CHICAGO (AP) — One way or another, there will be a championship celebration in Cleveland.
Still to be determined? Whether the Indians or Cubs will be popping the champagne.
The Cubs won a World Series game at Wrigley Field for the first time since 1945 and at least delayed Cleveland’s big party with a 3-2 victory Sunday night.
Aroldis Chapman got the final eight outs in the longest appearance of his career, Jon Lester pitched six strong innings and Kris Bryant homered as Chicago cut the Indians’ lead to 3-2.
So a World Series between the teams with baseball’s longest title droughts goes back to Cleveland, with 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta set to start for the Cubs and Josh Tomlin going on short rest for the Indians in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
“We’re writing our own history,” Chicago shortstop Addison Russell said. “We’re making history. Why stop?”
His team rolled through the regular season with a major league-leading 103 wins, took out playoff-tested San Francisco in the NL Division Series and rallied to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Championship Series. The Cubs were so dominant at times they had their long-downtrodden fans believing that, after decades of supposed curses and sincere heartbreak, this just might be the year.
It still could be — but it would take an historic effort. Only five teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven World Series, most recently Kansas City in 1985.
Standing in the Cubs’ way is a team and a city that knows a thing or two about title droughts.
Cleveland endured a 52-year championship dry spell before LeBron James brought one home with the NBA’s Cavaliers last spring. The Indians last won it all in 1948, which pales in comparison to a Cubs wait that dates to 1908.
“We’re in good position, still,” Cleveland slugger Mike Napoli said. “We’re up 3-2 going home. We did what we had to do here. We put ourselves in position to try and win it in a crazy atmosphere. We’re happy with what we did here. We’re going to get home and play in front of our fans.”
The Cubs are banking on another big effort from Arrieta and hoping for a better result against Tomlin.
Arrieta took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and pitched the Cubs to a 5-1 victory in Game 2 at Progressive Field. Win on Tuesday and they’ll send major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks to the mound in Game 7.
Of course, the Indians are also feeling good about their chances.
After all, Tomlin tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 3 before giving way to that nasty bullpen. And if it goes to Game 7, well, the Indians will have their ace in play, Corey Kluber.
He — like Tomlin — would be pitching on short rest, unlike Arrieta and Hendricks. But when it comes to beating Kluber, the Cubs are 0 for 2 in this Series.
“Yeah, we get to go over there with two rested starting pitchers,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. “I like to believe we’re going to catch or gain some momentum from this game going back over there. But momentum’s always based on your starting pitcher, too. And again, with these guys you saw how good their bullpen was. Once again, it’s really important to grab that lead and hold onto it.”
There was plenty for Maddon to like about Game 5.
The pitching performances by Chapman and Lester and the home run by Bryant topped the list. But how about Jason Heyward and his highlight-reel catch on Trevor Bauer’s foul fly down the right-field line in the third inning? Heyward planted his foot and grabbed the top of the wall, then reached back toward the field with his glove to snag the ball.
Or what about Anthony Rizzo at first base?
He had the crowd roaring in the second inning when he ran in and caught a foul pop by Carlos Santana that catcher David Ross deflected near the first base dugout.
Rizzo also made a diving stop on Rajai Davis’ grounder down the line in the eighth. Chapman, however, said he fell toward third on his delivery and by the time he realized it was a fair ball, it was too late to cover first.
Something else to consider:
With the Series shifting back to Cleveland, the Cubs can use slugger Kyle Schwarber as their designated hitter again.
He’s not permitted to play the field, but was cleared by doctors to hit. That was a neat October surprise for the Cubs after Schwarber missed almost the entire season because of a knee injury.
“We’re always confident,” Rizzo said. “We get to see Tomlin now a second time on short rest. I’m going to convince myself that … he’s not going to be as sharp. (Schwarber) is back and I’m sure he’s chomping at the bit.”