They have waited 108 years for a championship. So with this World Series on the verge of slipping away, the Chicago Cubs could not wait any longer.
Manager Joe Maddon summoned closer Aroldis Chapman from the bullpen in the seventh inning for the first eight-out save of his big league career, a desperate move in a dire situation with the Cubs needing to hold off the Cleveland Indians in Game 5.
As nervous fans fretted at Wrigley Field, the big Cuban left-hander fired his 100 mph heat over and over, preserving a 3-2 win Sunday night that cut Cleveland's Series lead to 3-2.
"I didn't expect to come in so early, but I mentally prepared myself," Chapman said through a translator. "I was ready to come in at a moment's notice."
The crowd of 41,711 erupted when Jose Ramirez, who had homered earlier, foul tipped a 101 mph offering at the outside corner into the glove of catcher Willson Contreras for the final out.
A white flag with a blue "W'' was raised atop Wrigley Field after a Series win for the first time since Oct. 8, 1945, in Game 6 over Detroit. Fans stayed long after the final out and sang "Sweet Home Chicago" as Cubs returned to the field for media interviews.
"High anxiety," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "A lot of deep breaths. Every pitch gets bigger and bigger as the game goes on. It's unbelievable. Great win here. We sent these fans off with a win. Now we have to go to Cleveland and win."
Chicago, which led the majors this year with 103 regular-season wins, will try to extend its season again Tuesday night when Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta faces Josh Tomlin. The Cubs are trying to become the first club to overcome a 3-1 Series deficit since the 1985 Kansas City Royals and the first to do it by winning Games 6 and 7 on the road since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Seeking its first title since 1948, Cleveland is in search of its third-ever title and has won the championship at home just once, in 1920. Over 67,000 showed up at Progressive Field just to watch the three road games on the video board.
"It's going to be crazy. It's going to be nuts," first baseman Mike Napoli said. "They're going to be pretty fired up, and they're going to get us going."
Chapman, obtained from the Yankees in July, hadn't pitched in the seventh inning since 2012. He took a chug of water from a plastic bottle on the left-field bullpen mound when Maddon called him in with a runner on.
"That was a big ask, and he answered," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That was impressive."
Of Chapman's 42 pitches, 15 flew in at 100 mph or faster.
"It's something you can't normally do during the season without beating somebody up too badly," Maddon said. . "But I talked to Chappy before the game. He was aware of being ready in the seventh inning. So we had that all in play."
Chapman struck out four, raising his total to eight over five innings in three Series appearances.
"This guy's used to just getting three outs," Cubs starter Jon Lester said. "He was fired up. We were all fired up to get through that."
With the crowd at the Friendly Confines desperate, Kris Bryant homered to start a three-run burst in the fourth off Trevor Bauer that gave Lester a 3-1 lead. The Indians nicked Lester for a run in the sixth, and Carl Edwards Jr. took over to begin the seventh with a 3-2 edge.
Chapman came in with a runner on second and one out and retired Roberto Perez on an inning-ending groundout with two on as fans screamed. After Rajai Davis stole second and third in the eighth, Francisco Lindor took a 101 mph pitch at the knees for an inning-ending called third strike, then stood in the batter's box for nearly 20 seconds in anger and frustration.
Chapman finished with a 1-2-3 ninth. He threw 35 fastballs, six sliders and one changeup.
Lester, the Game 1 loser, improved to 4-1 in Series play by allowing two runs and six hits .
Ramirez homered in the second to put the Indians ahead, and Cleveland closed within a run in the sixth when Davis singled, stole second scored on a two-out single by Lindor , who is hitting .421 in the Series.
Bauer, his pinkie seemingly healed from a cut sustained while playing with a toy drone during the AL Championship Series, dropped to 0-2 in the Series, giving up three runs and six hits in four innings .
After a pair of relatively balmy autumn nights on the North Side, the temperature dropped to 50 degrees at game time and a 10 mph win added chill. Maddon wore a Cubs ski hat with a blue pompom rather than a baseball cap.
Bryant, in a 1-for-15 slide, led off the fourth by driving a fastball into the left-field bleachers, where a fan in the first row dropped it.
Rizzo sent the next pitch off the ivy on the right-field wall for a double, admiring its flight before hustling, took third on Ben Zobrist's single and came home with the go-ahead run when Addison Russell reached out and topped a pitch down the third-base line for an infield single.
Jason Heyward took a called third strike, slumping Javier Baez dropped a bunt down the third-base line for a single that loaded the bases and Ross, a 39-year-old making perhaps his final big league start, hit a sacrifice fly for a 3-1 lead.
"We're writing our own history. We're making history. Why stop?" Russell said. "This is entertaining to us. It's fun, and we live for this."
Ross allowed Santana's second-inning foul pop to glance off his glove and Rizzo batted the ball in the air with his bare hand, then gloved it. It was similar to Game 6 in 1980, when Philadelphia first baseman Pete Rose grabbed Frank White's foul pop after it nicked off catcher Bob Boone.
Heyward grabbed onto the brick wall in the right-field corner in the third, then reached back to catch Bauer's wind-blown foul fly.
This was the last game with the bullpens in foul territory at Wrigley, where new pens under the bleachers are to open next season. Zobrist had to climb the mound to catch Kipnis' seventh-inning fly.