The Chicago Cubs are in Cleveland today looking for the sweep in a quick two-game series with the Indians. Chicago won game one last night in dominating fashion, 10-3. They were powered by Kyle Schwarber who hit two homers in the blowout and a solid start from Tyler Chatwood who went six strong innings of one-run ball. Starting for the Cubs is Jon Lester (2-0 3.10 ERA), and the Indians will send Trevor Bauer (1-2 2.67 ERA) to the mound. The Indians are -123 home favorites. The game total over-under is set at seven and a half runs. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 PM PST from Progressive Field.
We all knew the Cubs struggles at the plate just couldn’t last for too long. They were much too talented of a team to continue hitting so poorly. And it finally looks like they are breaking out of that slump as they have been swinging the bats well over the last week or so. The Cubs have won four out of their last five games and have scored forty-three runs in those four wins. They also had a thirteen-run and a fourteen-run game last week. After a slow start to the season, the Cubs are now seventh in the majors in run scored and third in batting average after this recent surge.
The recent surge has been powered by both Schwarber and Kris Bryant. As both guys are hitting over .300 and are providing power. But the real story in Chicago has been the emergence of Javier Baez as a legit force in the lineup. Baez is hitting .299 and has seven home runs and is leading the National League in RBIs with twenty-four. If the Cubs can get Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell hitting as well, this team could lead the majors in runs scored.
The Cubs will turn to their venerable lefty Jon Lester. Lester has always been a guy the Cubs can count on and this season has been no different. Lester is 2-0 with an ERA of 3.10, but more importantly for the Cubs, Chicago has won every game Lester has started this season. In Lester’s last start against the St. Loui Cardinals on April 19th, Lester through six innings and gave up zero earned runs while striking out seven. This was the second time in his four starts on the year where he did not get charged with an earned run. While the veteran arm might be getting up there a bit in age, his production has yet to fall off, and he is a guy the Cubs can count on every five days to get them a win.
The Cleveland Indians are going to easily win their division this season. Maybe too easy. There is a decent chance that no other team in the American League Central finishes the season with a winning record. The Minnesota Twins are the next best team in the central and while they did make the playoffs last year, it felt very fluky. They are below .500 now, as is the rest of the division. The Royals, White Sox, and Tigers could all be very bad when it is all said and done. So, it is a little bit easy to see why Cleveland is starting out a little bit slow. They have no reason to push hard. They could win eighty-five games and run away with the division title.
That being said, they have picked up the pace recently after starting the season out a bit sluggish. The Indians had won nine out of their last twelve games before losing to the Cubs last night. Cleveland will look to get right back on track tonight when they send Trevor Bauer to the bump. Bauer has been the model of consistency this season. He has gone deep into every start, going seven innings or more in his last three. He has thrown over a hundred pitches in all four starts and has yet to give up more than three earned runs in any one start. Somehow though the Indians have managed to lose three out of his four starts despite his solid outings. He will need to be on his game tonight if he wants to hold back this powerful Cubs offense.
The Cubs managed to score ten runs yesterday against this Indians team, and that was without their best hitter, Kris Bryant, in the lineup. Bryant got beaned in the head by a pitch the day before and took a day off, but is excepted to be back in the lineup today. It just feels like this Chicago team finally has things figured out of the offensive end, and I expect them to go on a nice run.
The starting pitching matchup today is a wash. Both Bauer and Lester are pitching well and trying to separate them today would be pointless. But when you look at these lineups, the Cubs are clearly the side to back. They have power up and down the lineup and they all hit for average. Hitting is contagious, and right now this Cubs team is heating up.
So, I am going to back the hotter team tonight in what should be a tight contest. The fact that I get to scoop up some dog money on the side I like anyway is just a bonus.
Give me the Chicago Cubs as small road underdogs tonight in Cleveland at +103!