Back in Cleveland for the first time since October 26th, both the Indians and Cubs are grateful to have their DH returned to them. For the visiting Cubs, this means that Kyle Schwarber is back in the line-up after missing the last two games entirely and Joe Madden has found a new home for his slugger in their starting nine:
Bryant had been starting in the two hole, but after struggling with just two hits in 17 at bats this series (0 for 1 with a walk vs Tomlin), he has been moved down to get Schwarber as many at bats as possible. After Madden used Aroldis Chapman in game five in a similar fashion to how Terry Francona has been using Andrew Miller this post-season, one could wonder if this isn’t Madden attempting to copy Francona’s use of Carlos Santana as lead-off hitter.
In any event, it greatly lengthens the Cubs line-up as Russell and Heyward have been hitting better of late and only Contreras and Baez mark significant weak spots in the line-up. Of course, they always have their other two catchers, Miguel Montero and David Ross, should the Cubs want to switch things up as the game goes on.
For the Tribe, it will be the same old line-up to face a right hander on the mound. There was some speculation that Rajai Davis, who has been seeing the ball significantly better in the last couple games, could start in center over Naquin, but instead he will begin the game on the bench. With a chance to end the series without ever facing elimination, Francona will be going all out to win this game, so we will certainly see Davis at some point.
In fact, everyone with the exception of Corey Kluber, who is scheduled to start game seven on short rest if necessary, should be available. Since Andrew Miller didn’t pitch in game five, it’s conceivable that Francona could go to his three favorites in the bullpen for the final four or even more. If Tomlin struggles early on, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ryan Merritt or Dan Otero either as Francona has shown he isn’t afraid to go with a full bullpen game in the play-offs. Given that Indians starters have averaged less than five innings per appearance in the post-season and they have won 10 of 13 games, he has every right to be confident.