The Indians are one win away from their first World Series championship since 1948. Saturday night, the Tribe beat the Cubs and earned a 7-2 win in Game 4 at Wrigley Field. They now lead the best-of-seven series 3-1.
This is what we’ve been waiting for, Tribe fans.
Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA)
This will be Lester’s 19th career postseason start, second among active pitchers. Only teammate John Lackey (23) has more. Overall, Lester has a 1.69 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in four starts and 26 2/3 innings this postseason, though the Indians tagged him for three runs and nine baserunners in 5 2/3 innings in Game 1.
Beyond that Game 1 start, there’s plenty of head-to-head experience between Lester and the Indians’ lineup thanks to all his time in the AL. Rajai Davis has faced him more than anyone, going 14 for 49 (.286) with three doubles and three triples against Lester. Mike Napoli has had success against Lester as well. He’s 6 for 17 (.353) with two homers against him.
Overall, players on the Indians World Series roster have hit a combined .288/.358/.466 in 165 career plate appearances against Lester, which is awfully good. Seeing him in Game 1 will help as well. The Indians are more familiar with his present stuff and game plan. The more times a hitter sees a pitcher, the more the advantage sways in his direction.
Unlike the Dodgers, who attempted to distract Lester by dancing off first in the NLCS, the Indians tried to steal against him in Game 1. Francisco Lindor stole second in the first inning and was thrown out trying to steal in the third. Several others took off from first on balls that were fouled off at the plate. Expect the Tribe to try to capitalize on Lester’s woes throwing to the bases again in Game 5.
Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26 ERA)
Between three generally ineffective starts this postseason, Bauer has been generating headlines for the wrong reasons. Of course, the Indians have won two of his three postseason starts, so it’s not all bad.
The Cubs worked Bauer hard in Game 2 of the World Series, forcing him to throw 87 pitches in only 3 2/3 innings. He allowed two runs on six hits and two walks. Experience against Bauer is limited for the Cubs. Only Dexter Fowler has faced him more than six times, and he’s 0 for 7. Similar to Lester, these guys just saw Bauer a few days ago, so they’re more familiar with him now.
Thanks to the Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar injuries — Salazar is on the World Series roster as a reliever — the Indians are starting everyone on short rest in the World Series. Corey Kluber started Game 4 on three days’ rest and Bauer will start Game 5 on three days’ rest as well. Josh Tomlin is slated to start Game 6 on three days’ rest, if necessary.
Bauer has never started on short rest in his big league career, so Sunday night will be a first for him. His unique workouts are well known by now, and starting on three days’ rest could give him trouble by throwing his routine out of whack. Also, the cut on his pinky is still a question, especially after a tough Game 2 start in which he couldn’t command pretty much anything, especially his curveball.