Looking to win their first championship since 1948, the Cleveland Indians return to Progressive Field with a 3-2 lead over the Chicago Cubs, for game six of the World Series (8:08pm ET Tuesday on FOX).
Perhaps, it all comes down to this as just one more win separates the Cleveland Indians from their first World Series title in almost 70 years.
Returning to Progressive Field for game six and game seven if necessary, the Indians are favored to take home the trophy. It is not a foregone conclusion however as the Chicago Cubs, with their backs against the wall down 3-1 after the first four games, showed signs of life thanks to a quality start from Jon Lester, a three-run fourth inning and Aroldis Chapman taking care of the rest.
Will the Cubs be able to ride this momentum into game six back on the road or will the streak sadly hit 108+ seasons without a championship?
This preview takes a look at the keys to Tuesday’s World Series game six and concludes with our picks and betting predictions.
Will Chapman be Available for Game 6?
The Cubs’ biggest MVP of Sunday night’s game five was their closer, Aroldis Chapman (pictured), who has proven to be worth every bit the prospect haul Chicago traded to the New York Yankees for him.
Called upon for a very rare eight-out save, Chapman pitched himself out of a two-on, two-out threat when he first came into the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was the first time in his career that he had pitched at that juncture of the game. Then, he stayed in for the eighth and the ninth, not letting the Cubs’ one-run lead slip away.
Chapman is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why Chicago is even playing for a game six, but it’s a game that the flame throwing closer is unlikely to be able to pitch in. Ordinarily a 20-pitch at most guy, Chapman threw a career high 42 on Sunday, most of which registered at over 100 mph on the gun. That would be a labor-intensive outing for anybody and to ask Chapman to pitch again on Tuesday might be unrealistic.
However, the Cubs are fortunate in that there is an off day for travel in between the two games so if there is a chance Chapman can come out of the pen, it’s for that very reason. Not to mention, it’s the World Series for a team looking to win their first in over 100 years. Even with a tired arm, if he’s the best chance they’ve got to extend this to a do-or-die game seven, you can bet he’ll be out on that mound doing just that.
Can Jake Arrieta Outduel Josh Tomlin? More Importantly, Can He Outduel Andrew Miller?
Cub’s manager Joe Maddon made the risky move of pulling starter and Cy Young contender Jon Lester in the seventh inning of game five. He trusted Chapman and it was a trust that paid off. With his game six starter however, Maddon will likely be looking for a little more.
That’s because the man on the mound is Jake Arrieta and the pitching matchup is one that may not exactly favor Chicago.
Arrieta will be making his fourth start of the postseason and his second at Progressive Field. The winner of game two, Arrieta held the Indians to just one run on two hits in his 5.2 innings pitched. He wasn’t perfect, but he continued to show why he’s one of the best road pitchers in the MLB (11-3 record; 3.59 ERA in 15 starts).
He will be facing Josh Tomlin, who is having a great postseason in his own right. A perfect 2-0 with just three runs given up in his three starts, Tomlin was the man on the mound in game three, which was won by the Indians 1-0. Tomlin has far exceeded his regular season numbers but he’ll be tested on Tuesday as he pitches on three days’ rest for one of the first times in his young career.
Could this be a slight advantage to the Cubs? Perhaps. But if the Indians have any sort of mid-late game lead, you can bet that Andrew Miller will be on the mound to shut things down and ensure Cleveland wins the title. Miller has not allowed a run in his last 17 appearances, is the reigning ALCS MVP and did not work in last night’s game.
Will Chicago’s Offense Finally Break Out?
While the Indians haven’t exactly been a scoring juggernaut this postseason either, it has been the Cubs, which have been shut out four times in their three playoff series, who have really struggled. Game five’s three run fourth inning notwithstanding, the team which was ranked third in MLB in runs scored during the regular season has just 58 in 15 games, an average of 3.8 per game. That’s over a full run less than what they averaged during the regular season (4.98).
This number is even worse in the World Series as through the first five games Chicago has managed just 10 runs, losing two games via shutouts, including the first of the series.
You have to go all the way down to the 16th best hitter by average to find the first Cub, Javier Baez, who is hitting .271 in the playoffs. Kris Bryant is right behind him at .268 but other than those two, no one in Chicago’s lineup is hitting over .250. Power numbers too are down as the Cubs have just 14 home runs in 15 games. This actually doesn’t sound that bad but when you look in context of the World Series, the team has just two home runs over the first five games.
Against a Cleveland starting staff and bullpen which has been just about as shutdown as you can get, the Cubs will have to find a way to manufacture some runs at Progressive Field. Otherwise it is going to be a long offseason of contemplating one of the biggest missed opportunities to end the streak in recent memory.
Our Preview’s Game 6 Chicago Cubs at Cleveland Indians Betting Picks’ Predictions
The best USA-friendly offshore sportsbooks have this one at a 1.5 runline in favor of Cubs, actually making the Indians the rare home underdogs. This seems a bit surprising on its face but when you look deeper into the pitching matchups as mentioned earlier in this World Series game six preview, Arrieta does tip the scales on the runline. So here are my betting predictions and picks:
- Since I believe the Cubs do extend this to a win-or-go-home game seven, take Chicago -1.5 runs @ best betting odds of +120 with Bovada. It is +115 with BetOnline and 5Dimes sportsbooks.
- As for the run total of seven, a Cubs’ win means their offense is going to have to do something. This one might not be much over seven total runs in the game, but expect it to top that mark. So go over seven @ -115 with 5Dimes or BetOnline. It is -120 with Bovada.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.