Hosting a World Series game for the first time in 71 years, the Chicago Cubs take the field tonight without their most expensive player anywhere near the field.
Instead, the Cubs will trot out in front of their ravenous fans at Wrigley Field, in probably the most hotly-anticipated night in Chicago history, sporting one of the youngest lineups imaginable.
Six of the Cubs’ nine starters tonight have been in the Major Leagues three years or fewer. None of them have played in more than 306 regular-season games. The other three Cubs (Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo) have played in a combined 3,152 games, which is so few that three players (Pete Rose, Carl Yastrzemski, and Hank Aaron) played in more games by themselves in their career. So it’s not like this team is terribly experienced.
Meanwhile, free agent acquisition Jason Heyward has officially been relegated to “defensive replacement” right now. He’ll remain that until Spring Training 2017. The only other way we’d see J-Hey is if Schwarber gets a pinch-hit knock and needs a pinch-runner, which is a perfect opportunity for Heyward to really make his presence felt in this game.
Here’s what the lineup looks like tonight, with Career OPS and OPS at Wrigley Field thrown in so you can see how comfortable they are at the Friendly Confines:
Kyle Hendricks pitched very well in the NLCS and has a sub-2.00 ERA in the postseason as a whole in 2016. He has also been extraordinary at Wrigley Field all year, where (not coincidentally) all of his starts in the playoffs have taken place. Hendricks keeps the ball down, vital tonight since the wind will be blowing out violently to left-center field. Any fly ball pitcher would be in major trouble tonight.
In other news, the Indians are sending Josh Tomlin to the mound tonight. And he is a flyball pitcher.
While the Cubs are a group of well-rounded hitters, the swing styles of Bryant, Rizzo, Contreras, Soler (whose eyes probably rolled back in his head when he saw the forecast for tonight), Baez, and Russell all are conducive to hitting fly balls. This is the perfect environment, the perfect night, the perfect ballpark for Jorge Soler to get a start in right field.
The Cubs’ home run futility in the World Series ends at least twice-over before Tomlin gets lifted. Andrew Miller has yet to throw a pitch for the Indians without the team being ahead… that ends tonight. Miller seemed vulnerable without allowing a run in Game One; I don’t think he surrenders a run tonight but he doesn’t have the impact he has earlier in the playoffs this evening.
Cubs win, go up 2-1, and brace themselves for an eruption of Klutonium tomorrow night.