The Indians seized that opportunity with a 1-0 victory over the Cubs in Game 3, and now lead the series, two games to one.
Since the World Series' 2-3-2 travel format was established in 1925 (with a few exceptions during World War II, including the Cubs' last Series appearance in 1945), 43 Series have been tied 1-1 going into Game 3. Teams that claimed the third game have gone 30-13 overall, portending a leg up for whoever can prevail in this Game 3 at Wrigley, 71 years in the making.
"We are very much aware of everything that's gone on in the past, but we have to live in the present, otherwise you'll never be able to get to this juncture," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "To get to this moment, and then have your fans have the opportunity to witness a World Series game here? It's not lost on me whatsoever."
History favors whichever club claims Game 3. Teams that have won it at home after splitting the first two games on the road have won 16 of 23 series. Teams that have claimed Game 3 on the road with the series tied 1-1 have gone on to win the Series 14 of 20 times.
On the other hand, tonight's winner will need to buck a recent trend: The last two teams to claim Game 3 after a 1-1 split, the 2014 Royals and 2013 Cardinals, went on to lose the Series.
"We knew coming into this that we weren't just going to steamroll the Cubs," Indians first baseman Mike Napoli said Thursday. "We knew it was going to be a good [Series], and we'll see what we're made of."
Stakes are raised
• Whoever loses Game 3 will be feeling some pressure -- only two teams have come back to win a title after falling behind 3-1 following a split of the first two games.
• The Senators and Pirates split the first two games in Pittsburgh to begin the 1925 World Series before home runs by Hall of Famer Goose Goslin spurred Washington to wins in Games 3 and 4. The Pirates clawed back to set up Game 7 in Pittsburgh, where they ambushed the great Walter Johnson for nine runs to seal the comeback.
• In 1968, the Tigers and Cardinals split the first two games in St. Louis before the Cards outscored Detroit, 17-4, in the next two contests. But the Tigers rode a red-hot Mickey Lolich, who won Game 5 and came back on two days' rest to defeat Bob Gibson in a classic Game 7 duel. Lolich is the last pitcher to tally three complete-game victories in a Fall Classic.
Kick-starting a title run
• Five teams have won Games 3, 4 and 5 away from home after splitting the first two games on the road to wrap up the title -- though the last team was the 1983 Orioles, who rattled off three straight wins at Veterans Stadium to beat the Phillies.
• Conversely, five teams have separated themselves from a 1-1 tie by winning the middle three games at home, as the Cubs hope to do this weekend. The 2008 Phillies were the last to do so, defeating the Rays in frigid, rain-soaked contests at Citizens Bank Park.
Going the distance
• Tonight's losing club won't face an insurmountable deficit, but its best chance will be to drag out the Series. Twenty-one times, a 2-3-2 World Series that entered Game 3 all square has been pushed to Game 7, and once it gets there, the odds are basically even. The Game 3 winner has taken the Series 11 times, the loser 10 times.
• When Maddon was the Angels' bench coach in 2002, they went into Game 3 of the World Series tied 1-1 with the Giants. The Angels won Game 3 in San Francisco, guaranteeing the Series would at least go back to Anaheim -- where the Angels won Games 6 and 7 for the franchise's only title.
• The Indians came out on the losing end in one of those Series. In 1997, their last World Series appearance, the Indians returned to Cleveland for Game 3 of a 1-1 series against the Marlins. The Marlins won Game 3, and eventually their first championship.