7:00 PM EST, FOX – Money Line: Cubs -134, Run Line: 7
After a raucous start to the 2016 World Series, the Chicago Cubs look to square things away with the Cleveland Indians in Game Two from Jacobs Field. One way or another, history will be made over the course of this week as both participants look to snap respective title droughts that date back to a point in time long before anyone reading this column were even conceived. 1945 was the last time that the Cubs (103-58, 1st in NL Central) were on this stage, with 1908 being the year of their last championship, and if they don’t turn things around in a hurry that wait will be even longer. Simply put, nothing went right for Joe Maddon and his charges in Tuesday Night’s 6-0 shutout loss, becoming the first team to be shutout in Game One of the Series in twenty-seven years. While this is far from the end of the world for the Cubbies, can you really blame their fans’ collective pessimism given their long tragic history? Chicago managed seven hits but left nine on base, as they seemed to be mystified by the home side’s arms. The top of the Order, consisting of Dexter Fowler (.276 BA, 13 HR, 48 RBI), Kris Bryant (.292 BA, 39 HR, 102 RBI), and Anthony Rizzo (.292 BA, 32 HR, 109 RBI) went out with a nary a whimper, going a combined 0-for-11 at the plate, striking out four times, with only Bryant reaching base via a walk. However, don’t expect Maddon to push the proverbial panic button anytime soon, folks, for Chicago has been in worse positions as recently as these Playoffs; they were shutout in back-to-back games in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, only to rebound with a vengeance over the final three contests scoring a staggering twenty-three runs en route to the Pennant. Sooner or later, their bats should come alive, and if we’re being completely honest they have a far deeper Rotation than their counterpart. While Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA) was far from his usual stellar self in Game One, giving up three runs on six hits in 5.2 innings of labor taking his first loss in four World Series starts, his team should be in good hands with Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) taking the mound tonight. The 2015 Cy Young winner wasn’t nearly as dominant this season (particularly over the second half of the campaign), but still turned in an All-Star caliber performance turning in 190 strikeouts and a 1.084 WHIP, averaging a healthy 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings, tied with Lester for the lead among Starters. The question though with the 30-year old is if in fact he will finally deliver in the Postseason, where he struggles have been very apparent over the past two years. In the 2015 and 2016 Playoffs, Arrieta has gone 2-2 in five starts posting a 4.11 ERA over 30.2 innings of work, serving up fourteen runs on twenty-six hits, including four home runs despite striking out a wild thirty-eight opponents compared to walking just five. In his lone start against the Dodgers in the NLCS (a 6-0 loss), the Righthander earned the defeat in lasting just five innings giving up four runs on six hits. Much has been made about the impending weather in Cleveland tonight, which caused Major League Baseball to move up the starting time to 7:00 PM. While the rain may be avoided, it’s expected to rather cold at Jacobs Field, which will no doubt cause Cubs’ Fans to remember last year’s NLCS against the Mets in frigid temperatures. Arrieta started Game Two of that Four-Game Sweep, in which he was tagged for our runs on four hits, including a David Murphy homer, in the first five innings of a 4-1 loss at Citi Field.
Meanwhile, it’s a fine time to be a resident in Cleveland, for as a championship banner was being raised across the street at Quicken Loans Arena, the Indians (94-67, 1st in AL Central) took Game One of the 2016 World Series in style, shutting out the Chicago Cubs 6-0. Any questions about this team being rusty after a long layoff were put to rest early in Tuesday’s opening salvo, as the hosts jumped on the aforementioned Lester early, scoring a pair of runs in the First Inning, while Starting Pitcher Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.14 ERA) continued to impress this postseason, throwing six scoreless innings yielding four hits, with nine strikeouts, eight of which coming in the first three innings alone. Even when the Cubs threatened with the bases loaded in the Seventh, ace Setup Man Andrew Miller (1.45 ERA, 12 Saves) bailed them out, retiring three straight batters en route to tossing a pair of scoreless innings with Cody Allen coming in to close things out in the Ninth for the Save. Offensively, Terry Francona had his team ready to face Lester, his former charge, whom he managed in his formative years between 2006 to 2011; the Tribe tagged the Lefthander for three runs on six hits, including a Roberto Perez home run, who also pelted another dinger off Reliever Hector Rondon later in the Eighth Inning. With Lester off the mound midway through the sixth stanza, Cleveland went to work on Chicago’s Bullpen, scoring three runs in the Eighth, racking up four hits between Justin Grimm and the aforementioned Rondon. With Game One now in their rearview mirror, things are bound to get interesting, for apart from Kluber, Francona’s Rotation is a bit of a question mark. Granted, the Pitching Staff in general has been light’s out in this Postseason, but it’s hard to deny the drop-off in quality throughout this particular group. This, of course brings us to tonight’s Starter Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26 ERA), who most will remember as being the guy that was pulled early in Game Three of the ALCS after blood was found dripping profusely from his right hand after receiving stitches earlier in the week. Control (or lack thereof) has always been the Righthander’s bugaboo, as he has walked at least seventy batters in each of the past two seasons, including an American League high seventy-nine in 2015. Furthermore, in his lone Playoff Start (that didn’t include an early exit due to a bloody hand) he was far from effective; the 25-year old was chased off the mound midway through the Fifth Inning against the Boston Red Sox in Game One of the ALDS, relinquishing three runs on six hits, including a pair of home runs before the Bullpen arrived to stop the bleeding (no pun intended). Ah but what a set of Relievers they’ve been, as the aforementioned Miller has vaulted himself into the Unhittable category during these Playoffs; the towering Lefty was acquired Midseason from the New York Yankees at the Trade Deadline, immediately cementing himself as a fixture in the Setup role, racking up a whopping forty-six strikeouts to only a pair of walks in twenty-six appearances with the Tribe. That production has only increased in the Postseason, as Miller has yielded zero runs on seven hits in 13.2 innings this October, with thirty strikeouts opposed to four walks. Again, it’s a fine time to be a sports fan in Cleveland, for history finally appears to be in their corner; the winner of Game One has gone on to win six consecutive World Series, and twenty-four of the past twenty-eight overall.
Predicted Outcome: Cubs 4, Indians 3