The Cleveland Indians will open the interleague portion of their schedule this week as they play host to the Chicago Cubs for the first time since the 2016 World Series.
The Indians (12-8) will welcome the Cubs to Cleveland for the first time since a rain-afflicted Game 7 in the 2016 World Series. Both clubs followed their Fall Classic appearance with shorter-than-expected playoff trips last season, as the Indians were eliminated in the first round by the New York Yankees, while the Cubs were knocked out in five games in the National League Championship Series by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Indians’ offense remains a source of concern, as the team has performed poorly with runners in scoring position and in general. But despite the inconsistent efforts from the bats, the pitching staff has been strong all around. The staff ranks first in the Majors in batting average against (.201) and WHIP (0.98) and second in ERA (2.57). The starting rotation is first with a 0.98 WHIP, second with a .203 BAA, and third with a 2.58 ERA, while the bullpen is first in WHIP (0.96), second in BAA (.197), and fourth in ERA (2.55).
The Cubs (10-9) remain one of the favorites in the National League, but have struggled to get going this season with some inconsistent results on the field. They have won just two series this season and have had a handful of games postponed by inclement weather, which may be a contributing factor. They earned one of those two series wins this week against Colorado, taking two of three from the Rockies in the Cubs’ second road trip of the year. They outscored the Rockies 27-17 in the three games. The Cubs have scored 110 runs on the year, but nearly half (53, to be exact) came in four scoring outbursts. They have been held to three runs or less in eight different contests.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Chatwood will make his fourth start for the Cubs after signing a three-year, $38 million deal in the offseason with Chicago. The 28-year-old right-hander had spent the last five years in Colorado, working primarily as a starter but also making 15 relief appearances in that span. Last year, he went 8-15 with a 4.69 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP for the Rockies, throwing one complete game shutout and earning one save on the year. He has lost all three of his starts this season and has struggled with free base runners, walking 14 in 15 2/3 innings. His last time out, he allowed just one hit and two runs in four and two-thirds innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, but walked seven while striking out seven in the defeat. It will be the fourth appearance and third start of his career against the Indians.
The 33-year-old Tomlin will make his third start and fourth appearance of the season in a rematch with the Cubs. His last time out was in relief in Puerto Rico, where he entered late in extra innings after the bullpen had depleted all of its arms. He took the loss in an inning-plus of relief, allowing an unearned run on three hits and a walk. He has not started since April 10 against Detroit, when he worked five scoreless innings of four-hit baseball. Tomlin has never faced the Cubs in the regular season, but made two starts against them in the World Series, earning a loss and allowing six runs on eight hits in seven innings of work.
The 34-year-old Lester is a familiar face for the Tribe as he is one of just two starters left in the Cubs rotation from the World Series season. The left-hander is in his 13th season in a big league career that began with the Boston Red Sox in 2006 when he was part of current Tribe skipper Terry Francona’s starting rotation. This is his fourth season in Chicago, where he has posted a 45-25 record in 132 starts. He earned his second win of the year his last time out, allowing one unearned run on two hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in six innings of work against St. Louis. He is 4-0 in the regular season at Progressive Field with a 3.72 ERA and is 7-1 lifetime against the Indians in 15 starts with a 3.03 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.
Bauer is coming off of his third straight quality start, but his second defeat as the Indians fell to the Orioles for their lone loss of the series on Friday night. He worked seven innings, allowing three runs on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts. He has struck out 27 batters in 27 innings of work and comes into action Wednesday with a 1.11 WHIP for the season. He has faced the Cubs one time in the regular season, throwing seven shutout innings in a win back in 2015.
TV: Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (all); WGN (4/24); NBC Sports Chicago (4/25); MLB Network (out-of-market, 4/24)
Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network (CLE); 670 The Score (Chicago)
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Cody Anderson (P) – 60-day disabled list (2/25) – recovery from April 2017 UCL surgery
Jon Berti (2B) – traded by Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations, assigned to Triple-A Columbus (4/21)
Melky Cabrera (OF) – signed to a minor league contract (4/24)
Lonnie Chisenhall (RF) – 10-day disabled list (4/8) – right calf strain
Ryan Merritt (P) – 10-day disabled list (3/26) – left knee sprain
Danny Salazar (P) – 10-day disabled list (3/26) – right shoulder rotator cuff tendonitis
Giovanny Urshela (UTL) – 10-day disabled list (3/26) – right hamstring strain (on rehab assignment)
Kris Bryant (3B) – day-to-day – left eye laceration
Eddie Butler (RP) – 10-day disabled list (4/20) – right groin strain
Drew Smyly (SP) – 60-day disabled list (2/16) – recovery from July 2017 UCL surgery
Ben Zobrist (2B) – 10-day disabled list (4/18) – back tightness
CUBS STATS AND NOTES
Bryant is off to his usual start this season, putting up a .319/.467/.536 slash through his first 19 games with seven doubles, a triple, two homers, and eleven RBI. He has shown a good eye at the plate, drawing more walks (13) than he has struck out (12). He exited his last start during his first at bat when he was hit in the head by a pitch and sustained a left eye laceration, but he was not concussed by the blow. He will not be in the starting lineup for Tuesday’s game, but manager Joe Maddon had not ruled out pinch-hitting duties or an appearance on Wednesday.
With some big boppers in the lineup, it may be a bit of a surprise that the smaller second baseman Javier Baez is the team’s leader in home runs and RBI in the early going. Through 19 games, he has hit seven blasts and driven in 23, all while putting together a .292/.363/.736 mark at the plate. He has done a chunk of that work over the last week, hitting three doubles, a triple, three homers, and driving in nine runs in that span. He has a six-game hitting streak coming into the ball game on Tuesday, hitting .433 with 13 hits.
Albert Almora Jr. is off to a good start of his own, leading the team with a .327 batting average. He has a six-game hitting streak of his own to protect, hitting .444 with a .483 on-base percentage and 12 hits in that span. He has been responsible for ten runs scored during his streak.
Willson Contreras has hit safely in his last five games.
Anthony Rizzo, who missed time on the disabled list last week with a back injury, has played just eleven games for the Cubs and has scuffled a bit at the plate, hitting .146 through 48 at bats.
The Cubs should be fairly quiet on the base paths in the series, especially against the catching tandem of Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez. They have attempted just seven stolen bases this season and have been caught three times.
TRIBE BY THE NUMBERS
The hitting streaks for Gomes, Jason Kipnis, and Michael Brantley all came to an end in the Tribe’s 2-1 win on Monday night in Baltimore. Gomes and Kipnis had each hit safely in eight straight, while Brantley had hit in seven straight. The Indians were limited to just four hits in the contest, with half of that total coming in their two-run second inning that proved to be the difference in the ball game.
Brantley is expected to get a well-deserved night off on Tuesday. He has been one of the club’s best hitters since returning from the disabled list, slashing .320/.346/.460 in a dozen games with four doubles, a homer, and eight RBI.
Jose Ramirez leads the Tribe with seven homers on the season. Normally a hitter who will rack up some doubles, he has just one two-bagger this season, but leads the club with 13 walks (to just six strikeouts!) and is second on the team with 12 runs batted in.
Yonder Alonso hit a big home run in Monday night’s 2-1 win over Baltimore, giving him five on the season and the team lead in RBI with 13.
Tyler Naquin celebrates his 27th birthday on Tuesday in the series opener. He got a second chance with the club after the injury to Chisenhall and has the team’s second-best average at the plate, hitting .268 with ten singles, a homer, and four RBI.
Following our trend, this series’ Tribe Trivia will highlight the shared histories of the Indians and the Cubs.
The Indians received this future Hall of Fame outfielder from the Cubs in a trade in 1954, sending Sad Sam Jones, Gale Wade, and $60,000 cash to Chicago. The slugger, far better known for leading all of baseball in homers for six straight seasons while a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, played ten seasons before a lengthy broadcasting career with the New York Mets. Who am I?
This speedy outfielder spent the 2003 season with the Cubs in one of two separate trips to the Windy City. The majority of his career, however, was spent in Cleveland with the Tribe before becoming a perennially playoff bound journeyman in the last half dozen seasons of his career. Who is this all-time Tribe leader in steals?
This Cleveland native began his big league career at the turn of the century with the Chicago Orphans, spending the 1899 and 1900 seasons there before jumping to the Cleveland Blues team in the new American League in 1901. He became a mainstay in the Cleveland infield, spending ten seasons manning the hot corner. After several years of minor league ball in Toronto after his days with the Naps ended, he returned to the pro circuit with the rival Federal League in 1914 and 1915. Who am I?
The Cubs will head home following the series to begin a four-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers from Wrigley Field. The Indians will continue their eleven-games-in-ten-days homestand, hosting the Seattle Mariners for four through Sunday afternoon. The Texas Rangers will follow with a three-game series beginning Monday before the Toronto Blue Jays return to Cleveland for a doubleheader on Thursday, May 3.
The Tribe and Cubs will meet again this season, when the Indians travel to Chicago for a two-game set on May 22 and May 23.
Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images