Little time for rest as Cubs prepare for Indians
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.