At the risk of going out on a limb for a team that hasn’t won a World Series in 108 years or even scored in a World Series in 71 years…

Don’t worry. The Chicago Cubs still have this.

Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday did not go as the Cubs planned. They presumably planned on preventing the Cleveland Indians from scoring runs while netting a few of their own against Corey Kluber and friends. Instead, Cleveland won going away, 6-0.

And so, the Cubs are still looking for their first World Series win since beating the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 of the 1945 Fall Classic. They’re also still looking for their first World Series run since the eighth inning of Game 7.

More troubling than that history, though, is the recent history of teams that have lost the first game of the World Series. Take it away, Jayson Stark of

The latest odds don’t paint as ugly a picture, but they’re still not good. According to FanGraphs, Cleveland now has a 54.1 percent chance of winning its first World Series in 68 years.

But enough of these scary numbers.

Just because the Indians landed the first blow doesn’t mean everything has changed. The Cubs were heavy favorites with a 64.5 percent chance of victory coming into the series. And even if they’re not officially favorites after dropping Game 1, that should change quickly.

There are good reasons the Cubs lost Game 1, including two homers by Roberto Perez and stellar relief pitching by—who else?—Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. But the Cubs also played better than the 6-0 final indicates. Without Perez’s homers, the Indians would have needed a swinging bunt by Jose Ramirez and a Brandon Guyer hit-by-pitch to score runs. Cubs hitters had some good at-bats, especially against Miller in his two innings of work.

“We didn’t play as bad as that looked,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said afterward, via Richard Justice of

The deciding factor in Game 1 was Kluber‘s pitching. The 2014 Cy Young winner pitched like his best self, giving up only four hits and striking out nine in six scoreless frames.

You could have seen this coming. The Cubs are a patient team that specializes in working pitchers. Kluber is a strike-thrower with great stuff. He beat the Cubs the same way Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill temporarily silenced them in the National League Championship Series: by going right at them.

Assuming Mother Nature doesn’t wash the game away, the Cubs will get a nice change of pace against Trevor Bauer in Game 2.

Bauer’s 4.26 ERA this season kept his career ERA safely above 4.00. Recently, his issues with walks (3.5 BB/9) and home runs (1.2 HR/9) came back to haunt him in the second half. He’s just the kind of pitcher the Cubs, No. 1 in the National League in walks and top five in homers, can handle.

And if an offensive barrage doesn’t result in an early shower for Bauer, the finger injury that has already taken him off the mound once this October could do the trick.

Either way, an early exit from Bauer would spell trouble for Cleveland. It would require Francona to get the best out of his bullpen. That basically means the best out of Miller, and he likely won’t be up to it after throwing 46 pitches in Game 1.

As such, the Cubs evening this series could be a matter of them getting quality innings out of Jake Arrieta. That’s an iffier proposal than it was this time a year ago. But he’s still a far safer bet than Bauer and Johnny Wholestaff.

The dominoes will line up nicely if the Cubs do win Game 2. They’ll be heading back to Wrigley Field needing just three more wins, and with the matchups in their favor.

Game 3 will feature Kyle Hendricks against Josh Tomlin. That’s a pitcher with the lowest ERA in baseball (2.13) and an even lower ERA at home (1.32) up against a pitcher who’s good, but who has only one of Kluber‘s qualities. Tomlin is a strike-thrower, but not with overwhelming swing-and-miss stuff.

Game 4 will be John Lackey up against either Kluber on three days’ rest, Ryan Merritt or Danny Salazar, or some combination of Merritt and Salazar. Either way, that game will also favor Chicago.

Kluber was not sharp when he started on short rest in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, surrendering two runs in five innings. Merritt is sort of a left-handed Tomlin. Salazar is like Bauer, except wilder and minus any stamina after being on the disabled list since early September.

If the Cubs force a Game 5, their rotation would be flipped back over again for Jon Lester. He still has a 2.61 ERA even after allowing three earned runs in five and two-thirds innings in Game 1, and even that line overstates how much he struggled.

If the series shifts back to Cleveland for Games 6 and 7, the Cubs could rest easy knowing Kyle Schwarber is back.

Just six months after he suffered a major knee injury, the Cubs appeared to be indulging in wishful thinking when they threw Schwarber into their Game 1 lineup. After taking only a couple of at-bats in the Arizona Fall League, making him face Kluber seemed cruel and/or unusual.

Instead, Schwarber darn near took him deep.

That wasn’t Schwarber‘s only bright moment. He also worked Miller for a walk in the seventh inning, becoming just the second left-handed hitter to draw a walk off the lefty relief ace this season.

“You could see on the finish sometimes maybe the brace grabs him just a little bit. I kind of noticed that,” Maddon said of Schwarber in his postgame presser, via “Otherwise there was no kind of negative atmosphere surrounding his at-bats. I thought they were outstanding, actually.”

Although Schwarber can only DH in games at Progressive Field, that still makes him another weapon in Maddon‘s arsenal for this series. The rest of it, meanwhile, is a reminder of why the Cubs were such heavy favorites coming into the series.

The Cubs didn’t win 103 games this season by accident. They had the best starting rotation. They gained one of the best bullpens in the second half. They had one of the best offenses. They had the best defense.

The Indians are awfully good, but not as deep. That didn’t matter in Game 1 because they mostly beat the Cubs with their best guys. They can’t do that in every game. As this series involves more players, the more it will favor the Cubs.

So, there. Now that I’ve gone and stood up for the Cubs, what could possibly go wrong?


Stats courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

Follow zachrymer on Twitter

Read more MLB news on