CLEVELAND – Considering the painful history of the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs, perhaps they should be forced to decide this World Series fraught with goats and goblins by playing the best of 71.

Instead, the two teams with the longest World Series title droughts – a combined 174 seasons – will play a seventh and final game tonight at Progressive Field to decide whose curse ends.

“We want to be the group that breaks the string,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s just correct and apt that we’d go seven games.”

For Cleveland, this decisive game will be its third chance in four days to win a championship for the first time since 1948. Indians fans can only hope it doesn’t end like Game 7 of the ’97 series did against the Florida Marlins.

“It’s an honor to even be a part of it, and we’re going to give it everything we have,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “I can’t imagine a better group of guys to go through something like this with. I’m looking forward to it already.”

The Cubs, seeking their first World Series title since 1908, forced tonight’s showdown by avoiding elimination for a second consecutive game Tuesday with a 9-3 victory in a Game 6 that reeked of Cleveland’ past follies.

Chicago showed why it led the majors with 103 wins in the regular season by jumping to a 7-0 lead in the top of the third and finishing the game with 13 hits, three of them home runs.

Cubs shortstop Addison Russell tied a World Series record by driving in six runs, four on a third-inning grand slam. Third baseman Kris Bryant had four hits, including a homer. Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta struck out nine and allowed only two runs in 5 2/3 innings.

“Jake was really good,” Maddon said. “On his regular rest, he was outstanding. We came out hitting the baseball. We looked more normal. We hit our home runs.”

After squandering a second straight chance at a title, the Indians will turn again tonight to their ace Corey Kluber on short rest for a second straight start. He’s 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA in five postseason starts, including 2-0 with a 0.75 in the World Series.

“He’s a tough one, but we’ve got a good one going, too,” Bryant said.

The Cubs will counter with Kyle Hendricks, who led the National League in the regular season with an ERA of 2.13 to go with a 16-8 record. He’s 1-1 with a 1.31 ERA in the postseason, and he’ll be pitching on a full four-day’s rest.

Tuesday evening began with Cleveland ready to explode in celebration by wrapping up its first World Series championship in 68 years to add to the NBA title that the Cavaliers won last June to end the city’s 52-year title drought.

Energy from the sold-out crowd of 38,116 fizzled when Chicago bolted to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning. All of the runs scored after Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin retired the game’s first two batters.

Bryant began the surge with a 433-foot solo homer into the left field bleachers. “That’s my favorite pitch to hit is the hanging curveball,” he said.

That majestic shot was followed by consecutive singles by Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist, and then a monumental blunder.

Russell hit a short fly into right center.

“Off the bat I thought that was going to be kind of a routine play,” Russell said.

Cleveland centerfielder Tyler Naquin and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall allowed the ball to fall to the turf between them. Rizzo and Zobrist scored on what was ruled a double.

“Lonnie went hard after it, as he should, but it’s Naquin’s ball,” Francona said. “He was playing on that side, and he’s the center fielder. And I think at the end there, as Lonnie was kind of pulling off, Naquin was yelling, ‘It’s yours. You got it.’ It’s pretty loud anyway.

“I think we kind of told ‘Nake’ especially playing on that side, that’s his ball. Just take charge and take it. He kind of made it hard on Lonnie because you’ve got to go hard until you hear something. That was an unfortunate play because we thought we were out of the inning with one, and we could kind of regroup, and instead it’s three.”

Tomlin was lifted with one out in the third after Chicago loaded the bases. Russell greeted Cleveland reliever Dan Otero with a 434-foot homer to make it 7-0.

“Being up 7-0 after three, I knew that was all we were going to need tonight,” Arrieta said.

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis scored in the fourth after a double and homered in the fifth. Rizzo cracked a two-run homer in the ninth for Chicago. Roberto Perez doubled in Brandon Guyer in the ninth for Cleveland’s final run.

So the Cubs have stretched their first World Series in 71 years to the limit while the Indians are left trying to avoid becoming the first team since the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals to lose a World Series after leading 3-1.

“You learn from your mistakes and then move on quickly,” Francona said. “We’ll do that. It will be exciting to come to the ballpark tomorrow. Shoot, I might just wear my uniform home.”

— You can reach Todd Jones at tjones@dispatch.com or on Twitter @Todd_Jones.