Cubs confident in Jon Lester with World Series on the line in Game 5

Cubs confident in Jon Lester with World Series on the line in Game 5

Jon Lester started a World Series clincher for the Boston Red Sox back in 2007, though his team ended that game celebrating a championship over the Colorado Rockies. This is a different scenario: After Saturday’s 7-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians, Lester will be pitching Sunday to keep his teams’ championship hopes alive. 

The Cubs sold Lester on leading a starting rotation to the franchise’s first World Series title since 1908, and his big-game experience and loads of playoff innings were a major reason why they shelled out $155 million to sign him in December 2014. Sunday will mark Lester’s 21st playoff appearance and 19th start, and he has a 2.60 ERA over his 124 2/3 postseason innings. 

With that experience comes a clear-headed mindset about how he’ll approach a critical start in Game 5. 

“It's hard enough to pitch this time of year or play this time of year and be successful,” Lester said. “I think if you're down 3-1 and you're going in there saying you have to do this, you have to do that to try to stay alive, I think you've kind of already been beaten, you know? You're not worried about the right thing.”

Lester slogged through a rough first inning in Game 1, issuing two walks and hitting Brandon Guyer with a pitch with the bases loaded. He settled down and only allowed a solo home run to catcher Roberto Perez and finished his night having allowed three runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings, his shortest playoff outing since 2013 (a span of eight starts). 

“There are a few guys over there that I haven't faced a lot, if at all,” Lester said. “So you'll be able to draw from that information, make the adjustments that you need to make from the previous start and just kind of go from there.

“You still have to execute pitches no matter what the game plan is against guys. And the guys you've had success against, you just try to continue to have success against, and the guys you didn't, you try to make the adjustments off of that.”

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The Cubs believe Lester can return to form Sunday night in a pitching matchup that would seem to favor them, with Cleveland rolling with right-hander Trevor Bauer (3.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER in Game 2) on three days’ rest. That belief, though, needs to become reality for the Cubs to at least send the series back to Cleveland. 

“Always, always confident, especially with Jonny going,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s going to sound cliche, obviously, but we feel good — we’re down 3-1 in the World Series, but we feel good about who we have on the mound tomorrow.”

Even the Indians can't deny the lasting impact Cubs have on Progressive Field

Even the Indians can't deny the lasting impact Cubs have on Progressive Field

CLEVELAND — Even the Indians can't deny the lasting impact Cubs have on Progressive Field.

Namely, the impact the Cubs left on the floor of the visiting locker room.

With 18 months in between visits, one of the first things the Cubs noticed about their clubhouse at Progressive Field was the new carpet.

"It's probably necessary," Joe Maddon said with a smile. "So some good things have come from all that stuff, too, for the visitors. You get new interior decorating."

After the Indians blew a 3-1 lead in the 2016 World Series, the Cubs — and Bill Murray — dumped an awful lot of champagne and Budwesier on the old carpets.

Like, A LOT. 

"Oh yeah," Addison Russell said, "I think we messed it up pretty good."

It'd be hard to fault the Cubs for an epic celebration to honor the end of a 108-year championship drought, especially the way in which they accomplished the feat with maybe the most incredible baseball game ever played.

As the Cubs returned to the emotional, nostalgic-riddled scene of that historic fall, the parallels were striking.

Exactly 18 months before Tuesday, the Cubs walked into Progressive Field for the start of the World Series in 54 degree Cleveland weather with overcast skies and a pestering little drizzle.

Tuesday, the Cubs walked back into Progressive Field in 54 degree Cleveland weather with overcast skies and a pestering little drizzle.

A bunch of Cubs also found their lockers in the same place in that visiting locker room.

Russell, Ben Zobrist, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester all have their lockers in the same spots this week as they had for the 2016 Fall Classic.

Some clubhouses go in numerical order, some go based on position groups. The Indians don't really seem to fall under either camp, considering Lester was surrounded by all position players in the corner of the locker room, where — before Tuesday —was last seen giving a heartfelt "thank you" to the media for "putting up with him" all season.

"Just walking back into the stadium from the bus into the clubhouse, you get the sense of nostalgia," Russell said. "I see that they replaced the carpet, which is nice. But yeah, the weight room, the food room, I just remember walking around here having that World Series Champs shirt on.

"It's a great memory. I think this is the same locker I had as well. Everything's just fitting like a puzzle piece right now and it's pretty awesome."

Kyle Schwarber is basically Superman in Cleveland

Kyle Schwarber is basically Superman in Cleveland

CLEVELAND — Kyle Schwarber LOVES hitting in Cleveland.

It's like he morphs into a superhero just by stepping foot into the left-handed batter's box at Progressive Field.

Playing in Cleveland for the first time since his legendary return to the field in the 2016 World Series, Schwarber went absolutely bonkers on a Josh Tomlin pitch in the second inning Tuesday night:

That wasn't just any homer, however. 

The 117.1 mph dinger was the hardest-hit ball by any Cubs hitter in the era of exit velocity, aka since Statcast was invented in 2015:

Schwarber followed that up with another solo blast into the right-field bleachers in the fourth inning off Tomlin.

Schwarber — an Ohio native — collected his first MLB hit at Progressive Field back on June 17, 2015 in his second career game. He went 6-for-9 in that series with a triple, homer and 4 RBI.

Couple that with his World Series totals and the first two times up Tuesday and Schwarber has hit .500 with a .545 on-base percentage and .900 slugging percentage in his first 33 trips to the plate in Cleveland.