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Series preview: Cleveland vs. Cubs

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One last familiar foe before Cleveland heads to the West Coast for the first time in two years

Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

This weekend, Cleveland will embark on a West Coast road trip to face new teams for the first time in 2021. Before they catch that plane, though, they have a small bear problem to take care of at home.

Both being in central divisions in their respective leagues, Cleveland and the Cubs played each other last September, resulting in a pair of one-run losses for the good guys. The first game of that series, on Sept. 15, you may remember as the one where Nick Wittgren hit a batter to walk home the winning run. The next day, Chicago walked off again, this time with a hit off Phil Maton in the bottom of the 10th to bring home the ghost runner.

Cleveland will look for better fortunes this time around, and they’ll send their best pitcher to start the series this evening, then toss in someone new with Sam Hentges on Thursday.

The Cubs enter this series on a bit of a hot streak, winning seven of their last 10, including a three-game sweep of the Dodgers.

Weather shouldn’t be an issue with clear skies expected in Cleveland through Thursday, but it might get chilly towards the end of Tuesday night’s game.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 17-17
  • Runs Scored: 157
  • Run Differential: -5
  • Last 10: 7-3
  • Slash: .224/.312/.393
  • wOBA: .309
  • wRC+: 95
  • ERA: 4.53
  • SIERA: 4.19
  • K-BB%: 12.8%

Projected starters

Tuesday, May 11, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Adbert Alzolay vs. Shane Bieber
Although runs have probably scored more than he would like, Adbert Alzolay is enjoying a nice start to the season, as far as walks and strikeouts are concerned. In his last four starts, he’s walked more than one batter just once and struck out at least six batters in each. His last outing against the Dodgers was cut short by what he described as a “weird” dizzy spell on the mound. He was cleared immediately following the game, though, and appears to be fine.

Alzolay, 26, is in his third year as a starter and has already eclipsed his career-high mark with 26 innings pitched. He’s capable of throwing five pitches but is primarily a sinker-slider pitcher with a four-seamer, change, and curveball also at his disposal.

Wednesday, May 12, 1:10 p.m. ET: RHP Zach Davies vs. Sam Hentges
Zach Davies is only 28 but already in his seventh year as a starting pitcher, though 2021 is his first with the Cubs. His first seven starts in Chicago haven’t gone as planned as he has allowed 21 earned runs in 30 innings for an ERA north of 6.00. Twelve of those come from two bad games, though, and he was excellent in his last outing against the Pirates — seven innings pitched, zero runs, one walk, and one strikeout.

Davies is a soft-tossing righty with an 87 mph sinker and 77 mph changeup as his primary weapons, as well as a cutter and a curveball with 61.6 inches of vertical break to it. At his best, he’s a low-spin pitcher who works down in the zone and keeps the ball on the ground with a lot of weak contact. But he hasn’t been at his best so far in 2021.

Lineup highlights

3B, Kris Bryant - The Cubs fought tooth and nail to argue that Bryant, as a rookie, needed exactly 11 games of Triple-A seasoning before he was ready to debut in the majors. They did that to ensure that they would have him for an extra year. That year is 2021, and they are effectively in the middle of tearing everything down and starting over. Their service time manipulation of Bryant may not have done wonders for their professional relationship with their best player, but it may get them their wish of being able to extract maximum value out of him in his seventh year via a trade deadline deal. The 29-year-old is absolutely raking, with a .308/.397/.650 slash and nine home runs. His 179 wRC+ would be a career-high, and his 12.5% walk rate would be his highest since 2017.

OF, Jake Marisnick - After 16 excellent games with the Mets in 2020, Jake Marisnick signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Cubs. So far, 27 games into that contract (which includes a mutual option for a second year), he’s slashed .264/.350/.623 with four home runs and a career-high 160 wRC+. The longtime Astros outfielder is still among the fastest players in baseball and is hitting the ball hard 35.3% of the time and spreading it all over the field, according to FanGraphs. He is walking more than ever and doesn’t have an astronomical BABIP (.333), so this might just be a second wind for the 30-year-old veteran.

Cubs roster

Poll

How many games will Cleveland win against the Cubs?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    2
    (77 votes)
  • 43%
    1
    (65 votes)
  • 4%
    0
    (7 votes)
149 votes total Vote Now