It’ll be a rematch of the 2016 World Series as the Chicago Cubs face the Cleveland Indians Wednesday night. The Cubs took the first game of the two-game series 10-3 on Tuesday night. The Cleveland Indians are -125 to even the series up on Wednesday over the Chicago Cubs.
Amidst a series of postponed games, the Cubs are finally starting to find a rhythm. They have won four of their last five games to climb above .500. However, they find themselves in a crowded NL Central early in the year, as four teams are separated by just two games.
The Indians have also gotten off to an uneven start in 2018. But following a two-game trip to Puerto Rico, the Tribe has won three of its last five to open a 2.5-game lead over the Twins and Tigers atop the AL Central.
The Old Ace
The Cubs will send Jon Lester to the mound Wednesday night. With Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana scuffling, Lester has stepped up to play the role of Chicago’s ace. In four starts, the lefty is 2-0 with a 3.10 ERA. He’s been hittable in a couple of his starts, but his last time out against the Cardinals, Lester was as sharp as ever, allowing just an unearned run on two hits over six innings. Right now, the Cubs need him to pitch at that level because they can’t afford to lose too many of his starts, at least until Darvish and Quintana get it going.
Lester will have the benefit of facing one of the lowest-scoring lineups in the American League. Outside of Jose Ramirez, who is scorching hot, it’s tough to find too many Cleveland hitters having a good April. The caveat is that even the guys with poor batting averages, most notably Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso, are hitting the ball out of the park. Of course, Lester has allowed just one home run on the season, so this could be a favorable matchup for the lefty.
The Next Ace
Opposing Lester will be Trevor Bauer. While Bauer has been a quality back-end starter the past few years, thus far in 2018 he’s performing at a much higher level, just about keeping up with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. In four starts this season, Bauer is rocking a 2.67 ERA. He’s also pitched at least seven innings in three of his four starts, getting deep in games before handing the ball to the backend of the Cleveland bullpen.
Of course, Bauer has his work cut out for him Wednesday, as he’ll face arguably the best offensive team in the National League. The Cubs are second in the N.L. in runs and tops in both batting average and OPS. The Cubs gave Bauer a glimpse of what they’re capable of doing on Tuesday when they hit four home runs against Josh Tomlin on their way to scoring 10 runs. Three of Chicago’s hitters currently have an OPS over 1.000, so this will be a challenge for Bauer.
Take the Lefty
As long as Lester can avoid giving up the long ball, he should be in good shape against Cleveland’s lineup. Bauer, meanwhile, doesn’t have much margin for error against a hot-hitting Cubs team. Take the underdog Chicago Cubs at +125 over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.