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Indians/Cubs

One night after Corey Kluber and the Indians put them on the brink of elimination, the Cubs turn to their own playoff-tested ace, Jon Lester, to keep their season alive and give the Wrigley Field faithful something to cheer about.

Lester was mediocre in Game 1, allowing three runs in 5.2 innings to lose his matchup with Kluber, but the left-hander has a 1.69 ERA in four total starts this postseason and a career mark of 2.60 in 125 playoff innings. This time he'll face Trevor Bauer, who has failed to make it out of the fifth inning in any of his three playoff starts and took the Game 2 loss against the Cubs.

Lester vs. Bauer, at Wrigley Field, is the most lopsided on-paper matchup in the Cubs' favor all series, but "on paper" hasn't meant a whole lot through the first four games and the Indians can surely smell blood in the water. Cleveland is nine innings from the finish line of a remarkable postseason run. Chicago must win to keep breathing.

Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer) at Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester), 8:00 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 67% Cubs, 33% Indians

Projected Starting Lineups

Indians vs. Lester (L)

Cubs vs. Bauer (R)

Rajai Davis (R), CF

Dexter Fowler (S), CF

Jason Kipnis (L), 2B

Kris Bryant (R), 3B

Francisco Lindor (S), SS

Anthony Rizzo (L), 1B

Mike Napoli (R), 1B

Ben Zobrist (S), LF

Carlos Santana (S), LF

Addison Russell (R), SS

Jose Ramirez (S), 3B

Jason Heyward (L), RF

Brandon Guyer (R), RF

Javier Baez (R), 2B

Roberto Perez (R), C

David Ross (R), C

Trevor Bauer (R), P

Jon Lester (L), P

Injuries/Availability

Terry Francona used Santana in left field for Game 3 and at first base–with Napoli on the bench–for Game 4. Napoli and his right-handed power bat will be in the Game 5 lineup, which means the Indians will decide between playing Santana in left field again or holding him back as a pinch-hitter. If this game were being played under AL rules Santana would be at designated hitter and Guyer would be in left field.

Francona could shift Guyer to right field, taking the place of Lonnie Chisenhall and swapping out a left-handed bat versus Lester. Doing all of that–Santana in left field, Guyer in right field, Chisenhall on the bench–plus the usual Davis/Tyler Naquin center field platoon would produce a lineup full of right-handed hitters and Kipnis, but the outfield defense could be extremely ugly.

As usual Ross will catch Lester, taking the place of rookie Willson Contreras behind the plate. Heyward notched a pair of singles in Game 4, so presumably he'll be back in there against a right-hander, with Jorge Soler joining Contreras and Kyle Schwarber on the bench. Depending on how much he feels like shaking things up/panicking, Joe Maddon could get tricky by, say, benching Baez, moving Zobrist back to second base, and opening up left field for Contreras. Short of that, the Cubs' lineup should be pretty standard.

Aroldis Chapman should be fresh and available for two innings, and Pedro Strop also had Saturday off. Chicago used Hector Rondon for two innings of mop-up work in Game 4, but he threw just 19 pitches. Mike Montgomery, Justin Grimm, and Travis Wood also worked Saturday, but should be available.

Francona had an opportunity to avoid using Andrew Miller last night, but brought him in for two innings and 27 pitches in a 7-1 game anyway, not wanting to have the stud reliever warm up without pitching. Miller will certainly be available tonight, but it might only be for an inning and could be at something less than maximum effectiveness working on a third straight day. Beyond that the Indians' bullpen is fresh, as both Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw got Saturday off.

Outlook

PECOTA sees the Cubs winning this matchup, at home, about two-thirds of the time. It's hard to have any sort of faith in Bauer turning in a strong start, but it's also hard to imagine Francona sticking with him for much more than a couple runs if things go south and the Indians' bullpen has been changing games all month. For the Cubs the recipe for staying alive is simple: Get to Bauer early, get a good start from your ace, and get Chapman in to close it out. Cleveland will try to hurt to Lester with bats and/or legs, and then let Francona start pulling those strings and pushing those buttons.