with a pinch-hit single that drove in the run that gave Cleveland a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the World Series.

With one out and runners on the corners in the seventh inning, Crisp pinch-hit for winning pitcher Andrew Miller and stroked a single to right for the only run the Indians would need in their second shutout of this series and fifth of the postseason, a major league record.

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“He’s been very clutch,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said of Crisp. “He had a big home run in Toronto, had a big hit here. He’s a veteran guy who knows how to play the game. He does a great job teaching guys about stealing bases, picking up signs, and he’s a great guy to have in the clubhouse. He’s one of the better under-the-radar pickups we’ve had.”.

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Crisp batted just .208 in 20 games with Cleveland but has homered twice in the postseason, including a two-run shot that provided what proved to be the winning run as the Indians completed a stunning three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the Division Series.

A 15-year-veteran who turns 37 on Tuesday, Crisp started the year with the Oakland Athletics and played regularly in left field, center field and as the DH in the first part of the season. But as the club sank into last place, Crips found himself more frequently on the bench and voiced his displeasure, accusing the A’s of trying to keep his $13 million option for 2017 from vesting.

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On Aug. 31, just in time to qualify for the playoff roster, he was sent to Cleveland for Colt Hynes, a 31-year-old lefty with all of 20 major league innings to his credit.

The trade meant a return to Crisp’s original major league team, the one with whom he became a beloved figure in northeast Ohio both because of his colorful name and his exciting brand of play. That made helping the Indians take a 2-1 series lead even more special.

“Everybody has a lot of love for the first club they break in with,” Crisp said. “But I think being able to ride the wave that these guys started and being a part of this franchise at this time of the year is truly a blessing.”.

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Crisp is playing in the 11th postseason series of his career, having won a championship with the Red Sox in 2007. He started Game 2 in left field and went 0-for-4. With the series moving to a National League ballpark, where the DH is not in effect, manager Terry Francona moved usual DH Carlos Santana to left field to keep his bat in the lineup and sat down Crisp.

Like all of Francona’s moves Friday, it worked like a charm.

Santana got on base twice, handled his one chance flawlessly and was eventually replaced by a pinch-runner. Crisp, who had a major league-high .392 batting average with runners in scoring position this season, was available for the critical moment.

“He’s got a ton of playoff experience, and our club, we don’t have a ton,” Francona said. “It’s a switch-hitting bat that knows how to play the game, can run the bases. Certainly the bigger the spotlight is not going to get in his way, as he showed tonight.”.

Much like Crisp himself, the Indians have received relatively little fanfare despite winning nine of their 11 postseason games, as Cubs mania has overtaken October.

Some are starting to notice, though, as Cleveland closes in on its first World Series crown since 1948, the second-longest drought in baseball after, well, you know.

“I’ve been getting text messages and my phone’s been blowing up,” Crisp said. “I don’t think I’ve had more than three or four text messages at a time after a game prior to the playoffs, and now it’s like 30, 40. Everybody is kind of saying, ‘Two wins away! Two more!”’.

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Shhh. They’d just as soon stay under the radar.

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