For the second straight game, the Chicago Cubs are playing with their backs against the wall. The Cleveland Indians hold a 3-2 lead, one win away from their first World Series title since 1948. The Cubs are relying on their lineup finding consistency, and Jake Arrieta having a good day on the mound. The Indians simply want the same thing that’s been working for most of this series.
The Cubs won the previous game with one big inning, the 4th inning, as they scored 3 runs after two games of a combined 2 runs. It was that, a little bit of Jon Lester (although not at his best), and a lot of Aroldis Chapman, who got 8 outs. A lot of people complained about how long it took him to get the 8 outs. It might not be good for people watching at home, but with the Cubs having zero margin for error, Chapman and the team did what they had to.
Arrieta takes the mound for the second time in this World Series. He pitched well in game 2, allowing only 2 hits and one run through 5.2 innings, striking out 6 in the process. That was his best performance of the postseason, entering what will be his final start in 2016 (who knows what happens in game 7, if there’s a game 7) with a 3.78 ERA, striking out 4 batters to everyone he’s walked. The Cubs haven’t let him go past 98 pitches in the postseason, but they’ll probably squeeze everything out of him if they’re in a position to do so.
When Arrieta isn’t on the mound, it’ll be Josh Tomlin for the Indians. Tomlin is 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA in this postseason. He appeared in game 3 for the Indians, a 1-0 win at Wrigley Field. He didn’t play a lot, and probably won’t this time as well, with Andrew Miller rested, and ready to go with at least 2 innings. This probably leaves Tomlin with up to 5 innings of work. He was terrific in 4.2 innings last time, allowing only 2 hits and one walk, the defense doing a good job of helping him out. He’ll be starting on a three-day rest, something he’s done only once in his career.
Kyle Schwarber will be back at DH for the Cubs. Unable to play defense, he was relegated to just one plate appearance as a pinch hitter through the three games at home. During the first two games in Cleveland, he batted .429 with a couple of RBIs, and he’s another change the Cubs are counting on to help them try and become the first team since the Royals in 1985 to turn around a World Series despite losing 3 of the first four games.
Even without Miller and the loss, the Indians bullpen got the job done in game 5: Four scoreless innings following another bad performance from Trevor Bauer. And it seems like the Indians getting to their bullpen with the lead matters more than anything. The Cubs have gotten almost nothing against Miller, Allen, Shaw and others. Getting the bats working early will be the key factor for a team that headed into this series as favorites, but now find themselves with their backs against the wall, counting on a starting pitcher who has been inconsistent since the summer began.