By Larry Fine
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The World Series returns to Chicago's Wrigley Field for the first time in 71 years on Friday and forecasts of a Windy City wind could turn the Game Three clash between the Cubs and Indians into a home run derby.
Wind plays a big role at venerable Wrigley Field where gusts blowing out of the ballpark tend to pad hitters' stats and carry balls over the ivy-covered walls while pitchers' duels are more likely when breezes blow in from the outfield.
Weather reports forecast winds from 10 to 20 miles per hour (16-32 km per hour) blowing out, with potential for gusts up to 40 mph as the teams break a 1-1 series tie after splitting the first two games of the best-of-seven in Cleveland.
That could make things particularly challenging for Chicago starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks and his Cleveland counterpart Josh Tomlin.
In Game Three of the 2015 National League Division Series between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, the teams combined to hit eight home runs with a helping wind of some 17 mph blowing out to right field.
"There's no other ballpark I've been involved with anywhere, anywhere, that can change so dramatically from day to day," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters this season about the impact of wind at Wrigley.
Friday's conditions could mean advantage Cubs.
Hendricks, who led the National League with a 2.13 earned run average during the regular season, allowed 15 home runs in 30 starts and 190 innings pitched.
Tomlin gave up 36 home runs in his 174 innings that helped inflate his regular season ERA of 4.40. The Indians right-hander, however, has pitched to a much stingier 2.53 ERA in his two postseason starts in 2016.
In any event, the stadium that opened in 1914 will be rocking when Hall of Famer Billy Williams, who patrolled the outfield for the Cubs, throws out the ceremonial first pitch.
Comic actor and super Cubs fan Bill Murray will lead the crowd in the singing of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)