Winners of three in a row, including defeating the best pitcher in the MLB, the Cubs are now ready to take on the AL champion Cleveland Indians. Starting Tuesday, the two franchises will duke it out for supremacy in the baseball world.
The Cubs confidence is high in all three facets of the game. Their hitting is alive, the Cubs’ starting pitching was dominant in their four wins against the Dodgers. As for the bullpen, it really wasn’t much of a factor as the Cubs outscored the Dodgers except in game four where Mike Montgomery, Carl Edwards, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon took over for John Lackey. The Cubs did not need Aroldis Chapman for a save, although he did pitch in four games.
Although Lester and Hendricks only gave up three runs combined against LA, the stars of the series were the Cubs’ bats. They scored 31 runs in their four victories accumulated with games of 8, 8, 10, and 5 runs. That is just amazing considering how the bats failed them last fall! I feel like everyone made great contributions on offense and the defense was just spectacular lead by Javy Baez.
The Cubs were lead by their young stars. In the clinching game, Ben Zobrist was the old man at 34, Fowler at 30, Rizzo, 27, and 5 other position players 24 and under. Wow!
As for their opponents, the Cleveland Indians surprised many in dispatching the Red Sox and then the offensive juggernaut that was the Blue Jays. The Indians put up a 94-67 record to win the AL Central this year. They were 53-28 at home and 41-39 on the road.
The Indians play outstanding defense and have an amazing bullpen. Many of their games in the post season ended after five or six innings because of the dominating reliever Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen. The Indians’’ offense has been struggling. They scored 11 runs in their four wins in the ALCS including four in one game. It’s been pitching that has been their strength. They held the Blue Jays to three runs in those four wins.
Strengths – Who Scares Me
Andrew Miller – While Cubs fans may think Javy Baez has been the star of the postseason, it’s really Miller. The big lefty reliever shut down the Red Sox and Blue Jays. He struck out 21 in 11.2 IP. If the Cubs can get a lead, Miller becomes a moot point.
Francisco Lindor – The AL version of Russell, Lindor, too, can do it all at the plate and in the field.
Corey Kluber – He’s had a great two years and he’s continuing in the playoffs. The AL version of Arrieta, Kluber took a while to figure it out. The problem for him is Francona has been marching him out there on three days rest.
Josh Tomlin – High-quality starter with a solid arsenal. Held his own against a potent Blue Jays lineup.
Carlos Santana – The big power hitter also has 10 Ks in the playoffs and is hitting .172 while in the DH spot.
Coco Crisp – He’s a crafty veteran who has occasional pop and some speed left.
Mike Napoli – The big 1B just knows how to win. He is the most fearful power hitter in the lineup. However, he is in a feast or famine mode at .179.
Jason Kipnis – He’s streaky and from the Chicago suburbs. The dude can rake it at the plate. However, his can stink it up like he has in the playoffs to a .167 average.
Weaknesses – Who Doesn’t Scare Me
Jose Ramirez, Tyler Naquin, Roberto Perez, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer, Lonnie Chisenhall, and any other Indians starting pitcher. If SP Danny Salazar returns from the DL to start, he will be very, very rusty. I doubt if Trevor Bauer and his drone scar will be of much effect, either.
Why the Cubs Will Win
1. Depth – The Indians starting pitching staff is running on fumes. They are basically trotting out Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin and any other live arm they can find. Kluber and Tomlin are outstanding but they can’t continue to pitch on short rest in this series against the Cubs lineup who can destroy them the second time around.
2. Depth – The Cubs practically have an All-Star at every position. Cleveland does not. They have 4 or 5 very good hitters, but they just don’t match up., even on the bench, which will be critical for games in Wrigley. Do the Indians sit Santana or Napoli in Wrigley? Someone will sit and that defense will suffer.
3. More Depth – The Cubs have been waiting to use their bench to DH. Although the pitchers held themselves up admirably with the bats in both the NLDS and NLCS, a DH could really lengthen the Cubs lineup to the point where they look more like an American League team than an NL one.
Clark – Like me, Clark thinks that Jobu will not help the Indians’ bats this time. The Cubs are playing too well and are too deep. Clark sees it done in five.
Me – Cubs in 6. It could be five if they can steal one in Cleveland in games 1 or 2. Kluber and Tomlin will be tough to beat. To me, it will be all about the Cubs’ bats.