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World Series 2016: Game 2 Preview


Usually, a World Series matchup is anticipated for a lot of different reasons. This one has something that we rarely see, though: the team with the longest championship drought pitted against the team with the second-longest championship drought. In a few days, either the Cleveland Indians or Chicago Cubs will finally hold that trophy aloft for the first time in what must seem like forever.

Game 2 will provide an opportunity for the Cubs to try and get going in the series and ensure they aren’t returning home to Wrigley Field without momentum. They were able to string a few hits together but couldn’t make the most of their opportunities last night, something they’ll hope to rectify against Trevor Bauer. Cleveland meanwhile will just be hoping to keep things going after the trouble they gave Jon Lester.

Note that tonight’s game will start at 7:00 PM Eastern, ONE HOUR EARLIER than last night.

SO FAR THIS SERIES

series-so-farLast night in game 1 Roberto Perez hit two home runs and drove four runners in as Cleveland took the opener 6-0. Corey Kluber was dominant on the mound as the Tribe racked up a postseason-high 14 strikeouts, nine of those coming from Kluber who had the Cubs hitters off balance early.

Kyle Schwarber returned to the majors for the first time since last year’s postseason, and it didn’t take him long to remind people why the Cubs took a risk, a fourth-inning double one of the few highlights Chicago had all game. Teammate Ben Zobrist was the only other one who could get anything going against Cleveland’s army of pitchers, going 3-for-4 with a double on the night.

Game one winners have taken home the World Series title in 12 of the last 13 years, so the Cubs will have to defy history if they are to win here in 2016.

CUBS LINEUP

chc-lineupChicago was kept quiet for most of the night in game one, held to just seven hits by Cleveland’s pitchers. They did manage to load the bases with no one out in the seventh and then brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth, but on both occasions, they were unable to capitalize. In all, they were one-of-11 with runners in scoring position, the lone hit being a Javier Baez single that moved Ben Zobrist to third in the 7th.

As I mentioned earlier, Cubs hitters were struck out 14 times in the World Series opener with six of their starting nine doing so on multiple occasions. No team had struck out more times during the postseason, though Chicago did have one of the worst strikeout averages during the regular season. They typically punched out 8.3 times each of the 162 games, the second-most of any postseason team (Toronto had an 8.43 average).

Last night Joe Maddon opted to start Chris Coghlan in right field and leave Jason Heyward on the bench, a choice he’ll certainly toy with again for tonight’s game. Given Coghlan remains hitless in six at-bats this postseason and doesn’t have a hit against Bauer in his career, one could certainly think that it’s possible Heyward will be back in the lineup for game two.

Game one also gave the Cubs their first loss to a right-handed starter this postseason, and though they won nearly 65 per cent of games that were started by a righty during the regular season, the lineup averaged just a .252 mark against them in 2016.

Heyward, Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero are the only three players to have faced Bauer at least five times in their careers, combining to go 2-for-17 with a double against him.

INDIANS LINEUP

cle-lineupCleveland’s lineup tonight will look a little different to game one with Coco Crisp and Tyler Naquin likely starters facing a right-handed starter. Francisco Lindor was great in the three spot last night, and Terry Francona would love to see Jason Kipnis get himself going after going 0-for-5 yesterday and picking up just one hit in 19 ABs during the Championship Series against Toronto.

Rajai Davis is 3-for-10 in his career against Jake Arrieta and is the only active Indians player with at least ten at-bats against tonight’s starter for Chicago. Keep in mind that most of Cleveland’s experience against the righty would have come when Arrieta was pitching with Baltimore between 2010 and 2013. He’s a completely different guy now having won a CY Young award and All-Star nomination in the last two years.

Of the Tribe’s other hitters, both Kipnis and first baseman Mike Napoli have two hits against Arrieta in their careers, while Napoli, Carlos Santana, and Coco Crisp have the only extra-base hits against him.

Like the Cubs, Cleveland usually struggles more when there’s a right-hander on the mound as they hold a .259 average against them. This postseason, they own a 6-1 record against right-handed starters after going 63-47 in the regular season.

Jake Arrieta on the mound at Dodger Stadium in the NLCS
Jake Arrieta on the mound at Dodger Stadium in the NLCS

RHP JAKE ARRIETA

arrietaA CY Young winner in 2015, Arrieta hasn’t fared that well during his brief postseason career. Overall, he’s pieced together a 4.11 ERA in 30 2/3 innings while opponents have hit .226 off him. Though those numbers are by no means terrible, it isn’t quite what you expect from a pitcher who owns a 2.39 ERA during the last two regular seasons.

In his matchup against Cleveland in June last year, Arrieta threw five innings while giving up four runs on three hits and a season-high six walks. Three of the four runs were scored on a Carlos Santana three-run blast to center field in the third inning as the Cubs lost the game 6-0.

In 2016 Arrieta made his maiden All-Star appearance in San Diego after a scintillating start to the season. His overall numbers weren’t quite as good as what they were a year ago, but he did average more than 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and Arrieta also led all qualified pitchers by allowing just 6.3 hits per nine innings with opposing hitters hitting .194 with a .583 OPS that was second-best in the bigs behind Cubs teammate Kyle Hendricks.

Arrieta has pitched twice so far in the postseason, most recently surrendering four earned runs across five innings to the Dodgers in game three of the Championship Series. Opponents have been averaging .273 during those two games, and he struggled to keep the ball inside Dodger Stadium in his last start as both Yasmani Grandal and Justin Turner took him deep on the way to a 6-0 Cubs loss.

He did struggle throughout the 2016 campaign with wild pitches, throwing 16 during the season. The Cubs went 5-6 during those games but won two of the four games in which he had at least two. Cleveland has plenty of speed on the bases and are great at taking the extra base so they might be in a good position to take advantage of Arrieta’s mistakes if he starts getting himself into trouble.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on Arrieta’s pitch count, because in each of his two postseason losses he hasn’t gone deeper than the fifth inning of a game after both the Dodgers and Mets put four runs on him early.

Trevor Bauer pitches in the ALDS against Boston
Trevor Bauer pitches in the ALDS against Boston

RHP TREVOR BAUER

bauerThere was plenty of speculation earlier in the week that Cleveland manager Terry Francona may opt to push Bauer back to game three with Josh Tomlin stepping up to go against Jake Arrieta.

A bullpen session on Tuesday cleared all those concerns, though, with reporters tweeting that Bauer was indeed fine to pitch the second game of the series.

 

 

It’s also believed that Francona didn’t want to have Bauer handle the bat, as he would have in game three, so being able to use him two days earlier avoids that situation.

Bauer has made just one career appearance against the Cubs, starting a game against them on June 16th last season. In that game at Wrigley Field, he threw seven shutout innings, surrendering four hits while walking three and striking out seven on 108 pitches. It was the same game that Jake Arrieta started for the Cubs, Cleveland winning the game 6-0 on Carlos Santana’s homer.

You can make a case that Bauer enjoyed his best season to date in 2016 as he finished with a 12-8 mark across his 28 starts. He held a 4.26 ERA in that span and threw a career-high 190 innings, 16 1/3 of which came in relief early in April. He was moved into the rotation later that month, making his first start in Philadelphia on April 30th after Carlos Carrasco fractured his hand.

This postseason hasn’t been the greatest for Bauer, who’s thrown just 5 1/3 innings in his two starts thus far. Boston got to him in game 1 of the Division Series for three runs in 4 2/3 innings, allowing long balls to Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon. Bauer then cut his right pinkie while fixing a drone and didn’t make his expected start in game 2 of the Championship Series.

He was pushed back a few days to game 3 in Toronto where Bauer faced just four batters before exiting the game after blood was seen poring from his pinkie. He did manage to get Jose Bautista to strike out and Edwin Encarnacion to line out, but walks to Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki ensured his day was done after just 21 pitches.

Before being traded to Cleveland during the 2012 offseason, Bauer was caught by Montero in his four starts that year. He ended up going 1-2 as a 21-year-old rookie but has enjoyed something of a breakout in the past few seasons.

Though it seems like the 25-year-old’s pinkie seems to be back in good health, the reality is Bauer has essentially made just one start since October 2nd. There’s bound to be an adjustment period for him early on as he looks to establish his fastball and find control of his breaking pitches. He may have thrown 20 pitches in batting practice yesterday, but that’s nothing like the pressure he’ll face in game two of the World Series.

Early runs are going to be pivotal for the Cubs, who won every game of the NLCS in which they scored first. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and company cannot afford to let Bauer settle into his rhythm just as they allowed Corey Kluber to do last night. If they can get a few runs on the board in the first couple of innings, then they’ll be in a good position to tie the series.

CUBS BENCH

chc-benchThe Cubs may have a few changes to their bench tonight with Miguel Montero a near certainty to make a start behind the dish and the possibility that Jason Heyward may go back to starting in right field.

Catcher Willson Contreras came into last night’s game in the seventh inning and went 1-for-2 with a double of Indians closer Cody Allen. Montero also struck out to end the game.

Jorge Soler and Contreras will once again be the two guys that Joe Maddon looks to for some hits off the bench, while Albert Almora Jr. and either Heyward or Coghlan are mostly there for defensive purposes.

INDIANS BENCH

cle-benchThe Indians didn’t use anyone from their bench last night, though with a right-hander starting for the Cubs it’s likely that both Tyler Naquin and Coco Crisp will start which pushes outfielders Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer back to the pine. The pair combined to go 1-for-7 with a run scored last night, though Guyer got on base in the first inning by being hit by a pitch.

Regardless, Cleveland tends to use their bench almost exclusively for defensive purposes. Davis can provide speed on the base paths, while Yan Gomes is a solid hitter who is playing in the typical backup catcher’s role despite being signed to a six-year, $23 million deal. Michael Martinez has played 4 1/3 innings in center field this postseason and gives the Tribe a versatile defensive asset.

CUBS BULLPEN

chc-bullpenAroldis Chapman has been a weapon for the Cubs since coming over at the trade deadline. He held just a 1.01 ERA with Chicago during the regular season and has gone on to allow just three runs across eight innings this postseason.

Last night Joe Maddon’s two setup men Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon threw just 19 pitches between them. Rondon and Justin Grimm allowed three runs on four hits late in the game thanks to Roberto Perez’s homer in the eighth inning. With Grimm the only member of the Cubs bullpen to throw more than 20 pitches, everyone will be well rested if Jake Arrieta runs into trouble early.

Even though Rob Zastryzny was taken off the World Series roster, Chicago still has three southpaws to create matchup problems against the likes of Jason Kipnis.

INDIANS BULLPEN

cle-bullpenGame one was perfect for Cleveland as Corey Kluber got them through six innings and ensured the bullpen didn’t need to be relied upon early in the series. Andrew Miller threw a season high 46 pitches last night so Terry Francona will probably want to stay away from using him if he can get away with it. Cody Allen was the only other relief pitcher used in game one, requiring 17 pitches to get through the ninth.

Righties Bryan Shaw (3 ER) and Dan Otero (1 ER) both play important roles for the Indians and could serve as the two setup men tonight if the game is close. Zach McAllister, Jeff Manship, and Mike Clevinger are the other three relievers who Francona will likely utilize if Trevor Bauer is struggling early.

Interestingly, Miller is the only left-hander in Cleveland’s relief corps so it’s unlikely we’ll see any specific matchups against Rizzo or Schwarber.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is Chicago’s game to lose. That clubhouse is going to be desperate for a win after going down 1-0 in the World Series, and with last year’s NL CY Young winner Jake Arrieta on the mount, they’ve got a great opportunity.

Trevor Bauer may be healthy and ready to pitch, but the fact he’s had such little game action since his final regular season start on October 1 leads me to believe the Cubs might be successful in putting a few runs on the board early. Kyle Schwarber proved last night that he could hit even after not playing an MLB game in over six months, but it’s important that Jason Heyward starts to get things going again.

Cleveland will be on a high after the game one victory, and it wouldn’t surprise if that rolled on into tonight’s game as well. A lot of their wins this postseason have come from different players contributing every night. In game one it was Roberto Perez, Jose Ramirez, and Francisco Lindor. Tonight may just be an opportunity for another trio to step up and play their part.

You can catch all the action in Game One from Progressive Field at 7:00 pm ET tonight on FOX. Please note that the game is ONE HOUR EARLIER due to expected bad weather later in the night


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]