Cubs

Indians will start Corey Kluber in Game 4 of World Series against Cubs

Indians will start Corey Kluber in Game 4 of World Series against Cubs

CLEVELAND — A day after his ace threw six shutout innings in Game 1 of the World Series, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona confirmed right-hander Corey Kluber will start Game 4 on short rest Saturday at Wrigley Field. 

Kluber only threw 88 pitches in Cleveland’s 6-0 win Tuesday night and is not only lined up to start Game 4, but is also potentially in line to start an if-necessary Game 7 — which also would be on three days’ rest. 

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]  

The 30-year-old right-hander made one start on three days’ rest in the playoffs, in which he allowed two runs on four this with two walks and seven strikeouts against the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. Those two runs, which came on an Ezequiel Carrera single and a Josh Donaldson home run, are the only two he’s allowed in 24 1/3 postseason inning. 

Francona said Game 2 starter Trevor Bauer and Game 3 starter Josh Tomlin both are in line to pitch on short rest, too, which could mean the Indians make left-hander Ryan Merritt or right-hander Danny Salazar (who were in the discussion to start Game 4) available out of the bullpen Wednesday night. 

Veteran right-hander John Lackey is in line to start Game 4 for the Cubs. 

Watch Javy Baez pull off maybe his greatest magic trick yet

Watch Javy Baez pull off maybe his greatest magic trick yet

It's Game of Thrones night at Wrigley Field, so of course it was Javy Baez who turned in the first fantastical highlight of the evening.

After drawing a walk in his first plate appearance, Baez grounded a ball to Dodgers first baseman David Freese in the second inning and wound up hitting the former St. Louis hero with the best juke move we've seen in Chicago since Walter Payton:

Everything about this is just flat-out ridiculous: How far that pitch was out of the strike zone, how Baez somehow avoided the tag (and by several feet!), how Freese could do nothing but shake his head and tip his cap — all of it.

And hats off to first base umpire Chad Whitson, who ruled it a single on the field and did not declare Baez out of the baseline.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts came out to argue, but to no avail and Baez's 27th hit of the season became official. 

Magic.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.

With the Dodgers in town, the Cubs' pitching staff will face its toughest test of the season so far

0918_jose_quintana.jpg
USA Today

With the Dodgers in town, the Cubs' pitching staff will face its toughest test of the season so far

The Wrigley Field organist got his money’s worth trying to drown out the sound of batting practice on Tuesday afternoon, as early-arriving fans with bleacher tickets were treated to their first taste of what’s to be expected on the North Side over the next three games. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in town, and with them comes one of -- if not the -- best offenses in baseball. LA sits atop of any customizable leaderboard you care to take a look at. They lead all of baseball in fWAR (7.2), almost two whole runs higher than the runner-up. They’re second in on-base percentage (.357) and RBI (132); third in total homers (44), ISO (.225) and slugging (.489). 

“They’re not going to just go up there recklessly,” Manager Joe Maddon said before Tuesday’s game. “They’re going to make you throw the ball where you want to see it. You got to make your pitch.” 

The good news is that, since their home opener 11 games ago, the Cubs have been making their pitches. No team has walked less hitters over that time than Chicago (22). They’ll need to keep that trend going against a Dodgers team that is especially selective at the plate -- per MLB’s Statcast numbers, LA chases pitches only 21% of the time, seven percentage points lower than league average. Of their top-10 hitters in terms of pitches seen so far, not a single one has an above-average chase rate - the closest is Corey Seager at 24%. Cody Bellinger (11) and Joc Pederson (10) have more home runs between the two of them than Marlins, Pirates, Indians, Giants or Tigers have as a team. 

“When you face offenses like that, you have to be able to get them out in the zone,” Maddon said. “That’s what you have to do as a pitcher. If you tap dance or get them in their counts, they’re going to hurt you.” 

The bad news is that a shallow dive into some of the contact numbers spells potential trouble - especially in the bullpen. Three of the Cubs’ five most-used relievers (Kintzler, Rosario, and Webster) all have average exit velocities that fall in the bottom sixth-percentile or worse. Both Kintzler and Webster’s exit velocities (93.7 mph for both) fall in the bottom 2% of MLB pitchers. That’s tough sledding against a team that has 6 every day starters with better-than-average exit velocities. 

Despite what’ll surely be 72 hours of hard contact, this late-April series between two of baseball’s marquee franchises may come down one of the sport’s finer nuances: defensive positioning. 

“You have to catch the baseball - give them 3 outs an inning and that’s it,” Maddon added. “You have to set your defenses up well. This is when you do have to catch line drives. Really good defense catch line drives because they’re in the right spots.”