CLEVELAND -- Indians center fielder Rajai Davis cranked a ball Wednesday night that briefly made Cleveland sports history, unleashing a feeling of pure joy unlike anything he had ever felt.
His two-run, score-tying home run in the eighth inning of an epic Game 7 was like a little kid's dream come true.
Davis was convinced his team was about to win the World Series. He believed the Indians would score another run off Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman, and that he and his teammates would dance into the night.
But only one team was able to end its curse, and it wasn't the Tribe. After a scoreless ninth, the Cubs scored twice in the top of the 10th. Davis, after driving in a run in the bottom of the inning to cut Chicago's lead in half, was left stranded on base as Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant threw across the diamond for the final out of an 8-7 Indians loss, ending 108 years of misery for one city and extending Cleveland's to a full 68.
Now past midnight, Davis hung around for a few moments jealously watching the Cubs jump up and down on his home field, celebrating perhaps the greatest seventh game in the history of the sport.
"I'm thinking that should have been us," Davis said.
But perhaps that's not entirely true. The Indians are a resilient bunch that sincerely wanted to bring Cleveland its first World Series title in nearly seven decades. Still, deep down, the Indians knew the better team had won.
After the game, there were no tears in the clubhouse -- not from reliever Bryan Shaw, who gave up the winning runs in the 10th, nor from manager Terry Francona. There was no hand-wringing over squandering a 3-1 Series lead. No, the Indians handled the loss with dignity. And they gave credit where credit was due.
"We have a bunch of guys who realize they have a really good team," Davis said of the Cubs. "We were going on our willpower. We have some talent, but they have a lot of talent. They were loaded."
That is why this loss probably doesn't belong in the pantheon of Cleveland's sports misery. It is a notch below The Drive, The Fumble and The Decision, because while the Indians lost three straight games, they went down fighting, beaten by a superior club. There were no Game 7 embarrassments to pin this on. It was just the Cubs' time.
Ace Corey Kluber having to again pitch on three days' rest caught up with them. The injuries to starters Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, which forced them into a three-man rotation, was too much to overcome.
"It was tough," Davis said. "We kind of ran out of pitching. We lost two of our starters. It was a tough loss. They didn't have their guys going on short rest. That was an advantage for them."
Game 7 came down to Shaw. Neither Shaw nor Francona thought the 17-minute rain delay that preceded his 10th inning had any impact on the decisive runs. Shaw answered questions for more than a half hour, but without showing the devastation you might assume after letting a potential title, 68 years in the making, slip by on his watch.
"You can't really say anything," Shaw said.
Francona could after the game. While Progressive Field turned into Wrigley East as the Cubs and their large contingent of fans celebrated, the Indians' skipper gathered his players in their clubhouse.
"It's going to hurt," Francona said he told the team. "It hurts, because we care, but they need to walk with their heads high, because they left nothing on the field."
The Indians had wanted to complement LeBron James in turning their city into Titletown, USA.
"It would've meant two championships in one year," said Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, who grew up a half-hour outside of Chicago. "They were all-in with us and they were proud fans -- and they should have been with the way that we represented this city. I thought we were a bunch of hard workers and gritty players. It kind of reflected their attitude toward things."
One day, Cleveland is going to win a World Series. If it's soon, with this group of guys, there will be a special bond. You can feel it in the room.
"There are a lot of organizations in different sports in this part of the country that have been through a lot, economically and stuff like that. I think if you can bring a little excitement to a town, it is fun to be a part of," said reliever Andrew Miller, whose magic largely brought the Indians to Game 7, but who struggled Wednesday in his 2⅓ innings, giving up two runs. "You love giving the people in the city something to smile about."
The Tribe did for this entire run, plowing through the Red Sox and Blue Jays before taking the sport's best team to the limit, coming back to tie Game 7 in the eighth when all seemed lost.
"Tonight summed up this team: Never give up, next man up, no excuses. It was so fun to be a part of," Miller said. "It hurts right now, but it was a blast to be a part of. We achieved a lot with so many obstacles."
The injuries, which struck early in the season with the loss of All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley and continued later on with their starting pitchers, couldn't derail the Indians; only the new beasts of baseball, the club formerly known as the Lovable Losers, could.
"You have to understand that is a fantastic ball club over there," Kipnis said. "In no way did we let any games go, did we lose any games or let them slip through our fingers. We had our chances. I don't think we gave them any of the games. They really are a great ballclub over there. We didn't take them lightly by any means. We knew this next one would be the hardest one to get because we knew the rotation was lined up for them, too. We tip our cap to them."
All of the Indians did. They didn't look devastated. They looked as if they plan on coming back.
"We were close in that series," designated hitter Carlos Santana said. "We have to be ready for next year. 2017."
Again, it's "wait 'til next year" time in Cleveland, but as the Indians walked out of their clubhouse, following their manager's lead, their heads were held high.