The pressure is on the Cleveland Indians to figure out all that plagues them presently and they will be tasked with doing so against a World Series contender in the Chicago Cubs in a pair of games at Wrigley Field this week.
The Indians (26-21) find themselves in a bad place at the moment. Despite the offense picking up some on Sunday, the team blew a decent early lead to drop a sixth straight ball game when they were swept by the Minnesota Twins. Coupled with a Chicago White Sox win on Monday over those same Twins, the Indians are five games out of first place in the American League Central and three games in back of Minnesota with 13 games to play in the 2020 slate.
The Cubs (28-20) enter the day with a four-game lead over the 21-21 St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. They are tied with Atlanta for the second-best record in the NL among division leaders and trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by five games for the top spot in the senior circuit bracket. Chicago had an off-day on Monday following a no-hitter by Alec Mills on Sunday in a 12-0 gem over Milwaukee. The Cubs are 9-6 in September and have been involved in four shutouts over the last six games, with two wins and two losses in those contests.
Carrasco is looking for his first win since August 6 against Cincinnati. After correcting some control issues that were hampering his results some, he has put together three straight quality starts, yet has come away with two no-decisions and a loss as a result. He allowed a run on seven hits with six strikeouts in a defeat against the Kansas City Royals in his last start on September 9 to drop his ERA for the month to 1.38. He started against the Cubs on August 12 in his first of three consecutive rough outings, lasting just four and one-third innings while allowing three runs on four hits with five walks and seven strikeouts in losing his second game of the season.
The Indians did not face Darvish during the two clubs’ first series against each other this season. A top candidate for the National League’s Cy Young Award this season, Darvish has been solid all year long, keeping the walks to a minimum and doing the same in general with his hits. In four of his nine starts this season, he has gone at least six innings while allowing two hits or less. He has given up just three hits in 13 innings this month (two of those were home runs) while striking out 20 batters. He took the loss his last time out, allowing three runs on just two hits in six innings of work with three walks and nine strikeouts. He was a perfect 5-0 in August in five starts with a 1.09 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, and 40 strikeouts in 33 innings of work. His last eight starts have been quality.
Civale will make his fourth interleague start of the season, earning a win, a loss, and a no-decision in those previous three outings. He has not won since defeating Pittsburgh on August 19 despite making quality starts in two of the four games since. He made one of his worst starts of the season his last time out against Kansas City on September 10, giving up four runs on seven hits over six innings with a walk and seven strikeouts. His fifth career interleague start will be his first against the Cubs.
Don’t let Lester’s plump ERA this season fool you – he has a history of owning the Indians in head-to-head matchups. The 36-year-old has not won since defeating the Indians on August 11, a span of six starts. But of course, he has readied himself for the Tribe by making his best start since then, blanking the Milwaukee Brewers on September 11 over six innings of three-hit baseball with a season-high eight strikeouts. Lester has faced the Indians 18 times over his 15 seasons in the Majors, posting an 8-3 record with a 2.90 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Cam Hill (RP) – recalled from team’s alternate training site (9/11)
Dominic Leone (RP) – designated for assignment (9/11), outrighted to team’s alternate training site (9/13)
Jefry Rodriguez (P) – placed on 60-day injured list (9/9) – right shoulder strain
Tyler Chatwood (SP) – 10-day injured list (8/31) – right forearm strain
Daniel Descalso (2B) – 60-day injured list (7/23) – left ankle sprain
James Norwood (P) – 60-day injured list (7/30) – right shoulder inflammation
Jose Quintana (SP) – 10-day injured list (8/31) – left lat inflammation
Brad Wieck (RP) – 60-day injured list (7/26) – right hamstring strain
HEAD TO HEAD
The Cubs handled the Tribe with ease in a two-game set at Progressive Field earlier in the season. In the mid-August series from Cleveland, the Cubs earned 7-1 and 7-2 victories following a four-day layoff (due to the Cardinals’ issues with the coronavirus).
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
Cubs pitching limited the Indians to a .185 average in the first two games of the season series.
Franmil Reyes flourished against the Cubs, going 5-for-7 (.714) with four singles, a double, and one of the Indians’ three RBI in the previous series.
Jose Ramirez has been one of the top bats in the Tribe lineup in the month of September. Through his first ten games, he has posted a .324/.425/.706 slash at the plate with a double, four homers, and six RBI. The marks are some of the best on the club in that span, as he is the top regular in average, on-base, and slugging, plus home runs. A bruised left thumb has taken him out of the lineup twice and led to earlier exits in two other games, but he has been a big contributor when able.
Francisco Lindor’s bat has heated up to a solid productive level for the club. In his last 12 games in September, he is hitting .311 with a .373 on-base percentage and .489 slugging mark with two doubles, two homers, and five RBI. His 14 hits in those dozen games are tops on the club. He was the only other Indians player to record multiple hits during the previous series with the Cubs.
Tyler Naquin has fallen off of late, but he remains the team’s leader in RBI in September with eight batted in. Strikeouts have dominated his game of late, with 12 in his last 37 at bats.
The Cubs were active at the trade deadline, trying to strengthen both sides of the roster. Left-handers Andrew Chafin and Josh Osich were acquired in separate deals with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox. Outfielder Cameron Maybin was brought over from Detroit and first baseman Jose Martinez (son of former Indian Carlos Martinez) was added from Tampa Bay. The latter has already been optioned to the team’s alternate training site.
Albeit a small sample, Chicago’s batting average (.284), on-base percentage (.405), and slugging mark (.478) were their best marks against any one opponent that it has faced this season.
Jason Heyward was the primary pain in the side of the Indians during the previous matchup. He was 4-for-6 with a double, a homer, and four RBI. He is hitting .313 in September with two doubles, a homer, and five RBI while also drawing a team-leading eight walks.
Jason Kipnis had a pair of doubles and a run batted in during his return to Cleveland earlier in the year. He has been hot at the plate this month, hitting .333 in nine games with eight hits, including three doubles, a homer, and seven RBI.
Willson Contreras has been seeing the ball well this month, posting a .362/.444/.489 slash at the plate with a team-high 17 hits in the month. He is also tied for the team lead in September RBI with eight.
MOTOR TO THE MOTOR CITY
Chicago will stay home over the weekend, hosting the Minnesota Twins in three games over the weekend after an off day on Thursday, their second of the week.
The Indians will conclude their final road series of the 2020 regular season schedule with a trip to Detroit. The Tribe and Tigers will play four times, beginning Thursday night as the Indians enter the middle portion of a 13-game stretch of contests to close out the slate.
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