About 30 minutes after the Chicago Cubs staved off elimination Sunday night with a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the World Series, third baseman Kris Bryant asked a simple question about whether he thought the team could erase a 3-1 deficit.
"Why not us?" he said. "I feel like we play our best with our backs up against the wall. Hopefully, we can get out there and win Game 6, because you never know what can happen in a Game 7."
Bryant and Chicago will get a chance to test that theory Tuesday night when the teams meet again, this time at Cleveland's Progressive Field.
No team has wiped out a 3-1 deficit in the World Series since the Kansas City Royals did it to St. Louis Cardinals in 1985. Although the Royals were the better team against the injury-riddled Cardinals, they might have lost Game 6 were it not for Don Denkinger's infamous flubbed call at first base that initiated a game-winning, two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning.
History doesn't exactly favor the Cubs, even if recent developments do. By winning Game 5, they triggered the return of Kyle Schwarber to their lineup as the designated hitter in Cleveland. Schwarber, who tore an ACL during the season's opening week, wasn't medically cleared to play the field, so he was limited to pinch-hitting over the weekend.
What's more, Chicago appears to have an advantage in the pitching matchup. Jake Arrieta notched a 5-1 win Wednesday night in Game 2, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and fanning six in 5 2/3 innings and 98 pitches.
"It's just like any other game where you feel comfortable with the game plan," Arrieta said of this start. "You go out there to do your best to follow through on the execution. That's really the only thing I'll be thinking about."
The Indians counter with right-hander Josh Tomlin, who blanked the Cubs for 4 2/3 innings in a 1-0 win in Game 3. Tomlin will start with three days' rest for just the second time in his MLB career, and even though he threw only 58 pitches on Friday night, he admits his preparation will change a little bit because of working on short rest.
"It's obviously a little better than throwing 100 or 110," Tomlin said of the light workload on Friday night, "but in this environment you still get up and down four or five times. It's a little more stressful than a regular-season start."
While Tomlin might not be as fresh as Arrieta, his bullpen should be ready to go after Monday's off-day. That includes left-hander Andrew Miller, who has defined Cleveland's run to the brink of its first World Series championship since 1948 with his ability to work multiple innings in pressure situations.
Although the Indians fell short in Game 5, the bullpen did their part with four scoreless innings, and figures to be on call early if necessary. Tomlin is hoping they'll enter the fray later rather than sooner but is comfortable with their ability to lock down games.
"Those guys have done an unbelievable job through the course of the regular season and the playoffs," he said. "But you go out there with the mindset of going as deep as you can in the game."
And, in Tomlin's case, answering Bryant's question with an emphatic no.