Terry Francona walked to the mound, and Chicago Cubs fans around the world thought the Cleveland Indians manager was doing them a favor.

Some favor.

Josh Tomlin was cruising Friday at Wrigley Field, two outs into the fifth inning of a scoreless game. The Cubs had two hits, both singles. Tomlin had thrown just 58 pitches.

“He was dealing,” my cousin texted me from London, where it was just past 3 a.m. “I can’t believe they pulled him.”

They did, or rather he did. Francona pulled Tomlin and brought in Andrew Miller.

If a less experienced or less respected manager makes that move, he’s setting himself up to be ripped for years to come. When Francona does it, he’s setting himself up to win a crucial World Series game.


The guy has managed 11 of these games, and he’s won 10 of them. He would never say he has it figured out, but he sure does have a sense of what move to make and when.

“Perfectly managed game,” Pete Rose said on the Fox postgame show.

Later on that same show, Indians outfielder Coco Crisp called Francona “a comedian,” explaining how he keeps the clubhouse loose. That helps, but it also helps that he has just the right feel for when a game and a series require urgency.

He felt it Friday in Game 3, understanding that an Indians win would push the team ahead two games to one and set up ace Corey Kluber to potentially give them a commanding lead in Saturday night’s Game 4. Francona seemed to realize early on that this could be a low-scoring game, and he seemed to manage it early on to try to get a 1-0 win in nine innings.

He was out of position players by the end, and he had run through the best part of his bullpen. Extra innings would have been tough, but when Cody Allen struck out Javier Baez to end it, the Indians didn’t need extra innings.

Tomlin was dealing, but Francona didn’t want him to face pinch hitter Miguel Montero with the go-ahead run on second base. He was going to let Miller keep the game scoreless through the fifth, sixth and maybe even the seventh, giving his hitters more chance to get a lead.

He risked his team not scoring, and he risked Miller throwing so many pitches he wouldn’t be available or wouldn’t be effective Saturday. Instead, he got a seventh-inning run when Coco Crisp (batting for Miller) drove in pinch runner Michael Martinez with a one-out single. He got four outs from Miller on just 17 pitches, ensuring he’ll be at full strength again Saturday.

He needed nine more outs from Bryan Shaw and Allen, and he got those too.

He had his 1-0 win in nine innings. It was the first 1-0 win in a World Series game in 11 years and just the fifth in the last 30 years.

Indians fan will remember one of those well. It was the clinching Game 6 in 1995, 1-0 Atlanta Braves over the Indians.

That night in Atlanta, Indians manager Mike Hargrove pulled his starter two outs into the fifth inning of a scoreless game. The difference that night was that starter Dennis Martinez had already allowed nine baserunners on four hits and five walks.

Few knew it at the time, but Martinez almost didn’t start that game.

“When Dennis was warming up, he goes, ‘Mark, I don’t know if I can make it; my arm’s killing me,'” pitching coach Mark Wiley told me this month, when I was working on Bleacher Report’s story on the Indians of the 1990s. “Dennis went out there, but he had absolutely nothing.”

Hargrove had little choice but to go to the bullpen. In the sixth inning, reliever Jim Poole gave up a David Justice home run for the game’s only run.

Until Friday, Martinez was the only starter in World Series history to go 4.2 innings without allowing a run, according to research through Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index.

Now there are two, and this time it turned out a lot better for the Indians.

It turned out perfectly in a perfectly managed game during a perfectly managed month. Francona’s Indians are the first team ever with five shutouts in a single postseason.

Kluber started three of the five shutouts. In the other two, Francona pulled his starting pitcher in the fifth inning. He did it with rookie Ryan Merritt in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays and again with the more experienced Tomlin Friday night.

“Fine with me,” Tomlin told MLB Network. “Perfect scenario.”   

He understood, and now everyone does.

Terry Francona has this managing-in-October thing figured out.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com