CLEVELAND – Just like that, the Cubs’ World Series Express is back on track.

They beat the Indians, 5-1, Wednesday night to knot the Series at one game each, as the Fall Classic returns to Wrigley Field for the first time since 1945. Game 3 is set for Friday night.

“I can’t imagine,” Cubs utility star Ben Zobrist said, contemplating how the faithful will react to actually seeing something that most have never experienced in their lifetimes. “The fans are probably more excited than we are. It’s been a long time. They’ve been waiting patiently, and they deserve to have these games played there.”

Eight wins in the books for the Cubs this postseason, three more to win the championship that has eluded Major League Baseball’s one-time “lovable losers” since 1908. With the next three games in this best-of-seven series set for this weekend, the Cubs have a chance to win the whole thing at home.

Oh, my.

There were two basic storylines to Game 2.

First, there was Jake Arrieta, the Cubs’ Cy Young Award-winning pitcher in 2015. For 51/3 innings, Arrieta was his unhittable self, and the Indians never recovered against the Cubs bullpen.

Then there was the offense, keyed by Eureka native Ben Zobrist and the 23-year-old Kyle Schwarber, who was playing in only his second game since April. They combined for four hits, two walks and drove in three of the Cubs’ five runs.

Arrieta didn’t have his best stuff. He had trouble finding the strike zone in the first inning, when he walked Francisco Lindor and Mike Napoli back to back. He went to full counts on three batters in the first three innings, and he also walked Jose Ramirez in the fourth. His missed the plate badly on quite a few pitches.

But sometimes there’s something to be said for being a little wild. Arrieta’s pitches didn’t come loaded with the filth that the Indians’ Corey Kluber threw at the Cubs in Game 1. But they proved every bit as unhittable.

“I kind of had my foot on the gas a little too much at the start, trying to do more than I needed to,” Arrieta said.

The Indians had figured they could use their speed to generate offense and disrupt Arrieta’s rhythm. But other than the three walks, they couldn’t get on base to raise havoc.

They didn’t get a hit until the sixth inning, when Jason Kipnis doubled to center field with one out. He advanced to third on a groundout to the right side, then Arrieta wild-pitched him home. After Napoli singled, Arrieta was lifted and the Cubs bullpen took over.

Lights out for Cleveland.

It was the longest a no-hit bid has lasted in a World Series game since 1969, when the Mets’ Jerry Koosman threw six hitless innings against the Orioles, also in Game 2.
Meanwhile, the offense was timely and predatory.

Anthony Rizzo drove in Kris Bryant for a run in the first inning, putting the Cubs on top. More important, though, the Cubs made starter Trevor Bauer work. Hard. He threw 51 pitches in the first two innings, facing every batter in the Cubs lineup. Next time around, the Cubs punished him.

With two out in the third, after a Rizzo walk, Zobrist singled. Then Schwarber, the feel-good story of the Series, singled to center to drive in Rizzo.

Schwarber injured his knee in the spring and was declared out for the year. But he fought his way back and was activated on Tuesday. He went 1-for-3 with a deep double in Game 1, then broke loose in Game 2, driving in another run in the fifth.

“It’s crazy,” Zobrist said. “Just having him in the lineup is a morale boost. To see him not only get quality at-bats against tough pitching, but get big hits and RBI for us is big. To be gone all that time and come back and hit like he has … I don’t know that anybody else in the league could do that. He’s a stud. A really special player.”

Zobrist has proven himself a special player, too, especially in postseason. After a three-hit night while his teammates were shut down in Game 1, he returned with two hits and a walk in Game 2. That included a triple off Indians reliever and former Chillicothe IVC star Zach McAllister in the fifth.

Credit the Indians pitchers for keeping the score under control, because it could have been a lot worse.

The Cubs got eight hits. Indians pitchers issued eight walks. And an error put yet another Cub on base in the fifth. But the Cubs stranded 12 base runners, leaving the bases loaded twice. Four times, Indians pitchers squashed threats with strikeouts to end the inning.

Now it’s on to Chicago, and a World Series championship for the Cubs is so close, you can smell it.

And yet …

“We have a long way to go,” Schwarber said.

That’s what makes it hard. And fun.

— Kirk Wessler is Journal Star sports editor. Contact him at kwessler@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @KirkWessler.