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Dueling Droughts: Cubs, Indians set to meet in World Series

Kris Bryant of the Cubs hits an RBI single during the first inning of Saturday’s win that sent the Cubs to the World Series for the first time since 1945. They last won the World Series in 1908. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)
Kris Bryant of the Cubs hits an RBI single during the first inning of Saturday’s win that sent the Cubs to the World Series for the first time since 1945. They last won the World Series in 1908. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)
By Ben Walker Associated Press

At long, long last, it’s true: Either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians will win the World Series.

The matchup between teams that forever waited till next year – next century, really – is finally here.

A classic Fall Classic, for sure.

Do-it-all Javier Baez, flashy Francisco Lindor, MVP caliber Kris Bryant and a bevy of young stars. Lights-out relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, and wily skippers Joe Maddon and Terry Francona.

Plus, intrigue if injured All-Star starter Danny Salazar and slugger Kyle Schwarber can play.

Oh, and did someone mention something about a drought?

Game 1 is at Progressive Field in Cleveland on Tuesday night.

In the Cubs’ last visit to Cleveland, back in August 2015, they posted a 17-0 rout for the most-lopsided shutout ever in interleague play. It got so out of hand two Indians outfielders wound up pitching.

But that’s ancient history.

For the Cubbies, this is their first World Series trip since 1945 and a chance to win their first crown since 1908.

They clinched their spot Saturday night at Wrigley Field, with big league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks outpitching Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw for a 5-0 win in Game 6 of the N.L. Championship Series.

Favorites since opening day, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and past October aces Jon Lester and John Lackey helped the Cubs cruise to a major league-leading 103 victories.

Now, they’re ready to sweep aside the Curse of the Billy Goat and the specter of Steve Bartman. And make up for the near-misses by Cubs greats such as Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams.

“Obviously we know that it’s something that’s going to be talked about with the history of the organization,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said.

“But it’s really not something we focus on at all. So we just kind of disregard it and go out and play,” he said.

The Indians also a past full of failure and frustration.

In 1997, Cleveland was three outs from winning its first championship since 1948 when closer Jose Mesa blew a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 at Florida. An error by sure-handed second baseman Tony Fernandez doomed them in the 11th.

Earlier this year, LeBron James and the Cavaliers turned Cleveland into Believeland by rallying to win the NBA title. James has been loudly cheering for the Indians to bring another championship to the city.

Steady Jason Kipnis, jolly Mike Napoli and likely Game 1 starter Corey Kluber starred as the surprising Indians won the A.L. Central, then breezed by Boston and Toronto in the playoffs.

The Indians did it despite a thinning rotation. Salazar hasn’t pitched since early September because of a forearm problem, Carlos Carrasco got his hand broken by a line drive and Trevor Bauer cut his pinkie playing with a drone.

Even though the clubs hold spring training about 30 miles apart in Arizona, they don’t overlap a lot.

They’ve never played in the postseason and are just 9-9 against each other in interleague action.

Miller and Chapman, however, were teammates this season in the New York Yankees’ bullpen before they both got traded in late July.

Francona and current Cubs architect Theo Epstein spent even more time together. In 2004, they teamed up as the Red Sox ended a World Series championship drought dating to 1918 – when Boston beat the Cubs, by the way.

Soon, another city will be celebrating. Maybe next week, maybe next month, with Game 7 scheduled for Nov. 2.

A pair of big cities, one on Lake Michigan, the other on Lake Erie, waiting … and hoping to end the wait.

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