Series Preview, TV info, and Prediction: Cubs vs. Indians


by - Staff Writer -
The Cubs are back at the site where they won their 2016 title (Mark Rebilas - USA Today Sports)
The Cubs are back at the site where they won their 2016 title (Mark Rebilas - USA Today Sports)

Coming off a 5-1 homestand last week, the Cubs hit the road for a quick five-game, two-city trip that starts with two against the Cleveland Indians. Chicago will be returning to the site where five years ago, it became the happiest moment in more than 100 years.

Ironically, games six and seven of the World Series were played on a Tuesday and Wednesday in Cleveland, so there is just something magical about this place when the Cubs return. While most of the team's rosters are no longer intact from that world series, their rivalry has been much more intense recently, and that is all because of that series. So here are the pitching matchups and predictions for this short two-game to open their trip.

Tuesday, May 11, 5:10 CDT on Marquee Sports Network and Bally Sports Great Lakes: Adbert Alzolay 1-2 4.50 ERA 30K vs. Shane Bieber 3-2 2.98 ERA 77K

This will be a rare 5:10 start time as the Cubs are playing on east coast time. Alzolay will take the ball in game one as he is coming off a stretch of three consecutive solid outings. He held the Dodgers in check through five innings, walking one and striking out seven in his last outing. He was then pulled after experiencing dizziness but was deemed ok.

Alzolay has continued to not only adjust from one start to the next but has gotten better with each outing this season. That is something the Cubs were hoping for when they gave him the final rotation spot, and it is starting to pay dividends. His average fastball velocity is nearly up two MPH this season, and he continues to use that slider as his out pitch. With Amed Rosario as the lone Indian to ever see him, expect some ugly swings early. Alzolay will have to be on his A-Game as his opponent is a tough customer.

That customer is Shane Bieber, and the numbers speak for themselves. His 3-2 mark may not be great, but a 2.98 ERA is solid, and his 77K's is what stands out. Even without having his best stuff in his last outing, he still managed to strikeout out nine Royals as that makes 19 straight starts with at least eight K's.

Facing a Cubs lineup that has had strikeout issues in the past, not only should that streak reach 20, but he could be in line for a double-digit strikeout game depending on how deep he can go. The reigning AL Cy Young winner continues to deliver those kinds of performances on the mound and is a big reason why Cleveland remains competitive in his outings. Only Matt Duffy and Eric Sogard have seen him, but to their credit, they have produced some quality at-bats off him.

Wednesday, May 12, 12:10 PM CDT on Marquee Sports Network, Bally Sports Great Lakes, and MLB Network (out-of-market only): Zach Davies 2-2 6.30 ERA 18K vs. Sam Hentges 1-0 5.00 8K

Davies got a much-needed win in his last start against Pittsburgh, going a season high seven innings with just one strikeout. The key to his outing was limiting contact, as he allowed just five hits and no earned runs.

That start ended a streak of five straight starts of four innings or less and is something he will look to build on. Davies has always been a contact pitcher, but this season, his strikeout numbers are way down, and his walk rate is up. He is also pitching to more hard contact than ever before, which has hurt him in many outings. In addition, he is facing a lineup that has limited experience against him but has hit him hard.

Harold Ramirez, Josh Naylor, Amed Rosario, and Franmil Reyes have all hit north of 500 against Davies. This will be the part of the lineup he needs to neutralize if he wants to pick up his third win of the season.

Making his first career start will be Hentges, who was supposed to make his first career start last week. However, after using an opener to lighten his load and having Sunday's game be a rainout, Hentges will finally make his first career start against the Cubs on Wednesday.

The lefty showed a lot of promise in his first outing this season, where he did pickup up eight strikeouts and allowed three runs in four innings. The Cubs have historically had issues hitting unfamiliar faces, which is another one of those new faces. Hopefully, the Cubs can be aggressive enough to see good pitches and then get to the Indians pen, which hasn't been as good as their starting rotation this year.

Prediction: 1-1 split

This will be a challenging series for the Cubs mainly because of the Indians pitching. Chicago is coming into this series with a ton of confidence as they did manage to beat Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, and Walker Buehler at home last week. Bieber is a different animal as his insane strikeout totals continue to be the talk of the league.

It will be hard for the Cubs to generate much off him and possibly Hentges, so the sooner they can get to the pen, the better off they will be. I still think this team manages to pick up a 1-1 split as they will head to Detroit with a shot at a winning trip.

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