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.
Despite the Cubs victory in game 5, the Cleveland Indians remain in the box seat to win their first World Series since 1948 as they have a strong 3-2 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.
SO FAR THIS SERIES
The Cubs arguably have the momentum now after winning game 5 of the World Series 3-2. Aroldis Chapman was brilliant as he got the final eight outs of that game, and they managed to score enough runs off Trevor Bauer in the fourth inning. Shortstop Addison Russell had two hits including a RBI single to lead the Chicago charge.
Earlier in the series Cleveland took game four 7-2 on Saturday night as Jason Kipnis went 3-for-5 with a three-run shot to right field. The Indians also 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. Cleveland took the opening game of the World Series on the back of two home runs from catcher Roberto Perez.
Kyle Schwarber will be back in Chicago’s starting lineup as the designated hitter in an American League park. He was forced to sit for much of the last three games, only getting off the bench once for a pinch-hit appearance in game three when he popped out to shortstop. Schwarber didn’t play a part in the last two games at Wrigley Field and will be desperate to make an impact tonight after picking up a double in game one and a pair of RBI singles in game two.
Kris Bryant also arrived to the party on Sunday night, getting things started in the fourth inning as he blasted a solo shot to left center off Trevor Bauer. That was just his second hit in 17 at-bats of this World Series, after going 7-for-23 with three doubles in the Championship Series against the Dodgers.
Jason Heyward has been back in the starting lineup during the last two games, picking up three singles while playing his typically solid defense in right field. With the Cubs still on the hot seat down in the series 3-2, you can bet Heyward will be back out there once again.
When the Cubs got the chance to face Josh Tomlin in game three, Ben Zobrist and Jorge Soler were the only two players to get hits off him. Most of their starting lineup is hitless against Tomlin in their only career at-bats facing him. Zobrist is 3-for-23 with a double and a home run, while Miguel Montero is 2-for-5 and Soler has that one base knock. That’s it as far as what Chicago has done against Tomlin in their careers. Doesn’t inspire much confidence in what they could do tonight.
Carlos Santana won’t be seen on the field for the rest of the series after starting two games in left at Wrigley Field. That’s going to help Cleveland’s defense, who have some very strong defensive outfielders. The Indians used Coco Crisp in left field and Tyler Naquin in center field during game two against Jake Arrieta, and will probably go with that pair once again tonight.
Crisp has been quite good in this World Series, tallying two hits in seven at-bats though he did go 0-for-4 in his game two starts. Crisp delivered the key hit off the bench in game 3 and had a pinch-hit double to start the seventh inning in game 4 before Jason Kipnis drove him in on the home run.
After some issues in right field earlier during the World Series, Lonnie Chisenhall sat on the bench to start game 5 as Terry Francona went with Brandon Guyer there instead. With a right-hander back out on the mound, Chisenhall should be preferred over Guyer tonight. He has just one hit in 13 at-bats during the series, his lone knock coming in the eighth inning of game 1 as he singled off Justin Grimm.
They struggled for hits off Arrieta in game two, though Kipnis, Napoli, and Rajai Davis have three hits each off the right-hander in their careers.
RHP JAKE ARRIETA
The right-hander Jake Arrieta will make his second and final start of the 2016 World Series as he hopes to push the Cubs into a decider on Wednesday. He took the win in game 2 against Trevor Bauer, hurling 5 2/3 innings as he allowed just one run on a pair of hits while walking three.
The only run Arrieta surrendered was on a wild pitch when Jason Kipnis scored from third base. That was his first wild pitch of the postseason, but he’d thrown 16 during the regular season. Cleveland’s speed is the perfect match to take advantage of any troubles Arrieta may have on the mound, so the Cubs right-hander will be trying to keep them at the plate and lot let the likes of Rajai Davis, Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis use their wheels.
Arrieta’s performance last week reduced his postseason ERA to 3.72 in six starts and 36 1/3 innings. He seems to have the ability to find something extra during the postseason, as his strikeouts per nine rate goes from 8.2 during the regular season to 10.9 in October. The walk rate also drops substantially from 3.2 to 2.0.
The 30-year-old made his first All-Star appearance in July of this year as he went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA in 2016. Arrieta 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.
Thus far opponents are batting .222 against Arrieta in his three postseason starts.
RHP JOSH TOMLIN
The soft-throwing righty will be back out for the Tribe after impressing in his World Series debut on Friday night. Tomlin threw 4 2/3 shutout innings in that game, allowing only two hits and one walk. He had just one strike out in that game, though, the fewest of all starters in this series and better only than Indians relievers Jeff Manship and Danny Salazar who have hurled a combined 1.1 innings.
Tomlin allowed hits to Jorge Soler and Ben Zobrist in game three but was very effective in getting keeping the ball on the ground. Seven of his 14 outs were via the groundout, while just two were via flyout.
He’ll hope to continue that trend tonight because if the Cubs hitters start making solid contact against Tomlin, it could spell trouble for both him and Cleveland.
After coming into the season as one of the team’s back-end starters, Tomlin has definitely established himself as a force to be reckoned with and gets another great opportunity to do that in game 6 as the Indians hope to wrap up the World Series and bring the championship back to Cleveland for just the third time in franchise history.
He went 13-9 during the regular season, pitching to 4.40 ERA along the way. It was the first time in his career that Tomlin threw over 170 innings, leading the big leagues in fewest walks per nine innings.
Tomlin never faced Kyle Schwarber in game 3, so that could present quite an interesting matchup tonight particularly if he gets behind in the count and has to resort to throwing a few fastballs over the plate.
Kyle Schwarber won’t be limited to bench duties for the first time in the last three games with the DH rule back in effect. Manager Joe Maddon will instead utilize Jorge Soler or Miguel Montero if he needs a bat off the bench. Montero, however, may be in line to start the game having caught Jake Arrieta more times than anyone else during the regular season. If that’s the case, Willson Contreras will be the big bat on the pine having hit 13 homers in 286 major league at-bats thus far in his career.
Albert Almora Jr. could be used late in the game as a defensive replacement, while Chris Coghlan offers plenty of versatility having played at least 10 innings at every position except shortstop, center field and catcher in the last two years.
The Cleveland bench is back to comprising mostly of defenders and contact hitters with Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana both in the starting lineup. Should Terry Francona use a similar lineup to that of game two, you can expect to see Yan Gomes, Michael Martinez, Brandon Guyer and Rajai Davis on the pine. The desperation of the game will determine whether or not Francona uses any of that quartet tonight.
With a day off yesterday, everyone in the Cubs bullpen will be well rested and ready to throw as many inning as may be necessary. Aroldis Chapman picked up an eight-out save in game 5, while Carl Edwards Jr. pitched to two batters as he worked 1/3 of an inning.
I said in my preview of game five that Joe Maddon hadn’t been very aggressive with his bullpen recently, but that all changed with how he used Chapman. Don’t expect much different tonight, because there is a reason the Cubs gave up the number of prospects that they did to get Chapman from the Yankees.
Hector Rondon is the other arm in the Cubs bullpen who could be used for some innings in a setup role, though he has allowed five earned runs in 11 innings this postseason.
Once again it will be the Andrew Miller show in the Cleveland bullpen tonight. He didn’t pitch in game 5 as Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen combined to work through the final three innings of the game. Miller will now be back ready to work as many as three innings tonight, while Shaw, Allen and Dan Otero could be called upon in a close game as well.
The Tribe’s bullpen has been the better of the two teams, allowing four runs over 19 2/3 innings compared with the Cubs who’ve given up eight runs across 17 1/3 innings.
Progressive Field was going crazy even when the Indians weren’t playing there the last few days. Cleveland was disappointed not to sweep the Cubs at Wrigley Field, but now they have the added motivation of winning the World Series in front of the home crowd. Despite the momentum Chicago took out of game 5, the Tribe remains in the box seat given they only need to win one of the next two.
Jake Arrieta was really good in game two and given he’s pitching on full rest will have every opportunity to deliver the Cubs a victory in game six tonight. Josh Tomlin has to be at his deceptive best if he wants to trouble the visitor’s hitters once again, but with Kyle Schwarber back in the lineup that task becomes even tougher.
Each of the next two games (possibly) is going to be great to watch because the Cubs are probably better in an AL ballpark with the added advantage of Schwarber. Make sure you’re near a TV tonight because it has the makings of another great World Series game.
You can catch all the action in Game Five from Wrigley Field at 8:00 pm ET tonight on FOX.