The Cleveland Indians proved not to be intimidated by the raucous, eager Wrigley Field faithful in Game Three of the World Series on Friday night. In fact, coming into Game Four with their ace on the mound and a 2-1 lead in the series, the Tribe probably feels downright confident.
Meanwhile, the Cubs are coming off being shutout for the fourth time this offseason. That may seem stunning to a passive fan or observer who just looks at their season numbers. That person would just see a team that finished second to the Colorado Rockies in runs scored in the National League. They would likely wonder where this offensive futility came from, and how the Cubbies would respond to hitting their darkest moment of the year at the worst possible time. Cubs ownership, its players and management, however, knows that this group of North Siders has a propensity to hit dry spells, and they are just as skilled at busting out of them in a huge way.
Another part about the Cubs that’s hard to explain is while you can complain about his struggles at the plate all you want, there’s no denying the results: Jason Heyward’s presence in the starting lineup makes the Cubs better. And he’s in that lineup in Game Four, his first start of the World Series.
Cleveland’s Starting Lineup
The Indians have relied on timely hitting and two home runs to get their runs so far in this Fall Classic. Only Lindor, Ramirez and Perez have had a sniff of luck against Cubs pitching so far. But that’s been enough, and could again be enough tonight with Corey Kluber on the mound. Klubot wasn’t terribly sharp in the ALCS on three days’ rest, but the Cubs’ lineup is arguably less formidable than the Blue Jays’ was, especially with Jason Heyward in the lineup. His presence is due to the Cubs’ anticipation that this will be a low-scoring game, a prophecy of Maddon’s that I believe will come true.
Chicago’s Starting Lineup
Almost the entire Cubs lineup has been a mixture of “crap” and “suck” in the World Series. It cannot be overstated how marvelous the Indians’ pitching staff has been over the past three games, but Chicago has not done themselves any favors. National League rules also hurt their chances to score runs right now, as Kyle Schwarber has been a consistent bat as a DH. He was brought in at a time I felt was poorly-chosen yesterday, and the at-bat as a whole should not be held against him. Continue relying on him in pinch-hit situations, please.
Will Chicago snap out of this funk they’ve been in offensively? Will Zobrist maintain that stellar batting average with lesser protection around him (the Indians respect Contreras, but he hasn’t had good at-bats in the Cubs’ losses)? Will the Cubs even this thing up and make tomorrow night’s Game 5 not only their biggest game in team history, but also probably the biggest sporting event in the history of Chicago?
The answer to the above questions is no. I’m fearful that the Cubs will get stuffed yet again by Corey Kluber tonight, and they’ll face a do-or-die Game 5. Not saying they won’t perform better than last night, but I doubt it will be enough with John Lackey pitching less-impressively than Hendricks did in Game 3.
Indians will win 4-2.