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After winning two of three in Wrigley, the Indians return home where they went 53-28 in the regular season. The Tribe had also won all five postseason games at Progressive Field prior to the Cubs’ victory in Game 2 of this World Series.
That Game 2 win was supposed to trigger some momentum as the team returned home. Instead, the Indians were able to take the first two games in Chicago. Once again, however, we are left with the Cubs stealing the final game before a travel day.
The loss before the trip to Wrigley didn’t seem to bother the Tribe, but now that Chicago has won two games this series, this is the biggest test for Cleveland this postseason.
The Indians will continue rolling with their three-man rotation, turning back to Josh Tomlin in Game 6.
The 31-year old right-hander pitched well in a short outing in Game 3, keeping the Cubs off the board for 4.2 innings before being lifted.
Tomlin is far from a dominant pitcher, but he throws strikes, makes the opponent put the ball in play and does not beat himself.
In the regular season, Tomlin led the AL in walk rate with just one walk per nine innings. We’ve seen a few more walks in the postseason with four in 15.1 innings, but the righty still makes the team put the ball in play. That’s tough for a Cubs team that likes to see pitches. By keeping the ball in the zone, he puts in great position, getting ahead in the count.
Overall, this postseason, Tomlin has been good. Terry Francona hasn’t trusted him to go deep, but he’s pitched to a 1.76 ERA and that comes after a strong September with a 1.69 ERA. He’s been throwing well for a while. In fact, most of his season was very good save for a terrible month of August.
On the other side, the Cubs will turn to Jake Arrieta, the starter that got them the win in a masterful performance in Game 2.
The 30-year old right-hander wasn’t as lights out as he was in his Cy Young season last year, but still pitched to 18 regular season wins and a 3.10 ERA.
His postseason story has been spotty, too. He struggled in the NLCS, allowing four runs in five innings to the Dodgers and has allowed four runs or more in three of his six postseason starts. In the other three, he’s allowed two runs or fewer.
He actually took a no-hitter into the sixth in Game 2. He eventually left having giving up a run on just two hits in 5.2 innings in that game.
Taking a page from the Francona playbook, Maddon gave the ball to Aroldis Chapman in the seventh inning and the flamethrower gave the team 10-outs.
Chapman will have a day off on Monday to rest, but the right-hander threw 42 pitches in the effort, well above what he is used to throwing and it’ll be worth watching if that has any ill-effect if he’s called upon in Game 6. With questions in the Cubs’ bullpen, they cannot afford for Chapman to be anything short of dominant if he’s called upon on Tuesday.
On the other side, the Indians used Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen out of the pen with Allen throwing 36-pitches himself. Andrew Miller, however, went unused so he’ll have a couple days off in a row which should be a good thing given his high level of use this postseason.
When it comes to batting, the Cubs and Indians both struggled to score too many runs in Game 5. This is truly a series focused on pitching, but the fact Chicago was able to scratch across a couple runs was huge for an offense that was ice cold.
Another big storyline was the fact that the Cubs got back-to-back hits from Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the fourth. That was only the second time that’s happened this postseason. Bryant went yard and Rizzo followed with a double. If both are starting to see the ball better, that’s a bad sign for the Indians even if they just need one more win at home.
Tomlin has been pitching very well and should be able to go five strong innings on Tuesday even on short rest, though it is hard to gauge what to expect from a player on short rest.
If Tomlin does go five, that sets up Francona’s bullpen perfectly. With a day off, the pen will be well rested and with Miller staying off the field in Game 5, he should be ready to go multiple innings if needed.
That lines up perfectly, but the Cubs seemingly blossoming offense could get in the way.
Look for Chicago to plate a couple against Tomlin and with Arrieta on the mound that may just be enough to extend this series all the way to Game 7.
Look for another low scoring game, taking the under if the total is anything more than a handful of runs.
With the Cubs’ middle of the order clicking on Sunday and Kyle Schwarber likely back in the designated hitter role, a return to AL rules may benefit the NL team as they’ll be better positioned to put some runs on the board and take what figures to be yet another close game.
MLB Odds: Cubs 3, Indians 2