Dreams became reality on Tuesday night as the city of Cleveland hosted one ring ceremony and raised a championship banner while playing for another title next door.
A strong start from Corey Kluber set the tone in Game 1. He worked into the seventh inning, giving up four hits while striking out nine in a performance rivaled by only Bob Gibson and Allie Reynolds before him. Despite the high strikeout rate, Kluber was economical with his pitches overall, needing just 88 to get through the six-plus innings while conserving his arm some in the event that manager Terry Francona would turn to Kluber in a Game 4 situation on short rest as opposed to working him on normal rest in the Wrigley finale on Sunday.
The Indians now lead a World Series for the first time since winning Game 7 of the 1948 season, a memorable year for Tribe fans who can recall that season and hold it high as one of two years in franchise history that the team claimed the championship of the world. A win by the Indians would give them a two-game advantage or better in the World Series for just the fifth time in franchise history (Games 6 and 7, 1920; Games 4 and 6, 1948).
GAME TIMES and PITCHING PROBABLES
Tuesday, 10/25/16 – Chicago 0, Cleveland 6
Wednesday, 10/26/16 (7:00 PM ET at CLE) – RHP Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26)
Friday, 10/28/16 (8:00 PM ET at CHI) –RHP Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40) vs. RHP Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13)
Saturday, 10/29/16 (8:00 at CHI) – TBD vs. RHP John Lackey (11-8, 3.35)
Sunday, 10/30/16* (8:00 at CHI) – TBD vs. TBD
Tuesday, 11/1/16* (8:00 at CLE) – TBD vs. TBD
Wednesday, 11/2/16* (8:00 at CLE) – TBD vs. TBD
TV (all games) – FOX
Radio (all games) – Indians Radio Network; 670 The Score (Chicago); ESPN Radio
The 25-year-old right-hander Bauer is next in line for the Tribe against the Cubs, making his first start since a memorably bloody one in Toronto while trying to pitch with a lacerated finger. Things have expectedly improved since that start, with enough time passing that he appears ready to pitch without leaking vital life fluids all over his uniform and the sacred grounds of Progressive Field.
Drone accident aside, it has been a whirlwind season for Bauer, who started the year in the bullpen after Cody Anderson and Tomlin claimed the final two rotation spots in spring training. Francona was clear in his belief that Bauer’s time would come to return to starting work and exactly that happened as he would make 28 starts over the course of the season and toss a career-high 190 innings on the mound. He was able to keep the ball on the ground more this season, helping reduce his home run rate, and he cut back on his walk rate, dropping it by 2% to 8.6% of batters faced.
He has faced the Cubs just once in his career, but it was a gem. He worked seven innings, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out seven in a 6-0 win at Wrigley Field in June of last season.
CUBS VS. BAUER
The sample size for the Cubs against Bauer lifetime is there, but it is a small one. Eight different offensive players have stepped in the box against him (not including Arrieta, who is 0-for-2 with a strikeout against him) and have combined to go 5-for-29 (.172) with four singles and a double.
Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, and Bauer’s former teammate in Arizona, Miguel Montero, have each faced him six times. Fowler has a single and a walk, while Montero doubled but has struck out twice against his former battery mate. Addison Russell is the most successful of the bunch, going 2-for-3 with two singles and a strikeout. Ben Zobrist, who had three hits in the series opener Tuesday, is 0-for-1, but has drawn a pair of walks.
The 30-year-old Arrieta has enjoyed life in the National League since joining the Cubs in 2013. After a lackluster 20-25 record and 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts) with the Baltimore Orioles in his first three and a half big league seasons, he has turned into a force in the NL, going 10-5 in 2014, 22-5 with four complete games, three shutouts, and a 1.77 ERA during his Cy Young campaign in 2015, and 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA this season with his first All-Star appearance.
Arrieta has gotten the job done by limiting traffic on the bases, specifically hits. His control has not been as fine this season as in recent memory as he led the league with 16 wild pitches and his walk rate climbed more than 4% this season as he established a new career-worst for walks in a year. His strikeout rate dropped just a hair over 3% from his rate over the last two seasons. He also saw an uptick in home runs, from ten last year to 16 this year despite throwing 31 2/3 innings fewer innings.
SLOWING THE RUN GAME
Runners can steal bases against Arrieta – the opposition was 23-for-26 (88.5% success rate) against him this season, 27-for-33 in 2015 (81.2%), and 24-for-29 (82.8%) in 2014. Free passes could turn into big trouble for Arrieta with his battery mates, as they have thrown out just 23.1% of would-be base stealers in the postseason and 22.2% in the regular season.
The Indians have already shown a willingness to be aggressive on the base paths in the World Series, as Francisco Lindor stole one base in the first inning of Game 1 and was thrown out attempting another later in the game.
CLEVELAND AGAINST ARRIETA
Before he became a Cy Young Award winner, Arrieta was in the American League as a member of the Orioles and as such, he has faced members of the current Indians playoff roster a total of 51 times from a distance of 60 feet six inches (excluding two plate appearances each from Bauer and Chris Gimenez).
Rajai Davis has gone 3-for-10 with a pair of RBI against Arrieta during the righty’s eight-year career. Mike Napoli has hit a homer and single while drawing a pair of walks. Carlos Santana leads the club with three RBI against him and has the other of the two homers by the team against him. He has also drawn three walks for a .667 on-base percentage. Jason Kipnis has a pair of singles and two RBI in five at bats, while Lonnie Chisenhall, Coco Crisp, and Lindor each have a hit off of him..
The series will shift to Chicago for the next three games, beginning Friday night at 8:00 PM ET.
The right-handed Hendricks (16-8, 2.13) will be the Indians’ competition in Game 3 from Wrigley Field. The 26-year-old right-hander, in his third season in the Majors, had a career year for the Cubs, bursting onto the scene by doubling his win output from a year ago and posting the best ERA in baseball by a qualified starter while adding a 0.98 WHIP. He struck out 170 batters in 190 innings of work. Game 3’s location will play to his advantage, as he was 9-2 at home in 15 games this season with both of his complete games and his shutout coming there while posting a microscopic 1.32 ERA and 0.86 WHIP.
Cleveland will send Tomlin (13-9, 4.40) to the mound in the NL park with a chance to swing it at the plate as well. The 32-year-old right-hander had two hits, including a double, in five at bats this season during interleague play. For his career, he is a .500 hitter with six hits in 12 at bats, including an RBI. After a strong bounce-back month of September, Tomlin has been just as crucial for the Tribe in the playoffs, going 2-0 in two starts with a 2.53 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with ten strikeouts and three walks in ten and two-thirds innings.
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