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World Series Cubs pull shocker as bid to banish drought begins

An electric atmosphere was building in downtown Cleveland ahead of the opening game in the 112th World Series.

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Chicago Cubs fans cheer after Addison Russell #27 of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game four of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium play

Chicago Cubs fans cheer after Addison Russell #27 of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game four of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium

(Getty/AFP/File)

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The Chicago Cubs prepared to launch their bid to end the longest championship drought in American sports history on Tuesday with Game One of baseball's World Series just hours away.

With the sound of war drums in the air and hundreds of fans on the scene hours early, an electric atmosphere was building in downtown Cleveland ahead of the opening game in the 112th World Series.

Jon Lester, a 32-year-old left-hander who won two World Series titles with Boston, will start for the Cubs in their first World Series game since 1945 against Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber.

Dozens of fans wound around a checkout line in the Indians team store while others with huge drums, wild outfits and only dreams of tickets prepared to party outside the stadium even as the city's NBA team, the Cavaliers, prepared to open their 2016-2017 season at the arena next door.

While tension built outside, Cubs manager Joe Maddon was quietly positioning his team for the quest of winning their first Major League Baseball crown since 1908 by placing hitter Kyle Schwarber onto Chicago's 25-man World Series roster and removing left-handed pitcher Rob Zastryzny.

Schwarber, a 23-year-old outfielder, played only twice this season and has not played since April 7 at Arizona, where he suffered torn left knee ligaments in a collision with outfielder Dexter Fowler. He was not expected to play again until next season.

But doctors cleared Schwarber to run and hit last week and after a solid hitting effort in Arizona training games, Maddon elected to place him in the starting lineup for game one as the designated hitter.

American League rules are used in AL ballparks in the World Series and unlike in the National League, where the Cubs are champions, that means designated hitters replace pitchers in the batting order.

With up to four World Series games in Cleveland, that means the Cubs need an extra hitter more than an extra pitcher.

Schwarber hit five home runs in last year's playoffs. As a rookie in 2015, Schwarber hit .246 with 16 homers.

Schwarber made his major league debut in June of last year at Cleveland as a designated hitter and in two games went 6-for-9 with a homer and a triple while knocking in four runs.

"When you see his name in the lineup, there's some scariness to that," Cubs shortstop Addison Russell said. "We might turn it up another notch, especially with a guy like that who is high energy."

The Cubs have not played in the World Series since 1945, making Tuesday's contest their first in the championship final to be televised. Some have considered the team cursed given the near-misses and sometimes woeful seasons that have come over the past 71 years.

But the Indians enter the "Drought City" Series having not won the crown since 1948, the second-longest wait in baseball, and with Cleveland having gone 52 years without a sport champion in any league until the Cavaliers beat Golden State in last June's NBA Finals.

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