But there was no question about their sense of urgency Sunday night as the Cubs avoided elimination when they held on for a tense 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the World Series before a tense crowd of 41,711 at Wrigley Field.
Closer Aroldis Chapman — making his first appearance in the seventh inning since May 17, 2012 — pitched out of trouble in the seventh and eighth innings and threw a perfect ninth to send the Series back to Cleveland for Game 6 Tuesday night.
“We’re all about writing our history,” Kris Bryant said. “This team is a special one.”
Monday’s travel day will give Chapman a chance to rest his prized left arm and the Cubs an opportunity to reassess their options as they try to overcome a 3-2 deficit in this best-of-seven series.
“Why not us?” Addison Russell said.
The Cubs took some small but effective steps in snapping out of their offensive rut with a three-run fourth that included four consecutive hits for the first time in the Series. Bryant fueled the rally when he led off with a home run.
Nevertheless, manager Joe Maddon — who staunchly maintains the Cubs season is a success regardless of the Series outcome — wasn’t taking any chances when he pulled Jon Lester after six innings despite the left-hander limiting the Indians to four hits, no walks and two earned runs in a 90-pitch outing.
Lester admitted he was taxed and thought it would be better to allow the bullpen to start with a clean inning.
Maddon summoned Chapman with one out in the seventh after Carl Edwards Jr. allowed a hit to Mike Napoli, and fellow rookie Willson Contreras was charged with a passed ball.
“I told (Maddon) I was ready to go,” Chapman said after revealing Maddon told him he may be needed in the seventh.
The crowd held its breath as Chapman struck out Jose Ramirez, hit Brandon Guyer with a pitch and induced Roberto Perez to ground to second with the tying and go-ahead runs on base to end the threat.
In the eighth, Chapman’s failure to cover first base resulted in a one-out hit for Rajai Davis, who stole second and third around a foul out. But Chapman struck out Francisco Lindor to end the threat.
For the first time in the Series, the Cubs overcame a deficit, which they incurred when Ramirez hit a solo homer against Lester in the second. Bryant’s tying homer barely cleared the wall in left-center, but it was reminiscent of many of his extra-base hits that made him a National League most valuable player candidate.
Catcher David Ross, starting his final game at Wrigley Field, capped the three-run rally with a sacrifice fly and became the first player to collect an RBI in a World Series game for the Boston Red Sox and the Cubs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Indians pulled within 3-2 in the sixth, when Lindor drove in Davis with a single.
The Cubs provided some entertainment on three pops in the first four innings, with Rizzo catching a Carlos Santana foul pop that grazed off Ross’ glove near the Indians dugout.
In the third, right fielder Jason Heyward leaned over the wall but had to reach back to make a catch of a Trevor Bauer foul pop. With two out in the fourth, Ross moved about 10 feet in front of the Indians’ dugout to catch Napoli’s pop, only to be knocked off his feet by Rizzo after making the catch.
After the Cubs concluded their 103-win regular season, several veterans expressed relief to finally start the postseason and vowed their season wouldn’t be successful unless they won the Series.
But before Sunday’s game, Maddon differed with that opinion.
“You roll the tape back where we’ve been the last several years, and what we’ve done last year and this year, I really anticipate we’ll be able to finish this off,” Maddon said.
“If you don’t, then you still look at the stepping stone, the building blocks to get to this point. You can’t tell me last year wasn’t successful just getting to the (National League) Championship Series. And if this wasn’t called a playoff, then you can’t tell me this year wasn’t successful getting to the World Series.
“I just don’t buy that kind of logic.”