The suddenly sputtering Cleveland Indians will look to reverse course when they conclude their season series against the Chicago Cubs. Cleveland (26-22) enters the contest on a season-high seven-game losing streak after falling to Chicago 6-5 on Thursday. As a result of the skid, the Indians' hopes of AL Central division crown have essentially evaporated, however, they are still comfortably in the AL playoffs -- currently four games clear of ninth-place Seattle Mariners. Meanwhile, the Cubs' magic number is now down to seven to officially clinch a playoff spot as they have won three straight. Chicago (29-20) leads the NL Central division by five games over St. Louis and is five and one-half games ahead of third-place Cincinnati.
Chicago has won all three of its matchups with Cleveland this year, outscoring the Indians 20-8.
Pitching Matchup: Cleveland sends RHP Aaron Civale (3-5, 3.88 ERA) to the mound while Chicago's LHP Jon Lester (2-2, 5.05 ERA) gets the call.
Indians Bullpen Collapses In 6-5 Loss To CubsCleveland has one of the best bullpens in the majors but they are certainly not flawless as shown evidently in their 6-5 loss to Chicago on Thursday. With the score tied at 5-5, thanks to a Francisco Lindor two-run blast off of Cubs closer Jeremy Jeffress in the top of the inning, veteran relievers Oliver Perez and Nick Wittgren were unable to close the deal as they combined to give it up one hit, walked one and hit two batters in one-third of an inning of work. Perez (1-1) took the loss as he walked Kris Bryant and gave up a single to Anthony Rizzo with one out in the bottom of the ninth before being lifted for Wittgren, who subsequently hit Wilson Contreas and Cameron Maybin in consecutive at-bats to force in the game-winner. The loss dropped the Indians to six games behind AL Central division-leading Minnesota with 12 games left.
"Last pitch, changeup, I was just trying to throw it middle to going into him, so then he gets on top of it and rolls it over and then we have a chance for the double. Obviously I just let it go way too soon," Wittgren said.
On a positive note, Lindor remained hot in September collecting three of the Indians' 11 hits on the night to go along with four RBI. Lindor is heating up down the stretch as he is batting .311 for the month and has a hit in four consecutive games and nine of 13.
Tyler Naquin (4-for-4) also had a big-game while Josh Naylor (1-for-3, 2 R, 1 BB) ended a five-game hitless streak and Delino DeShields (3-for-4, 2 2B) snapped a three-game stretch without a hit.
Cleveland is in prime position for a playoff spot because of its starting pitching. The Indians starters rank second in the majors in wins (16), first in ERA (3.12) and innings pitched, tied for fourth in complete games (one), eighth in hits allowed, sixth in runs permitted, ninth in walks, first in strikeouts, first in WHIP (1.06) and third in opponent's batting average (.222). Serving up the long ball (42) has been the Indians' only issue. Cleveland has used seven different starters -- including the recently traded Mike Clevinger -- this year.
Aaron Civale who will make his 10th start has been the Indians' second-most consistent starter, behind ace Shane Bieber. Civale has thrown six innings in each of his nine starts and ranks in the top of the league in several categories. However, two of the 25-year-old right-handers three subpar outings have come in his last three starts, which includes his last appearance where Civale allowed seven hits and four runs while walking one and striking out seven over six innings in an 11-1 loss to Kansas City. He has suffered a loss in three of his last four starts to fall to 3-5 overall with a 3.88 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .257 OBA, and 3.41 FIP. His nine-innings stats are 8.8 hits, 1.1 HR, 8.7 strikeouts, and 1.6 walks.
This will be the first time that Civale will make a start against Chicago. He is 3-6 with a 3.49 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 11 starts on the road for his career.
Kris Bryant Literally Walks Home For Game Winning ScoreOne word that has described Chicago's offense this season is inconsistency. However, the Cubs produced 11 hits on Tuesday night, marking the ninth time in September that they have posted at least eight base-knocks. While the Cubbies were getting in their licks in, it was two hits of the other variety that led Chicago to a 6-5 victory over Cleveland as Wilson Contreas and pinch-hitter Cameron Maybin was plunked by Indians' relievers in back-to-back plate appearances in the bottom of the ninth.
Kris Bryant (1-for-3, 3 R, 1 RBI) scored the game-winning run after drawing the second of two walks on the night. Anthony Rizzo, who is hitting just .137 in September, led the way by going 3-for-4 with a double and a hit by pitch. Contreras was 2-for-3 and now has a slash line of .380/.458/.500 this month. Ian Happ (2-for-5, 1 R, 1 2B) has now hit in four of five games and Jason Kipnis (2-for-4) also had multi-hit games.
Like Cleveland, Chicago also has one of the best rotations in baseball. The Cubs starters are a league-best 21-15 to go along with the seventh-best ERA (3.80), fourth-best WHIP (1.16), 11th-best batting average against (.236) and second-most innings pitched. They are also second in complete games, tied for first in shutouts, eighth in runs allowed, 11th in home runs permitted, seventh in walks, and sixth in strikeouts.
John Lester is also making his 10th start of the season. After laboring through his last five starts, Lester composed his best outing of the campaign as he threw six strong innings, allowing just three hits while recording eight strikeouts and issuing two walks in a 1-0 loss to Milwaukee on Friday. The 36-year-old lefty is 2-2 with a 5.05 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .263 OBA, and 5.10 FIP for the season. His per nine-inning stats are 9.7 hits, 1.7 home runs, 2.3 walks and 7.2 strikeouts.
Lester is facing Cleveland for the second time this season. Lester allowed one run on three hits to go along with a pair of walks and four strikeouts over six innings in a 7-1 Cubs victory on Sept. 11. He has been fantastic against the Indians over his career, compiling a 8-3 record with a 2.90 ERA and 1.104 WHIP in 18 starts.
The Cubs are:
- 7-1 in their last 8 interleague home games vs. a right-handed starter.
- 5-1 in their last 6 when their opponent allows 5 runs or more in their previous game.
- 4-1 in their last 5 overall.
- 4-1 in their last 5 home games.
- 6-2 in their last 8 when their opponent scores 5 runs or more in their previous game.
- 22-8 in their last 30 interleague home games.
- 5-2 in their last 7 after allowing 5 runs or more in their previous game.
- 5-2 in their last 7 games vs. a right-handed starter.
- 9-4 in their last 13 interleague games vs. a right-handed starter.
- 11-5 in their last 16 interleague games.
The Indians are:
- 8-20 in their last 28 interleague road games vs. a left-handed starter.
- 8-20 in their last 28 road games vs. a team with a winning record
- 13-38 in their last 51 interleague road games vs. a team with a winning record.
- 1-4 in their last 5 when their opponent allows 5 runs or more in their previous game.
- 0-7 in their last 7 overall.
- 0-4 in their last 4 after allowing 5 runs or more in their previous game.
- 0-4 in their last 4 vs. a team with a winning record.
- 0-4 in their last 4 road games.
- 3-7 in the last 10 meetings with the Cubs.