CLEVELAND — Maybe it was just a bad opening night.
The Cubs looked much more like the team that led the majors in wins and was a heavy favorite to win a championship in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday, beating the Indians 5-1.
They did it with a strong performance from starter Jake Arrieta, who added a dose of drama by rolling into the sixth inning before allowing his first hit, though the combination of his high pitch count and the pending rain made any threat to Don Larsen's place in history unlikely. Arrieta, who said he was too amped up early, finished with 98 pitches.
And they did it with a more balanced showing from their offense that was shut out on Tuesday, as they took an early lead and built on, with ex-Rays star Ben Zobrist and just-activated Kyle Schwarber rapping two hits apiece.
"That's our goal, that's our mantra on a nightly basis. If you look at this playoff run for everybody, the team that scores first normally has a pretty good advantage,'' Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "And that probably did permit Jake, maybe the improper word is to relax, but he got settled in better."
Indians starter Trevor Bauer's drone-cut pinkie was no apparent issue, but his pitching was a mess anyway as he failed to get out of the fourth inning.
After striking out 15 times in Tuesday's Series-opening blanking, the Cubs had a more measured approach, and it paid off. They scored a run on two hits in the first, another on a walk and two singles in the third then broke it open with a three-run fifth, taking advantage of three walks and an error, with Zobrist delivering the big hit, an RBI triple. For the night, they drew eight walks and took advantage of two Cleveland errors and some other misplays.
"For us to win we generally need to play a clean game, and we didn't do that," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "They beat us tonight. It wasn't because somebody had a bad finger. They just played better than us tonight.''
Former Rays minor-leaguer Mike Montgomery worked two innings and closer Aroldis Chapman got the final four outs.
Arrieta said he was a bit too amped up in the first, but then returned to form. "I was able to kind of settle down and pitch well from that point on,'' he said.
He made the deepest bid for a no-hitter since Jerry Koosman went six clean innings for the Mets in the 1969 Series against the Orioles.
The game was played under the threat of heavy late rain as MLB moved the start time up an hour to create what commissioner Rob Manfred called a "very playable window," though it took four hours and four minutes to complete.
SCHWARBER UPDATE: Given how much Schwarber contributed as the DH in his first two games back from April knee surgery — going 3-for-7 with two RBIs — the next question is whether he will play in the outfield during the NL rules games at Wrigley Field, or be limited to pinch-hitting.
Maddon said that would be up to the doctors, Schwarber said he is taking it a day at a time. How he does in a Thursday workout could be a key, too.
"Honestly I don't know,'' Maddon said. "That's something I'm waiting to hear from our guys, from our medical side, because obviously he looks good. He looks good at the plate. Running the bases he looks pretty good so far.''
K-CLUB: As if the Cubs didn't see enough of Indians ace Corey Kluber in Tuesday's dominant outing, Francona said the Stetson University product will start again on short rest in Game 4 on Saturday and potentially again in Game 7 next week. Kluber was limited to 88 pitches Tuesday.
Rather than turn to rookie Ryan Merritt or Danny Salazar, who pitched in relief Wednesday after missing a month with a forearm injury, the Indians also were planning to use Game 2 and 3 starters Bauer and Josh Tomlin on short rest as well.
"In our situation right now, there's a couple factors," Francona said. "One, some guys have gotten hurt. Two, we still wouldn't have done it if we didn't think it was the right thing to do. And part of that … this has been Kluber's least amount of pitches this month just because when they're winning, we go to the bullpen, and if they're losing, we take them out."
OFFICIAL BUSINESS: Manfred said talks on a collective bargaining agreement remain ongoing and he expects a new deal to be announced during the Series or shortly after. … With 19.37 million viewers and a 5.6 rating, Tuesday's game was the most-watched opener since Yankees-Phillies in 2009. … Manfred said MLB knows the Indians' Chief Wahoo logo "is offensive to some people" but consider such issues to be "primarily a local matter" and will talk with Cleveland ownership about it after the season.
MISCELLANY: Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant and retired Red Sox DH David Ortiz won the Hank Aaron awards as the top offensive players in their leagues. … Francona's Series record is 9-1. … Zobrist on Tuesday joined Babe Ruth as the only players to have three hits in the opening game of back-to-back Series. … First pitch temperature was 43 degrees.