8:00 PM EST, FOX – Money Line: Cubs -116, Run Line: 4.5
It’s all come down to this, folks, for after seven months of action the World Series is finally upon us, as the Cleveland Indians host the Chicago Cubs in Game One at Jacobs Field. When the 2016 World Series is all said and done, one of these two championship-starved franchises, the Cubs or the Indians, will hoist their first World Series Title in well, quite a long time. The Cubs (103-58, 1st in NL Central) have definitely waited the longer of the two, as it’s been widely publicized that this franchise has gone without a title since 1908. However, after knocking on the door last year in the NLCS, Chicago finally broke through this past Saturday, advancing to their first World Series since 1945, besting the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. After falling into a 1-2 hole, Joe Maddon’s powerful bats finally came alive over the final three games; the Northsiders were shut out of Games Two and Three, but scored a whopping twenty-three runs over the final three contests, racking up thirty-three hits and pelting five home runs en route to this point. Standing in their way in Game Six was Clayton Kershaw, who masterfully rendered them scoreless in a Game Two 1-0 defeat. Undaunted, the hosts took on the three-time Cy Young winner head on, forcing the Lefthanders’ exit after five innings in which they touched him up for five runs on seven hits, including a pair of early homers from Catcher Wilson Contreras (.282 BA, 12 HR, 35 RBI) and First Baseman Anthony Rizzo (.292 BA, 32 HR, 109 RBI). Starting Pitcher Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA) was solid, tossing 7.1 scoreless innings, permitting just two hits, while fanning six Dodgers, before Closer Aroldis Chapman (1.01 ERA, 16 Saves) proceeded to allow zero hits over the remainder of the night. So now that that gigantic monkey has been lifted off their back, Maddon will send arguably his most experienced postseason pitcher, Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA), to the mound for tonight’s opening encounter with Cleveland. After all, the Lefty knows a thing or two about pitching in the World Series; Lester has started in the World Series three times (all three of which were victories), posting a ridiculously low 0.43 ERA over twenty-one innings of labor, yielding a dozen hits with eighteen strikeouts compared to four walks. Furthermore, he’s coming into this year’s Series on a hot streak; in the 2016 Playoffs, the 32-year old has gone 2-0 in three starts against the Giants and Dodgers, relinquishing a pair of runs on fourteen hits, with fourteen strikeouts and two walks in twenty-one innings of work. Yeah, this guy is pretty damn good, folks. For that matter so is Chapman, whose midseason acquisition could in all likelihood be the moment when this outrageously talented team turned into a monster. Before the Front Office shipped a small fortune of highly-regarded prospects to the Yankees for the flame-throwing Cuban, the Bullpen was really this team’s only glaring weakness. For his efforts, the Lefthander has solved that problem, and then some, immediately stepping into the role of Closer, registering sixteen Saves in twenty-eight opportunities, all the while enjoying the statistical spike of a pitcher coming from the American League, yielding fewer runs (2.01 to 1.01), with an even more miniscule WHIP (0.894 to 0.825), and an even higher strikeout rate per nine innings (12.6 to 15.5).
Meanwhile, their opponent may garner all the headlines since it’s been nearly a lifetime (in some cases) since they’ve reached this point, but don’t be fooled, folks, for the Indians (94-67, 1st in AL Central) have been starving for a World Series too. Sure, they competed in two World Series in a three-year span in the 90’s, but Cleveland hasn’t hoisted that elusive trophy since 1948. However, don’t tell Terry Francona that, for since arriving in Northern Ohio in 2013, the Manager has gone to great lengths to change the culture of this franchise; in the four years before his hiring, the Indians were a punchline in the American League, failing to win more than sixty-nine games in each term, but in the four years since that point have advanced to the Playoffs twice, while earning their first Division Title since 2007. And who better than Francona to guide them? The 57-year old skipper was largely successful as the Manager of the Boston Red Sox from 2004 to 2011, posting a .574 Win Percentage, highlighted by a pair of World Series Championships (2004 and 2007). Furthermore, he’s got plenty of experience in the postseason, in which he’s compiled a 35-19 (.648) mark, making him the perfect mentor for such a young team. Needless to say, these kids are thriving on his influence; the Tribe have stormed through these Playoffs, surprisingly sweeping Boston in three games, before dispatching Toronto in five contests. In the ALCS, their Pitching Staff all but silenced the Blue Jays’ powerful bats, posting a staggering 1.43 ERA, yielding eight runs on thirty-two hits, with fifty strikeouts opposed to eleven walks. Tonight’s starter, Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.14 ERA), has been outstanding in these Playoffs, going 2-1 with an 0.98 ERA in three starts, permitting a pair of runs on thirteen hits with twenty strikeouts compared to seven walks. Furthermore, his only loss (a 1-5 defeat in Game Four of the ALCS) came on three day’s rest in an effort to end the series as quick as possible. The All-Star Righthander is Francona’s clear-cut choice to start Game One, but in the event that he needs to step away from the mound, the team will be in goods thanks to a Bullpen that has come on like gangbusters of late. Cleveland too acquired a powerful Reliever from the Yankees at the Trade Deadline, securing the services of Andrew Miller (4.0, 1.55 ERA), who has become the best set-up man in the game today. The towering Lefthander appeared in twenty-six games with the Tribe, posting a wicked 0.552 WHIP and an insane 23.0 Strikeout/Walk Ratio, and has been even better in October, relinquishing zero runs on just five hits over 11.2 innings of work, fanning twenty-one batters while walking just two. Keep in mind that Chicago struggled mightily in Games Two and Three of the NLCS against Lefthanded Pitching, so don’t be surprised to see Francona deploy this guy often throughout the World Series, as Miller has proven adept at working a large volume of innings.
Predicted Outcome: Cubs 2, Indians 1