CHICAGO -- The first 100 minutes of the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years were … well, they were pretty quiet. Not silent, obviously, and it's not like anyone was sitting on their hands. But considering there were people showing up in Wrigleyville at 5 a.m. -- considering that the whole place had been waiting the life span of Helen Mirren for this specific game -- Wrigley was a little sedate. This was not one of those games like the famous National League Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh, in which every fan was on his/her feet screaming like a maniac from noon until the last out. This was a more nervous bunch. And it was a more … seated bunch.
This would end, at some point, as it inevitably had to. But the most remarkable thing about this Cubs team all season has been its unflappability, its total indifference to the history that hangs over the neck of anyone who has ever been even vaguely associated with this franchise. They didn't care about your goats or your ghosts or How Much You've Been Through As A Fan. They just knocked the snot out of everybody they played, all year, like it was nothing: Like it was the easiest thing in the world. And as the season went along, not even the most fatalistic Cubs fan could resist throwing caution to the wind and going along with them. If someone was going to put an end all the frustration, if someone was going to reset the Eamus Catuli sign on the rooftop across the street, of course it was gonna be these guys. You wouldn't end it with an overachieving 2003 team, or a 2008 team whose best player was Ryan freaking Dempster. You get Theo Epstein and you'd take three years to completely start over and then you'd build yourself a monster. That's how you do it.
So Cubs fans believed. But they couldn't shake decades of history off, even if the gaggle of twenty-somethings populating this roster could. And Friday night, you could feel it.
Cleveland beat the Cubs, 1-0, in Game 3 Friday night to take a 2-1 series lead, but the win felt a lot bigger than that. It felt like a turn, a widespread admittance that all the pageantry and excitement of the first World Series at Wrigley in so long couldn't erase everything, just like that. The whole night, a beautiful night with the most perfect weather you could imagine for an Oct. 28 in Chicago, Ill., featured more than 40,000 fans tapping their feet, wanting to scream, begging to scream. They gnashed their teeth waiting for a release. The release would never come. It led to a strange, almost pregnant vibe all evening. It was a bubble of anxiety that never popped.
Man, it sure did come close, though. There were two moments when you sensed what was pent up, what explosion could happen. The first was Justin Grimm's first forced double-play of the season in the fifth inning, getting Francisco Lindor -- who was merely 5-for-9 in the Series up to that point -- to hit into an easy 6-4-3 with the bases loaded in a scoreless game. The second was after Cleveland had taken the lead, when Kyle Schwarber -- who was on the cover of the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday under the headline "Schwarbummer" after he was ruled out of playing the field this series -- pinch-hit in the eighth as the tying run. Had he homered at that point, the eruption might have opened a sinkhole in center field. But he popped out. The whole night was like that: Seismic activity, often violent … but no earthquake.
Cleveland must have felt the same way: It had even more opportunities to score than the Cubs did. That pregnant vibe among the Wrigley faithful was shared by Indians fans, who kept missing opportunities to break the game open. That the game was scoreless for so long, and ended 1-0, on a night when the wind was blowing out, was remarkable, but fitting: The whole night was anticipation lacking a payoff. (No fly balls even made it to the warning track.) You didn't scream because you were too scared, or you felt an opportunity for a massive scream was coming soon, or both. Even Bill Murray seemed a little rattled by it all. And it all ended in silence.
It was never more silent than in the last two innings, and not just after Cody Allen struck out Javier Baez to end the game on a high fastball out of the zone, precisely the pitch you throw to Baez when he's wanting to be a hero.
In particular, the Kris Bryant at-bat in the eighth, in which the (likely) NL MVP stood as the potential winning run with Dexter Fowler on first and Aroldis Chapman warming in the bullpen. The silence between pitches from Allen, called in to face Bryant, was eerie: It was like 40,000 people shushing to let a golfer putt. It was, yet again, a windup without a pitch. The same thing happened in the ninth, when the Cubs merely needed a single from Baez to win the game after Mike Napoli botched a Jason Heyward ground ball that would have finished the game off. This would be the breakthrough. This would be the scream. But it never came.
There is considerable reason for the Cubs to now be concerned. The whole strategy for Cleveland was to win all three of Corey Kluber's starts and then sneak out one other win. Tonight was that win. Now the Cubs are facing Kluber, with John Lackey once again required to save the Cubs, with the real, ominous possibility of being down 3-1 with two more games coming up in Cleveland, one started by Kluber. (The other would potentially be started by Josh Tomlin, who was fantastic Friday night despite a maddening strike zone.) Cubs fans, in the face of decades of despair, have been trying to hang onto their belief that, with this team, there is nothing to worry about. They needn't pretend any longer. There is now plenty to worry about. If anything, it is an excuse to at last let out that scream.