CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs aren't finished yet. Behind another classic postseason start from Jon Lester, a homer from Kris Bryant and an extended outing from closer Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians 3-2 to narrow their deficit in the World Series to 3-2. The Cubs are attempting to become just the sixth of 45 teams to fall behind 3-1 and come back in a best-of-seven World Series.
Borrowing a page Indians manager Terry Francona has turned to time and again during the playoffs, Cubs manager Joe Maddon went to his best bullpen arm early. After Lester held the Indians to two runs in six innings, the Indians' Mike Napoli reached second base on a single and a wild pitch in the seventh against Cubs reliever Carl Edwards.
Edwards got Carlos Santana on a fly to left, but Maddon came out to get the young righty and replaced him with the fireballing lefty Chapman. With eight outs left, Chapman was attempting to go more than two innings for just the second time in his big league career.
Chapman survived the last two innings for the longest save of his career. He allowed an infield single to Rajai Davis in the eighth, when he failed to cover first after Anthony Rizzo made a diving stop. Davis then stole second. But Chapman worked around it with his 100 mph heat and a few trips to the mound from rookie catcher Willson Contreras.
Both starting pitchers came out blazing. Lester struck out the side in the first, and Trevor Bauer fanned the first two Cubs during a 1-2-3 first. Lester retired the first two Indians in the second, but then Ramirez homered into the wind, with the ball landing several rows deep in the left-field bleachers -- before it was thrown back onto the field by a disapproving Cubs fan.
The Indians' staff entered the game 10-2 in the playoffs, with a 1.66 ERA that ranked fourth in postseason history. For three innings, it looked like more of the same for the Cubs' offense, as they managed just one hit off Bauer.
As the fourth inning began, Chicago was nearing the red-alert stage, the point when Francona would fire up his bullpen to protect the lead. Francona has said it time and again this postseason: Win today, and worry about tomorrow tomorrow. That's why Maddon has emphasized how essential it is for Chicago to get early leads.
With the Cubs tiptoeing ever so close to the precipice, Bryant awoke from a World Series-long slumber and lined a homer into the left-field bleachers. The blow ignited a Wrigley Field gathering that had begun to transition from excited to anxious. Bryant entered the game 1-for-14 without an extra-base hit in the Series.
His blast set off a Cubs offense that had been struggling to string hits together. Rizzo followed with a first-pitch double to right, marking just the second time in the postseason that Bryant and Rizzo stroked back-to-back hits.
The Cubs were just getting started: Ben Zobrist singled, and Addison Russell beat an infield single to drive in Rizzo and give the Cubs that much sought-after early lead. They added a third run after, with one out, struggling Javier Baez bunted up the third-base line to load the bases to set up David Ross' sacrifice fly.
Lester made his fifth career World Series start Sunday and improved to 4-1 in those outings. He became the first Cubs pitcher ever to start five games in a single postseason. He has now gone at least five innings in each of his 19 career postseason outings, which ties teammate John Lackey for the big league record.
The Cubs backed Lester with a couple of sparkling defensive plays more reminiscent of their regular-season standard than their lackluster outing in Saturday's Game 4. Bryant robbed Guyer with a diving stop on a groundout in the third, and Jason Heyward climbed the brick wall in right to snag a foul fly from Bauer.
The Indians cut the Chicago lead to one run in the sixth, when Francisco Lindor's bloop single drove in Davis. It was Lindor's eighth hit of the World Series.
The Series takes a break Monday, when both clubs head back to Cleveland for Tuesday's Game 6, in which Chicago's Jake Arrieta will take on the Indians' Josh Tomlin. If necessary, Game 7 will take place Wednesday. One way or another, someone will be partying this week on the banks of the Cuyahoga River.