CLEVELAND -- After Tuesday's 9-3 loss to the Cubs in Game 6 of the World Series, which now extends to a deciding Game 7 on Wednesday night at Progressive Field, history no longer stands on the side of the Tribe. Once tied at three games apiece, the home and road teams each have won the deciding Game 7 18 times.
And the Indians will have some personal baggage to unload, too. Game 5 was the sixth consecutive time the Indians have lost a home game that would have clinched a postseason series. They have now lost three straight World Series games that could have clinched a title -- Game 7 to the Marlins in 1997, plus Games 5-6 of this Series. The Indians postseason record in clinching games in the Wild Card era now stands at 8-15.
But the Indians won a clinching Game 3 in Boston and a clinching Game 5 in Toronto earlier this month, so already they have established that they are capable of closing out a series. And that's not all they have going for them: Count Indians manager Terry Francona, along with his starter, Corey Kluber, among the many X-factors.
More than ever, Francona has showcased this in a whirlwind October. And while fans solemnly filed out of Progressive Field not long before midnight Tuesday, Francona was found in the bowels of the ballpark, doing so again while speaking ever so steadily about the confidence he has in his group ahead of the looming winner-take-all battle.
"Tonight was a tough night," said Francona, trying for his third World Series title as manager, his first two with Boston. "You can, however philosophical or whatever, have sayings. What it comes down to is, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's a really important game tomorrow. And we'll be really excited to play.
"You learn from your mistakes and then move on quickly, and we'll do that. It will be exciting to come to the ballpark tomorrow. Shoot, I might just wear my uniform home. I might get ice cream on it though, so maybe I better not."
That Francona served up a scoop of humor with a side of smiles before diving into his ice cream after such a tough loss -- it's well known by now that he spent $44 on the frozen stuff when he couldn't sleep after Game 4 -- speaks greatly to his unwavering demeanor that's been a constant through Cleveland's adversity this year.
Behind Francona, the Indians have survived a rash of injuries, fighting through the absence of their best player, outfielder Michael Brantley, and several key pitchers, notably Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Now they face a different kind of test, with Kluber -- he of a 0.89 ERA this postseason -- leading the way opposite Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs, who are trying to become just the sixth team in history to overcome a 3-1 World Series deficit.
"That's a good feeling, and I know they love their guy, too, as they should," Francona said. "It's Game 7. You've got two really, really good pitchers, and it will be exciting. Like I said before tonight's game, it's an honor to even be a part of it, and we're going to give it everything we have. I can't imagine a better group of guys to go through something like this with. I'm looking forward to it already."
The Indians were victimized by their own mistakes on Tuesday, particularly a costly misplay by center fielder Tyler Naquin in the first inning that fueled the Cubs' offense to an early lead they'd never squander. So often has their manager reminded them this season, though, that they can beat anyone when they play clean baseball.
That's the plan Wednesday. The Indians will be seeking their first World Series title since 1948. The Cubs' drought dates back to 1908.
"We've got to take care of business tomorrow; either way you're going home," Naquin said. "We want to go home with that win. We put ourselves in the right situation to do it. Wish we could have taken care of it [Sunday] or today. But it didn't go like that. There are games like that. You've got to make adjustments. We've got just as good of a shot tomorrow. We've got Kluber on the mound. He's going to give us a chance to win."
Only seven times during the regular season did Cleveland drop three games in a row, most recently in late August. Conversely, the 103-win Cubs enjoyed win streaks of three or more on 16 occasions.
Then there's this: Francona, who is the only manager to win a best-of-seven series after being down 3-0 (2004 ALCS), is now attempting to avoid becoming the first manager since 1985 -- when the Royals staged an epic comeback against the Cardinals -- to lose a World Series after being up 3-1.
He has a resilient Tribe behind him.
"There's a never-give-up mentality here," reliever Andrew Miller said. "There's a lot of confidence. I think that looseness is something that we strive for. We're not faking it. It's just the guys that we have and what works for us. There's just this assumption that we'll find a way -- whether it's come back or show up tomorrow, or whatever it is. We're here for a reason. We're a really good team and we won a lot of games, and we just have to find a way to win one more."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.