Opportunity Knocks as Bauer and Lester Battle in Pivotal Game 5

For the second time in four months, the city of Cleveland stands on the doorstep of history.

Opportunity is knocking loudly, and the Indians are poised to answer the call.

Game 5 of the 2016 World Series is set to take place Sunday night shortly after 8:00 PM ET from Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The beloved classic baseball home of the Cubs has become a home away from home for the Indians through two road games in the best-of-seven series, as the underdog Clevelanders invaded Chicago and have taken two from the friendly confines of the Cubs.

Now, the Indians will look to do something that they have done just twice in their history – win the final game played of the Major League Baseball season and come home to a celebration unlike anything seen in Cleveland…in four months. The Cubs will be fighting for their lives, backs against the wall, nothing left to lose but their closest opportunity in 71 years to end the suffering and a World Series drought 108 years in length.


Tuesday, 10/25/16 – Chicago 0, Cleveland 6
Wednesday, 10/26/16 – Chicago 5, Cleveland 1
Friday, 10/28/16 – Chicago 0, Cleveland 1
Saturday, 10/29/16 – Chicago 2, Cleveland 7
Sunday, 10/30/16* (8:00 at CHI) – RHP Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26 ERA) vs. LHP Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44)
Tuesday, 11/1/16* (8:00 at CLE) – TBD vs. TBD
Wednesday, 11/2/16* (8:00 at CLE) – TBD vs. TBD

*if necessary


TV (all games) – FOX
Radio (all games) – Indians Radio Network; 670 The Score (Chicago); ESPN Radio

Lester - Elsa/Getty Images
Lester – Elsa/Getty Images


Lester had arguably his best season in the Majors in his eleventh year of work. Working in his second season with the Cubs, he matched a career-high 19 wins and lost just five while putting together an impressive 2.44 ERA in 32 starts. He had a WHIP of 1.02 and missed his fifth 200-strikeout season by just three while working in 202 2/3 innings.  He was also one of many Cubs named All-Stars this season, the fourth such honor of his career.


Lester was hit for three runs in his Game 1 start of the World Series, giving up more runs in that one game than he had allowed in 21 previous career innings in the Fall Classic (he had allowed just one coming into that contest). Sunday night will mark his 21st postseason appearance and 19th start. He is 8-7 with a 2.60 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in those 124 2/3 innings.

A veteran of the American League and a former arm in Terry Francona’s starting rotation in Boston, Lester had seen quite a few Indians players in his career, and on the flip side, those players had seen a few pitches from Lester, which may have given them a little bit of an edge against the tough southpaw who had a solid year for Chicago.

Rajai Davis will be in the starting lineup against the lefty and for good reason – he is the most experienced player against Lester on the Cleveland roster. He has stepped in 54 times against Lester and gotten hits in 14 of them while also drawing four walks and suffering one hit by pitch. He has three doubles, three triples, a homer, and six RBI on his resume against him, but has struck out 14 times.

Carlos Santana has reached first base against Lester four times via singles, four times via walk, and once on a hit by pitch. He has a .250 average and .409 on-base percentage against him. He will bat fifth and will make his second career start in left field.

Elsa/Getty Images
Elsa/Getty Images

Mike Napoli will look to start the party early against his former teammate Lester. He owns a .353/.450/.765 slash line against him with a double, two homers, and five RBI in 20 plate appearances. Jose Ramirez, batting behind Napoli and Santana, could cash in on the abilities of the pair to get on base – he is 3-for-3 against Lester with a double and one RBI in three plate appearances.


Bauer’s unique warm up routine and his age lead to some belief that his arm would be the most prepared to handle a return to the mound with just three days rest between starts. The Indians have plenty of rested relief arms, so they will look for Bauer to get them into the middle innings before handing the game over to the workhorses in the bullpen. A short effort from Bauer could give a guy like Ryan Merritt a look – a lefty who the Cubs would have little data on who could consume several innings and handled the pressures of the big stage superbly in a Game 5 start in the ALCS against Toronto.

Bauer put up some career best numbers this season in 35 games, including 28 starts. He started the year in relief, which may have been the difference for him in falling just ten innings short of his first 200-inning season. He went 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, striking out 168 batters and walking 70 on the year. His hit rate was up slightly this season, but his walk rate was down, helping to lead to some better results on the mound. He helped to carry the team some during the early summer, going 3-0 in six June starts with a 2.01 ERA, but he struggled some in the second half, going 5-5 with a 5.36 ERA in 15 starts.

Bauer - Jason Miller/Getty Images
Bauer – Jason Miller/Getty Images


Bauer made his long anticipated return to the mound on Wednesday in Cleveland in his first start since exiting Game 3 of the ALCS due to the massive finger laceration that bled all over him and the mound area of the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The former first rounder took the loss in Game 2 of the World Series in Cleveland against the Cubs and had a tough go of it on the mound, in regards to the control of some of his pitches, and he left with just two outs retired in the fourth inning after facing 18 batters and throwing 87 pitches. He was charged with two runs on six hits, walking two and striking out two in the process.

Bauer had some previous experience against the Cubs coming into the start, but not much. Addison Russell has been the most successful against him, going 3-for-5 in his career with three singles and a strikeout. Kris Bryant is 2-for-5 with a pair of first station swings and a K. Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist, and Javier Baez each have singles against him, while his former batter mate Miguel Montero and Anthony Rizzo have doubles.

Despite the single, Fowler has been held hitless in his seven other plate appearances against Bauer. Jason Heyward is 0-for-6 and has grounded into a double play against him. Montero is just 1-for-6, with two strikeouts in his six trips to the plate.


With the series at its tipping point, one thing is for certain – at the very least, the Indians will be packing up and returning to Cleveland. Whether or not the Cubs come in tow will be entirely up to Chicago’s effort on the diamond on Sunday night.

Game 6 comes down to a Chicago victory on Sunday that forces the series to return to Cleveland’s Progressive Field. Neither team has announced a formal starter for the potential game, although it would be expected that Josh Tomlin and Jake Arrieta would take the mound as the next men in line. To do so, Tomlin would pitch on short rest, just as his rotation mates Corey Kluber and Bauer will have done in the games before him.

If a Game 6 occurs, first pitch is scheduled for 8:08 PM ET from downtown Cleveland’s gem, Progressive Field, on Tuesday night.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

Cleveland Indians 2016 AL Champs

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