This piece, written by Baseball Prospectus’s Editor-in-Chief Aaron Gleeman, forms part of the main site’s comprehensive coverage of the postseason, “Playoff Prospectus”.
One night after Corey Kluber and the rest of the Cleveland squad put them on the brink of elimination, the Cubs turn to their own playoff-tested ace, Jon Lester, to keep their season alive and give the Wrigley Field faithful something to cheer about.
Lester was mediocre in Game 1, allowing three runs in 5.2 innings to lose his matchup with Kluber, but the left-hander has a 1.69 ERA in four total starts this postseason and a career mark of 2.60 in 125 playoff innings. This time he’ll face Trevor Bauer, who has failed to make it out of the fifth inning in any of his three playoff starts and took the Game 2 loss against the Cubs.
Lester vs. Bauer, at Wrigley Field, is the most lopsided on-paper matchup in the Cubs’ favor all series, but “on paper” hasn’t meant a whole lot through the first four games and Cleveland can surely smell blood in the water. Cleveland is nine innings from the finish line of a remarkable postseason run. Chicago must win to keep breathing.
PECOTA odds of winning: 67% Cubs, 33% Cleveland
Projected Starting Lineups
|Cleveland vs. Lester (L)||Cubs vs. Bauer (R)|
|Rajai Davis (R), CF||Dexter Fowler (S), CF|
|Jason Kipnis (L), 2B||Kris Bryant (R), 3B|
|Francisco Lindor (S), SS||Anthony Rizzo (L), 1B|
|Mike Napoli (R), 1B||Ben Zobrist (S), LF|
|Carlos Santana (S), LF||Javier Baez (R), 2B|
|Jose Ramirez (S), 3B||Addison Russell (R), SS|
|Brandon Guyer (R), RF||Jason Heyward (L), RF|
|Roberto Perez (R), C||David Ross (R), C|
|Trevor Bauer (R), P||Jon Lester (L), P|
Terry Francona used Santana in left field for Game 3 and at first base–with Napoli on the bench–for Game 4. Napoli and his right-handed power bat will be in the Game 5 lineup, which means Cleveland will decide between playing Santana in left field again or holding him back as a pinch-hitter. If this game were being played under AL rules Santana would be at designated hitter and Guyer would be in left field.
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Lead photo courtesy Elsa—USA Today Sports.