ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
If you are a fan of heartbreak, then this year's World Series is your dream matchup. The Chicago Cubs last won a title in 1908. We'll do the math for you. That is 108 years ago. The Cleveland Indians, on the other hand, have endured a 68-year drought. NPR's Tom Goldman is in Cleveland for game one tonight. Hi, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hey, Robert.
SIEGEL: And let's start by talking about this matchup. Beyond their woeful histories, right now, these are two very good baseball teams. Who's got the edge?
GOLDMAN: Well, Chicago is favored. Despite the Cubs' history of woe, they're really the Goliaths in this matchup - 103 regular season wins this year, most in the majors. They have an all-star-studded lineup. Cleveland comparatively is David but still a very good team, especially in the postseason. The Indians have won 7 of their 8 games. They've done a great job navigating lots of injuries to key players, particularly in their starting pitching rotation.
Now, a key for both teams is going to be jumping out to early leads, especially for Cleveland. The Indians like to get the early lead and then protect it with their great relief pitchers, especially the guys at the end of the game, Andrew Miller and Kloser Cody Allen. They have combined to pitch 19-and-a-third scoreless innings in the playoffs, struck out nearly half the batters they've pitched against.
And Robert, you probably know this. The 6-foot-7, left-handed Miller has been a revelation. He was the American League Championship Series' MVP, and the Cubs really don't want to face him, especially if they're behind.
SIEGEL: So what you're saying is non-Cubs or Indians fans - we can safely go to sleep after about seven innings in this.
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) That's exactly right.
SIEGEL: Not that they need much help, but Chicago is getting back slugger Kyle Schwarber for this series. He injured his knee at the beginning of the season - surprising?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, I think it is a little surprising considered - you know, when he tore his ACL in his knee in April, it looked like it was curtains. He was out for good for the year. But he's been cleared by doctors to hit and run, not field.
So he'll play designated hitter in the four potential games in Cleveland where the designated hitter will be in use of course because it's the American League City, and the American League uses the DH while the National League doesn't. Schwarber's a threat at the bat. He set a cubs record with five playoff home runs last season his rookie year.
SIEGEL: One great dimension to this World Series is the matchup in the dugout - two highly respected managers - Joe Maddon with the Cubs, Terry Francona with the Indians. What makes these two guys so good?
GOLDMAN: I know. I love these guys. They're smart veteran managers. They're good tactically, you know? We saw that with Francona this season - the way he has managed his lineup through those injuries. We saw it with Maddon in the postseason - is he helped the Cubs get through some anxious periods early in the playoffs.
But you know, they're also really funny guys. They make it fun, and their players really enjoy that. Maddon has this young team, and they've taken to his style. You know, he's not a shouter. Robert, there's a natural tension when you're a good Chicago Cubs team. Are you finally going to break the drought, end the curse? Well, Maddon's really good at defusing that tension, and from the very start of spring training, he's been doing that with them. Among other tactics, his phrase, try not to suck has been a hit and turned it into a line of T-shirts.
Now, Francona had to deal with one of his starting pitchers, Trevor Bauer, who injured a finger fixing a drone of all things. And Francona was quoted as saying, I think we've all at some point or another had a drone-related problem.
GOLDMAN: That's good stuff.
SIEGEL: OK, thank you, Tom.
GOLDMAN: Thank you, Robert.
SIEGEL: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman speaking to us from Cleveland, site of tonight's game one of the World Series.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.