Lit­tle time for rest as Cubs pre­pare for In­di­ans

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Mark Gon­za­les

Out­side the cham­pagne- and beer-drenched club­house, Kerry Wood was asked late Satur­day night about the mag­ni­tude of the Chicago Cubs’ Na­tional League pen­nant cel­e­bra­tion out­side Wrigley Field.

“Go look at Clark Street,” Wood, the for­mer Cubs pitch­ing great, said af­ter the Cubs earned their first World Series berth since 1945. “That tells you all you need to know.

“It’s long de­served. I hope they all en­joy it not too much. We’ve got an­other series left.”

The Cubs’ full fo­cus shifted to beat­ing the Amer­i­can League cham­pion Cleve­land In­di­ans in the World Series shortly af­ter the early Sun­day morn­ing cel­e­bra­tion.

The big­gest de­ci­sion in­volves whether Kyle Sch­war­ber will be deemed ready to play and fill the im­por­tant role of des­ig­nated hit­ter for Games 1 and 2 (and 6 and 7, if nec­es­sary) at Pro­gres­sive Field in Cleve­land.

“We’re re­ally close,” Cubs pitcher Jake Ar­ri­eta, a for­mer

Ori­ole, said. “We know that. We’re one of two teams stand­ing.

“There’s a long way to go. It’s go­ing to be a tough series. Those guys can re­ally play. It’s a dif­fer­ent dy­namic play­ing in their ball­park with the DH.”

Sch­war­ber, who hasn’t played in a ma­jor league game since he tore lig­a­ments in his left knee April 7, was ex­pected to play Sun­day in a sim­u­lated game that could de­ter­mine whether his tim­ing at the plate and his knee are sound enough to play.

The Cubs don’t have a deep fa­mil­iar­ity with the In­di­ans. In their last matchup, Game 1 prob­a­bles Jon Lester and Corey Klu­ber matched mas­ter­pieces in a 2-1 Cubs vic­tory Aug. 24, 2015, de­cided on a walk-off home run by then-rookie Kris Bryant.

But the land­scape has changed dra­mat­i­cally: The In­di­ans are well rested af­ter their cruise through the AL play­offs, and the Cubs have as­cended from NL wild-card wannabes to World Series cru­saders.

The left-handed-hit­ting Sch­war­ber could give the Cubs lineup a spark, sim­ply be­cause of the In­di­ans’ right-handed­dom­i­nant pitch­ing staff. But some of that is off­set by the pres­ence of left-handed re­liever An­drew Miller, who has struck out 21 bat­ters while walk­ing none and al­low­ing only five hits in 112⁄3 post­sea­son in­nings.

Adding Sch­war­ber would test the Cubs’ depth, since Sch­war­ber is wear­ing a pro­tec­tive brace on his left knee and would be rel­e­gated to pinch-hit­ting duty when the Series switches to Wrigley for Games 3, 4 and 5, if nec­es­sary.

An­other fac­tor is cop­ing with the In­di­ans’ blend of power (185 home runs) and speed (134 stolen bases).

It could mean rookie catcher Will­son Con­tr­eras gets more starts, al­though Miguel Mon­tero lends bal­ance with his left-handed bat.

But with the big hits of Con­tr­eras and the all-around ex­cel­lence of Javier Baez, the more sea­soned Cubs aren’t afraid of the young­sters suf­fer­ing stage fright.

“You have some old guys sprin­kling in there that con­trib­ute ev­ery once in a while,” said Lester, who shared NL Cham­pi­onship Series Most Valu­able Player hon­ors with Baez. “It’s been un­be­liev­able to be a part of. But this isn’t it. We’ve made it to the World Series, but we’ve still got a lit­tle way to go.”

In­di­ans’ Klu­ber to start Game 1: In­di­ans man­ager Terry Fran­cona said Sun­day that he will go with Klu­ber, an 18-game win­ner dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, in the opener Tues­day night. The right-han­der is 2-1 with a 0.98 ERA in his first post­sea­son.

Fran­cona has right-han­ders Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin pen­ciled in for Games 2 and 3, re­spec­tively. The or­der could change de­pend­ing on how Bauer’s in­jured right pinkie heals over the next few days.

Bauer’s start in the ALCS lasted less than one in­ning af­ter his pinkie be­gan bleed­ing against the Toronto Blue Jays. He in­jured his fin­ger when he sliced it open while re­pair­ing a drone.

Also, in­jured starter Danny Salazar could be avail­able against the Cubs. Salazar hasn’t pitched since Sept. 9 be­cause of fore­arm tight­ness, but he’s made ma­jor progress in the past week and could be on the World Series ros­ter.

Kip­nis deal­ing with strained an­kle: In­di­ans sec­ond base­man Ja­son Kip­nis sprained his left an­kle dur­ing a postgame cel­e­bra­tion in the ALCS but is ex­pected to be ready for Game1.

Fran­cona said Sun­day that Kip­nis rolled his an­kle Wed­nes­day when he hugged team­mate Fran­cisco Lin­dor on the field af­ter the fi­nal out in Game 5 in Toronto.

Fran­cona said he ex­pects Kip­nis to be OK for the World Series opener.

Kip­nis, who is bat­ting .167 with seven strike­outs this post­sea­son, took some grounders Sun­day while be­ing watched by a mem­ber of Cleve­land’s train­ing staff.

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