CLEVELAND (AP) — After getting shut out in their first World Series game since 1945, the Chicago Cubs stressed it was no time to panic.
Their at-bats were good, the Cubs insisted. The balanced lineup that propelled them to a National League championship and the best record in the majors was just a swing away.
Three swings, as it turned out.
The first by Kris Bryant with one out in the first inning Wednesday night, a sharp single to center field off Cleveland Indians starter Trevor Bauer that gave the Chicago dugout and the sea of blue-clad fans scattered throughout Progressive Field a needed jolt.
The second came seven pitches later, a double to right from Anthony Rizzo that sent Bryant racing home with the Cubs’ first World Series run in 71 years.
The third was in the fifth, a triple to right by Ben Zobrist that gave starter Jake Arrieta all the cushion he needed in a 5-1 victory that tied the Fall Classic at one game apiece heading back to Wrigley Field on Friday.
Perhaps it’s only fitting the outburst was started by three players who represent the various stages of Chicago’s renaissance under general manger Theo Epstein.
Rizzo, the team’s longest-tenured position player, endured 101 losses in his first season with the Cubs in 2012, a six-month bout of misery that led to Chicago taking Bryant with the second pick in the 2013 amateur draft. Bryant’s arrival in the majors last spring helped propel Chicago to 97 wins and a spot in the NLCS, leading Zobrist — fresh off a championship with the Royals in 2015 — to sign with the Cubs last winter.
There the three were in the heart of the order Wednesday, scoring four of Chicago’s five runs to move the Cubs within three wins of the franchise’s first World Series title in 108 years.
Bryant went hitless in his first Series game Tuesday night, though he was hardly alone as the Cubs managed little against Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.
The going wasn’t nearly as tough against Bauer, who pitched with the pinkie on his right hand still recovering from a gash sustained while he was tinkering with a toy drone earlier in the playoffs.
Bryant ripped a single up the middle on a 2-2 pitch in the first and scored on Rizzo’s double. It was Chicago’s first run since the eighth inning of a Game 7 loss to Detroit in the 1945 World Series, a mere 44 years before Rizzo was born.
Rizzo walked and Zobrist singled in the third before Rizzo scored on a single by Kyle Schwarber to make it 2-0. In the fifth, Rizzo led off with a walk and raced home on Zobrist’s hard triple into the right-field corner. Zobrist scored to make it 4-0 when Schwarber singled up the middle.
All of a sudden, an October night in Cleveland on baseball’s biggest stage felt like so many other games Chicago has played over the last six-plus months. Arrieta dominated, the lineup delivered and the crowd chanted “Let’s Go Cubs.”
All the way back to Chicago, where a chance to make history more than a century in the making awaits.