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Cubs/Indians

November baseball!

We all know what's at stake here. By the end of the night either the Indians will be celebrating their first championship in 68 years or everyone in Cleveland will be re-thinking how funny all of those "the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals" jokes really were.

Jake Arrieta took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his Game 2 start in Cleveland, but then failed to make it out of the inning and ended up needing 98 pitches to record 17 outs. It was an outing typical of his season as a whole, with Arrieta being both very difficult to hit and very shaky with his command. He’s yet to go past six innings this postseason and has done so only once since September 1, allowing 24 runs in 46 innings during that span. Arrieta is the reigning Cy Young winner and anything but an easy matchup, but it’s been quite a while since he closely resembled the dominant force from 2015.

Josh Tomlin has never resembled a dominant force, topping out in the high 80s and serving up 36 homers in 174 innings on the way to a 4.40 ERA during the regular season, but he’s allowed a total of just three runs in three postseason starts while relying more on his curveball. He’s also thrown 5.0, 5.2, and 4.2 innings in those three playoff starts, so clearly the Indians know better than to trust Tomlin without limitations, but it’s tough not to be impressed with what he’s done against three very good lineups. At the very least, this is less of a pitching mismatch than “the reigning Cy Young winner versus a soft-tosser with a 4.40 ERA” might suggest, although Tomlin working on short rest makes trusting him even tougher.

Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta) at Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin), 8:00 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 58% Cubs, 42% Indians

Projected Starting Lineups

Cubs vs. Tomlin (R)

Indians vs. Arrieta (R)

Dexter Fowler (S), CF

Carlos Santana (S), DH

Kyle Schwarber (L), DH

Jason Kipnis (L), 2B

Kris Bryant (R), 3B

Francisco Lindor (S), SS

Anthony Rizzo (L), 1B

Mike Napoli (R), 1B

Ben Zobrist (S), LF

Jose Ramirez (S), 3B

Addison Russell (R), SS

Lonnie Chisenhall (L), RF

Willson Contreras (R), C

Coco Crisp (S), LF

Jason Heyward (L), RF

Tyler Naquin (L), CF

Javier Baez (R), 2B

Roberto Perez (R), C

Injuries/Availability

Monday’s off day resets the bullpens, although Aroldis Chapman may still be somewhat limited after throwing 42 pitches in Game 5. He’ll definitely be available for one inning, but a repeat of Sunday’s eight-out save may not be an option. Andrew Miller had a rare game off Sunday, so he should be fully available however early and for however long Terry Francona decides to unleash him on the Cubs’ lineup. Given how the Indians tend to handle Tomlin and how much faith they have in Corey Kluber going at least six innings in a potential Game 7, everything points to Francona leaning very heavily–even by his standards–on Miller and Cody Allen tonight.

Joe Maddon surprisingly passed on several high-leverage opportunities to bring Schwarber’s big bat off the bench in Chicago, but writing him into the designated hitter spot simplifies things considerably. He moves up to the second spot, with the previous 2-3-4 of Bryant, Rizzo, and Zobrist all sliding down one place. Tomlin’s reverse platoon splits caught Maddon’s attention in Game 3, causing him to start Jorge Soler over Heyward in right field. Soler went 2-for-3, so the move paid off, but Maddon is going back to Heyward tonight after the $184 million offseason pickup showed some signs of life recently.

Chicago is happy to have access to the DH because it means more Schwarber, but Cleveland likes being able to end Santana’s days as an outfielder too. Francona has settled on a pretty standard lineup against right-handers, opting for Crisp over Rajai Davis. If he sticks with the usual group, the Indians will have Napoli, Perez, and seven lefties against Arrieta, who held lefties to a .194 batting average during the season, but did give up a .308 on-base percentage and sub par 91/51 K/BB ratio.

Davis is the most potent baserunner on the Indians and looms as a late-inning weapon off the bench, but they also have enough speed up and down the lineup to put Arrieta and Contreras to the test if Francona wants to get tricky. Arrieta has no Jon Lester-type issues throwing to bases, but runners went 23-for-26 stealing off him this season, including 8-for-9 in the six games paired with Contreras.

Outlook

PECOTA sees the Cubs as solid favorites tonight, even on the road, although it’s worth noting that the Indians are still heavily favored to win the series. Chicago is hoping to jump on Tomlin early, lessening the power of the Indians’ bullpen and giving Arrieta some breathing room if the 2015 vintage doesn’t magically reappear. Cleveland will be going inning-by-inning with Tomlin, knowing that Miller and Allen are ready for as many as 12-15 outs, and offensively making Arrieta throw strikes and locate his fastball will be key to getting to him and/or the pre-Chapman relief options.

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lipitorkid
11/01
Go Banana... I mean Go Game 7.