Rizzo, Zobrist lead Cubs' offensive outburst in Game 2
CLEVELAND (AP) Nothing scares these Chicago Cubs. Not the stakes, the weight of history, a tough night at the plate or the prospect of going down two games to none in the franchise's first World Series in 71 years.
Their at-bats were good during a Game 1 shutout loss, the Cubs insisted. A breakout by 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.
Kris Bryant provided the first, a sharp single to center field off Cleveland Indians starter Trevor Bauer two batters into Game 2 on Wednesday night that gave the Chicago dugout and blue-clad Cubs 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 since Harry Truman was president.
The third was in the fifth, a triple to right by Ben Zobrist that handed 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.
''Our goal today, it felt like a must-win for us,'' Bryant said. ''We didn't want to go home down 0-2.''
And so the Cubs didn't, thanks in large part to three players who represent the various stages of Chicago's renaissance under President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein.
Rizzo, the team's longest-tenured position player, endured 101 losses during his first season with the Cubs in 2012, a summer-long 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 the Cubs to 97 wins and a spot in the NLCS, leading Zobrist - fresh off a championship with the Royals in 2015 - to sign with Chicago last winter.
There the three were in the heart of the order Wednesday, scoring four of their team's five runs to move the Cubs within three victories of the franchise's first World Series title in 108 years.
Oh, and the guy hitting behind them - designated hitter Kyle Schwarber - is 3 for 7 in the World Series after missing all but two games this season with torn ligaments in his left knee.
''I like our chances with and without Schwarber,'' Chicago catcher David Ross said. ''I like them a lot more with Schwarber.''
And the duo nicknamed ''Bryzzo,'' too.
Bryant went hitless in his first Series game Tuesday night, though he was hardly alone as the Cubs mustered 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.
''Those guys, they're the two keys,'' Zobrist said. ''The biggest cogs in our lineup and when those guys swing the bat it gives the rest of us confidence.''
Rizzo walked and Zobrist singled in the third before Rizzo scored on a single by Schwarber to make it 2-0. In the fifth, Rizzo led off with a walk and raced home on Zobrist's triple into the right-field corner. Zobrist scored to make it 4-0 when Schwarber singled up the middle.
Zobrist has come through in the clutch much the way he did while helping the Royals to a title last fall.
''He's been our leader, especially in this World Series,'' Ross said. ''He's the guy you lean on that's been in this moment. And he's the one stepping up big, getting the best at-bats, taking walks, hitting doubles, running the bases really well. Just a baseball player through and through.''
One that's now 5 for 9 through two games in his third World Series.
In the end, this October night 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 start a party more than a century in the making awaits.