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.
The Cleveland Indians are now in the box seat to win their first World Series since 1948 as they have a commanding 3-1 series lead. If they are to go on and win they would end a 68-year drought and pick up just their third World Series title in franchise history after triumphing in 1948 against the Boston Braves and 1920 when they beat the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) 5-2.
The last team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series was the Kansas City Royals in 1985 against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Royals, however, played the final two games of that series at home in Royals Stadium.
In 1968 the Detroit Tigers were in a similar position to these Chicago Cubs, going down 3-1 after winning only game 1 of their series against the Cardinals. Detroit won game five at home 5-3 before piling on 17 runs in the final two games of the series.
The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and 1958 New York Yankees are the only other two teams to come back and win the World Series after taking just one of the opening four games. The ’79 Pirates did so by outscoring the Baltimore Orioles 13-2 in the final three games of the series.
SO FAR THIS SERIES
Cleveland has become the first team to win back-to-back games in this World Series as they took game 4 7-2 on Saturday night at Wrigley Field. Jason Kipnis broke out of a slump going 3-for-5 with a three-run homer, while Carlos Santana also had three hits including a game-tying solo shot to right field.
The Indians got to the Cubs bullpen for the first time in the series as they struck for four runs on four hits in the sixth and seventh innings. On the other side of things Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo, and Jason Heyward had two-hit games.
Cleveland is now 2-0 at Wrigley Field in the World Series having won game 3 1-0 on a pinch-hit RBI single from Coco Crisp in the seventh inning of Friday night’s game.
Game 2 on Wednesday belonged to Chicago and in particular Kyle Schwarber. The Cubs DH went 2-for-4 with a walk and two. Trevor Bauer gave up two early runs in the first three innings.
Earlier Cleveland took the opening game of the World Series on the back of two home runs from catcher Roberto Perez. Corey Kluber was dominant on the mound as the Tribe racked up a postseason-high 15 strikeouts, nine of those coming from Kluber.
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.
Terry Francona opted to sit Mike Napoli last night so that he could have some better defense behind Corey Kluber with Carlos Santana at first base and Rajai Davis in left field. You can bet that won’t be the case tonight as the Indians go in for the kill.
Santana, who spent 4 2/3 innings in left field during game 3, will be back out there again and could see some additional innings in the field if the game is close. He’s currently 3-for-11 (.273 AVG) with a home run and four walks in the World Series, but his solo shot to tie the game up last night showed exactly why Francona likes having his bat in the lineup every day.
The Indians might be on the verge of winning the World Series, but right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall has hardly contributed to that success. He has just one hit in 13 at-bats during the series, his lone knock coming in the eighth inning of game one as he singled off Justin Grimm.
During the regular season, Chisenhall hit a career-high .268 with eight home runs and 25 doubles. He’s yet to replicate that success during the postseason, though he did go 3-for-10 with a homer in the ALDS against Boston.
With the lefty-throwing Lester on the mound, Cleveland figures to go with Rajai Davis in center field as they did in game 1.
Jose Ramirez was 3-for-3 with a double against Lester in the opener, and Francisco Lindor’s three hits elevated his average to .500 (3-for-6).
Runners in scoring position have been an issue all series and that trend rose it’s head again in game 4 when the Cubs had their opportunities but once again failed to capitalize as they went 1-for-7 to bring the series total to five-for-37, good for a 13.5% success rate.
The top of the lineup was much better with both Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo picking up two hits each as Fowler homered and Rizzo doubled during the game, but Kris Bryant is hitting just .071 in the World Series after going 0-for-3 on Saturday.
Jason Heyward was back in the lineup last night for the first time in the Cubs last four postseason, and it paid dividends as he went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. It seems likely that Joe Maddon wouldn’t hesitate to use him again in the deciding game tonight particularly because of the defense that Heyward provides in right field.
The Cubs got a taste of Trevor Bauer earlier in the series and seemed to like what they saw from the 25-year-old right-hander. Addison Russell is now 3-for-5 against Bauer in his career thanks to a hit in Wednesday’s game at Progressive Field. Miguel Montero and Anthony Rizzo are the only two members of Chicago’s roster to have an extra-base hit in their career against Bauer.
RHP TREVOR BAUER
Having proven that he’s over a freak injury to his pinkie, Trevor Bauer will start for the second time in the World Series tonight at Wrigley Field. In game two of the series, Bauer was responsible for the Cubs only win thus far as he surrendered two runs on six hits over 3.2 innings.
An Anthony Rizzo RBI double in the first and a Kyle Schwarber RBI single in the third gave Chicago the start they needed to come away with a 5-1 victory eventually. The two walks that Bauer had in that game also tied for the most since allowing three free passes to the Marlins on September 3rd in Cleveland.
Bauer is also yet to throw more than five innings in any of his three postseason starts to date, leaving the weaknesses of Cleveland bullpen a little exposed.
He finished the regular season with a career-high 12 victories as he held a 4.26 ERA. Bauer allowed one run or less in just five of his 28 starts. Getting through the first three innings was also a real challenge as he gave up 48 earned runs in that situation while opponents hit .247 against him.
Clearly, early runs are nothing new for Bauer, but if there’s a game where he’s going to pitch a couple of quick 1-2-3 innings, he’ll want to make sure tonight is the night. If he can keep things close while getting through five innings, then after that Chicago’s lineup will be faced with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen regardless of the score line.
LHP JON LESTER
Cubs’ left-hander Jon Lester will make his second start of this World Series after taking the loss in game one at Progressive Field. In that game, he pitched 5 2/3 innings while allowing three runs on seven hits, striking out seven and walking three batters, the most he’d walked all postseason.
After getting two quick outs in the opener, Lester ran into a bit of trouble as he walked Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana into back-to-back at-bats, and then later hit Brandon Guyer to let Cleveland get out to a 2-0 lead. The long ball also hurt Lester, with Roberto Perez hitting a solo shot to left field in the fourth inning.
Back in 2013 Lester started both games one and five of the World Series against St. Louis. In the second of those two starts, he went 7 2/3 innings and gave up just one run on four hits as he pitched on normal rest.
Like game one, it’s going to be worth keeping an eye on what Cleveland do when they get on base against Lester. His issues throwing to bases is widely known, and in game one Francisco Lindor, in particular, caused him problems by taking a big lead and threatening to steal on every pitch.
Joe Maddon confirmed after last night’s game that David Ross would catch Lester once again. This postseason, Ross has caught 38 innings and has six assists in that time while opposing base runners have a 57% success rate against him.
The Indians made the most of these problems in the opening game, and they’ll look to continue that trend tonight. In Rajai Davis, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor, Cleveland has a speedy trio atop their lineup capable of making plenty of noise on the base paths having combined to swipe 77 bases at an 85 percent success rate this year. Couple that with Jose Ramirez who stole 22 during the regular season, and Jon Lester may once again have his hands full.
Mike Napoli sat on the pine for most of the last night and only came into the game when Joe Maddon made a double switch to get Andrew Miller onto the mound. Given he’s going to be starting at first base tonight, the likes of Brandon Guyer and Michael Martinez will be called upon as a pinch-hitter. We saw the impact that Coco Crisp made with his pinch-hit double in the seventh inning, and he can do some damage on the base paths as well should the need arise.
Joe Maddon opted against using Kyle Schwarber as a pinch-hitter last night as there was rarely an opportunity for him to have an impact. The only possible scenario in which we may have seen Schwarber was leading off the fifth inning, but Maddon decided to go with Chris Coghlan in that situation instead.
That’s not going to be the case tonight. The Cubs will be desperate to get the win and Maddon won’t hesitate to pinch-hit for Schwarber in a big spot. Should Jason Heyward start in right field, Jorge Soler will be the other bat that Maddon will turn to off the bench. Like Schwarber, Soler was not utilized in game 4 and will be ready to breathe new life into the Chicago offense.
Andrew Miller allowed the first run of his postseason career last night when Dexter Fowler got a hold of him in the bottom of the eighth inning. Before that Miller had thrown 24 1/3 shutout innings in his 15 postseason appearances with Baltimore, the Yankees, and Cleveland.
Cody Allen has given up just two hits in his 3 1/3 innings of work in the World Series, and with Miller has proven to be a formidable duo. Francona seemed to suggest last night that Allen might be the one used to throw multiple innings in game 5 with Miller having hurled 90 pitches in three games thus far. Such was the case in game 3 of the ALCS in Toronto when Allen came in for the seventh inning while Miller shut things down with two outs in the eighth.
Last night was not one the Cubs will want to remember, their bullpen in particular. After John Lackey exited the game having hurled five innings of three-run ball, the bullpen then proceeded to allow four runs over the next two innings as Travis Wood got hammered to right field on a three-run blast by Jason Kipnis.
Hector Rondon finished the game with two innings of shutout baseball, but the damage had already been done.
One thing can be guaranteed tonight: Aroldis Chapman will pitch, potentially multiple innings as well. Joe Maddon was nowhere near aggressive enough with his bullpen in game 4, and he wore it afterward. He won’t be making the same mistake twice.
Tonight’s game is going to be worth watching, and you can bet the atmosphere at Wrigley Field will be electric. With the game on the line, the Cubs need their big hitters to come to the party, and they’ll also demand an ace-like performance from Jon Lester on the hill.
Cleveland has the momentum to potentially finish this series off in five games, though if Trevor Bauer struggles early on the mound, Chicago may get the offense necessary to take the series back to Progressive Field on Monday night.
Whatever you plan on doing this Sunday night, be sure to have a TV locked to FOX somewhere nearby. The Cleveland Indians might just be about to win their first World Series championship in 68 years.
You can catch all the action in Game Five from Wrigley Field at 8:00 pm ET tonight on FOX.