The winner will relish what will surely be viewed as a transformative victory in either city. The loser will be left with another chapter of anguish — perhaps the cruelest one in a history of them.
“If you’re a fan of baseball, this is the best outcome you could possibly hope for in a World Series anyone’s been alive for,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “A couple of years ago it went Game 7, but the Indians not winning since ’48 and us not winning since 1908 — it’s going to be good. History’s going to be written tomorrow, one way or another, and we’ll be a part of it forever.”
History — or anything else — did not appear to weigh on the Cubs on Tuesday. They looked more relaxed than they had over the weekend at Wrigley Field, where they lost two of three despite holding the best home record in baseball this season.
Perhaps it was escaping the suffocating crowds, or perhaps it was because Manager Joe Maddon had allowed his players to stay at home on Monday to enjoy Halloween with their families before flying into Cleveland at night. About half the team boarded the plane in costume.
The crowd had barely settled in on Tuesday when Kris Bryant, with two outs and the count at 0-2, blasted a curveball over the left-field wall that not only unsettled starter Josh Tomlin, but the rest of the Indians as well.
The Indians lacked poise from start to finish. Center fielder Tyler Naquin and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall allowed Russell’s fly ball to right drop between them, letting two more runs score in the first inning. In the ninth, Roberto Perez, after driving in a run, got thrown out trying to take second when the Indians were down by six runs.
“You don’t expect balls like that to drop in this late in the year,” said Rajai Davis, who platoons in center field with Naquin. “That’s the kind of thing that happens in spring training.”
It was a particularly tough night for Naquin, a leading rookie of the year candidate who emerged when the Indians lost Michael Brantley for almost the entire season. Naquin struck out twice, including with the bases loaded to end the fourth, ending a rare chance for the Indians to crawl back into the game.
“It’s one of those deals that you wish you could take back,” said Naquin, who added that he had wanted to atone at the plate.
Tomlin, who was brilliant in four and two-thirds shutout innings in Game 4 and had a 1.76 E.R.A. in his first three playoff starts, was not the same pitcher on Tuesday. It may have been owing to fatigue from pitching on three days’ rest or the Cubs seeing him a second time — an opportunity Boston and Toronto did not have in the previous playoff series.
With all the curveballs the Indians have thrown at the Cubs, Bryant said it was important not to chase the ones on the outer half of the plate.
“Force them in the zone and don’t go chasing for them,” said Bryant, who has homered in back-to-back games after starting the World Series 1 for 14. “I felt like these last two games we’ve done that, but tomorrow Kluber has one of the best curveballs in the game and hopefully we make that adjustment.”
Kyle Schwarber, who was back in the Cubs’ lineup at designated hitter and batting second, walked to lead off the third. After Chisenhall and Naquin nearly had another collision before Chisenhall caught Bryant’s fly ball, Rizzo and Ben Zobrist singled to load the bases.
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