Se­ries busi­ness: Who has the edge?

Break­ing down the key matchups in the Fall Clas­sic

Baltimore Sun - - WORLD SERIES - By Mark Gon­za­les

Start­ing pitch­ing

Jon Lester is 4-0 life­time with a 3.72 ERA in eight ca­reer games at Pro­gres­sive Field, and he never has looked sharper in a Cubs uni­form than he has re­cently. Kyle Hen­dricks is lined up to pitch at Wrigley Field, where he has done his best work. No sur­prise that Jake Ar­ri­eta and John Lackey must be sharper than they were in the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries. For all the talk of the Cubs’ depth, the In­di­ans had the sec­ond low­est ERA in the Amer­i­can League (3.84) and they have sur­vived the loss of Car­los Car­rasco and Danny Salazar to late-sea­son in­juries. Corey Klu­ber’s curve­ball ranks as one of the best, as he dis­played in a March 9 start in which he struck out four in three in­nings against a vet­eran Cubs lineup. Josh Tom­lin likes to in­duce early con­tact, so the pa­tience of Cubs hit­ters could test him. Edge: Cubs.

Relief pitch­ing

It wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily smooth sail­ing for a Cubs bullpen that didn’t work of­ten in nor­mal roles in the NLCS. But closer Aroldis Chap­man could match up well against the In­di­ans. Pe­dro Strop and Hec­tor Ron­don haven’t re­turned to nor­mal lev­els since re­turn­ing from the dis­abled list. Man­ager Joe Mad­don is lean­ing more on left-han­der Mike Mont­gomery. Carl Ed­wards Jr. could play a big­ger role. Thanks to the trade-dead­line ar­rival of An­drew Miller, the In­di­ans tied with the Roy­als for the sec­ond-low­est ERA in the AL (3.45). From shoring up the left side to pitch­ing mul­ti­ple in­nings, Miller cre­ates pres­sure for op­po­nents to score early. Ground ball spe­cial­ist Dan Otero has been one of the most un­der­rated ac­qui­si­tions of the off­sea­son. The ex­tended break may help Bryan Shaw, who ap­peared in 75 games. Closer Cody Allen looked dom­i­nant in the ALCS. Con­trol can be an is­sue for Zach McAl­lis­ter, who has got­ten more com­fort­able after start­ing dur­ing most of his ca­reer. Edge: In­di­ans.

Of­fense

Dex­ter Fowler was one of the more un­her­alded play­ers dur­ing the NLCS with his de­fense and timely hit­ting, but Klu­ber and Tom­lin will test the Cubs’ plate dis­ci­pline. Ben Zo­brist is a life­time .246 at Pro­gres­sive Field. Javier Baez con­tin­ues to show bet­ter plate dis­ci­pline, es­pe­cially on break­ing pitches on the out­side cor­ner. After strug­gling at times against left-han­ders Rich Hill and Julio Urias, the Cubs should feel more com­fort­able against a pre­dom­i­nantly right-handed In­di­ans staff. The In­di­ans led the AL with 134 stolen bases and will try to ex­ploit the slow de­liv­er­ies of Ar­ri­eta and John Lackey. There’s plenty of length in the In­di­ans’ lineup, start­ing with lead­off bat­ter Car­los San­tana (34 home runs, .366 on-base per­cent­age). Jose Ramirez struck out only 62 times in 618 plate ap­pear­ances, a re­mark­able feat for a 23-year-old. Mike Napoli struck out 194 times dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son but has sta­bi­lized the mid­dle of the lineup. Ra­jai Davis’ speed is the equiv­a­lent of a mi­graine headache for pitch­ers and catch­ers. Edge: In­di­ans.

De­fense

The only ma­jor area of con­cern for the Cubs will be at catcher — the In­di­ans’ run­ning game will test David Ross, Miguel Mon­tero and rookie Will­son Con­tr­eras. Look for Con­tr­eras to be part of more late-in­ning dou­ble-switches in games he doesn’t start. Ben Zo­brist has looked OK in left field since Baez took over at sec­ond base. One long­time scout liked short­stop Fran­cisco Lin­dor over the Cubs’ Ad­di­son Rus­sell. Tyler Naquin is an above-av­er­age cen­ter fielder. Right fielder Lon­nie Chisen­hall has set- tled in nicely after look­ing up­tight at third, ac­cord­ing to a scout. Sec­ond base­man Ja­son Kip­nis and third base­man Jose Ramirez con­tinue to get bet­ter. Catcher Roberto Perez doesn’t have big-time tools but does a smart job with the pitch­ers.

Edge: Cubs.

Man­ager

One of the more mem­o­rable show­downs oc­curred in the 2008 ALCS when Mad­don’s Rays edged Terry Fran­cona’s Red Sox in seven games. Fran­cona nearly guided the Red Sox all the way back from a 3-1 deficit, start­ing in the sev­enth in­ning of Game 5 when he used Jonathan Papel­bon down 7-0 in a game the Red Sox ul­ti­mately won 8-7. Although Mad­don likes man­ag­ing un­der NL rules, he should feel com­fort­able with as many as four games un­der AL rules that em­ploy the des­ig­nated hit­ter. Fran­cona isn’t afraid to do things in an atyp­i­cal (and suc­cess­ful) man­ner such as us­ing a slug­ger like San­tana at lead­off to em­ploy­ing rad­i­cal shifts to us­ing Miller in the mid­dle in­nings for ex­tended pe­ri­ods. Edge: In­di­ans.

BRIAN CASSELLA/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE (LESTER); AARON JOSEFCZYK/AP

Jon Lester, left, who will start Game 1 for the Cubs, is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in three World Se­ries ap­pear­ances. The In­di­ans’ Fran­cisco Lin­dor, one of the bet­ter de­fen­sive short­stops in the ma­jors, is hit­ting .323 with two home runs this post­sea­son.

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