Historic Cubs-Cleveland World Series is 'big for baseball'

Let the battle of the droughts begin.

The Chicago Cubs will try to build on the momentum of a National League Championship Series-clinching win, with only Cleveland standing in the way of the franchise’s first major-league title since 1908. Cleveland last hoisted the World Series trophy in 1948.

“I think it’s big for baseball,” Cleveland right-fielder Lonnie Chisenhall told MLB.com. “We haven’t won since ’48 and the Cubs are even longer. I think it’s a great story all around.”

Game 1 of the 112th Fall Classic is Tuesday at 8:08 p.m. ET at Progressive Field, down the road from Quicken Loans Arena, where the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers will be receiving their 2016 championship rings.

Bullpen battle

This will get much of the play early in the series. Cleveland’s closer Cody Allen and left-hander Andrew Miller, the ALCS MVP, combined to strike out 21 of the 41 Toronto Blue Jays batters they faced. Miller hasn’t allowed a run in 11 2/3 innings of this post-season and has thrown 20 scoreless playoff innings for his career. Manager Terry Francona also relies heavily on right handers Bryan Shaw (4.76 ERA this post-season) and Dan Otero (2.70 ERA).

Chicago is led by closer Aroldis Chapman, who sports a 3.38 ERA in eight games this post-season and 10 strikeouts in eight innings. Cubs relievers had the third-lowest ERA in baseball (3.20) after his late July trade from the New York Yankees. Expect left hander Mike Montgomery (3.72) and righty Carl Edwards Jr. (five scoreless appearances in these playoffs) to share setup duties.

Pitching probables

Cleveland will start Corey Kluber in Game 1, with Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin scheduled to pitch Games 2 and 3, respectively. Bauer continues to recover from a lacerated right pinkie finger suffered while fixing a toy drone on Oct. 13 that forced him out of his start versus Toronto after four batters and 21 pitches. Pitching in Game 2 would mean Bauer doesn’t have to grip a bat and hit in Game 3 at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

The Cubs will start Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks in the first three games. Lester has a lifetime 4-0 record and 3.72 ERA in eight outings at Cleveland while Hendricks allowed one run on five hits over 12 2/3 innings in this year’s NLCS.

Fresh legs

For all the talk of Cleveland’s AL-leading 134 steals in the regular season, it only has two in the division series (Coco Crisp, Rajai Davis) and Francisco Lindor was caught once. Crisp, Davis and company will probably attempt more steals versus Chicago, which allowed 133 steals (second most in the majors) and threw out runners at just a 22 per cent clip. Lester allowed 28 steals, third most in the major leagues, while Cleveland will likely try to exploit the slow deliveries of John Lackey and Arrieta.

Cubs’ balanced lineup

A heavy use of off-speed pitches by Kluber and Tomlin worked against the free-swinging Blue Jays, but Chicago hitters Kris Bryant (.333 batting average, .409 on-base percentage), Anthony Rizzo (7-for-14 last three games) and Ben Zobrist have the ability to grind out at-bats. Shortstop Addison Russell (two homers in the past three games) and Javier Baez (five extra-base hits in the post-season) provide power in bottom half of the order.

Cleveland’s lineup also boasts a mix of power and speed along with four switch-hitters: leadoff man Carlos Santana, Jose Ramirez, Lindor and Crisp.

Reunited

  • Miller and Chapman were teammates for four months with the Yankees earlier this season.
  • Cubs general manager Theo Epstein and Cleveland manager Francona collaborated to end the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, leading Boston to a World Series title in the same roles.
  • Chicago drafted Cleveland reserve outfielder Brandon Guyer in the fifth round in 2007 and he made his major-league debut under current Cubs manager Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay.

Potential X-factors

Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber, thought to be out of the season after tearing knee ligaments on April 7, was activated from the 60-day disabled and has been hitting in the Arizona Fall League. He could be the team’s designated hitter for Games 1 and 2 in Cleveland. The 23-year-old, who hit five home runs in 27 at-bats in last year’s post-season, was expected to play Monday and then fly to Cleveland.


Cleveland right-hander Danny Salazar, who hasn’t started since Sept. 9 due to a forearm injury, threw a three-inning simulated game on Sunday and has been told by pitching coach Mickey Callaway he’s on the team’s World Series roster. He might start Game 4 after going 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA in 25 starts this season.

On the limp

Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis suffered a low ankle sprain during a leaping hug with Lindor after winning the ALCS. Kipnis, who was 1-for-19 in the series, reportedly looked okay while fielding ground balls on Sunday and is expected to be in Tuesday’s starting lineup.

Last time they met

Cleveland and Chicago have split their 18-game interleague series 9-9, including a four-game set last season. In the most recent meeting, Lester and Kluber took the mound, with Lester fanning six and inducing four ground balls over 8 2/3 innings of a 2-1 Chicago win.

Kluber carried a perfect game through 5 1/3 innings and exited after 7 2/3, giving up one run on four hits and striking out 11.

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CBC | Sports News