Cubs

What can Cubs expect from Indians ace Corey Kluber on short rest in Game 4?

What can Cubs expect from Indians ace Corey Kluber on short rest in Game 4?

Before Game 2 of the World Series, the only game the Cleveland Indians lost in the 2016 playoffs was Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, which ace Corey Kluber started on three days rest. 

Kluber wasn’t altogether ineffective in that 5-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing two runs on our hits with two walks, seven strikeouts and one home run in five innings (those are the only two runs he's allowed in the playoffs). He only threw 89 pitches in that game; three days before, he fired 100 in Game 1 of the ALCS. But beyond the results, how different was Kluber as a pitcher on three days rest?

“Last time was my first time doing it, so I didn't know what to expect how I was going to feel,” Kluber said Friday. “Now that I do know that I felt fine, it's just a matter of using those three days to recover. I'll be fine tomorrow and then just go out there and pitch.”

Velocity-wise, Kluber didn’t experience a drop-off on three days rest as compared to the six days he had off before the World Series: He actually threw his two-seam sinker and four-seism fastball slightly harder against the Blue Jays than he did against the Cubs, according to TexasLeaguers.com. The spin rate on his two-seam sinker was actually higher on three days rest than it was in his first World Series start, too (according to MLB.com, “most experts have agreed that fastballs and breaking balls are tougher to hit when they possess higher Spin Rates.”).

So the Cubs can certainly expect the same stuff they saw from Kluber in Game 1. But the biggest difference between short rest Kluber and regular/extended rest Kluber was his effectiveness throwing that sinker for strikes.

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Against the Cubs, Kluber threw 24 of his 30 sinkers for strikes, and the Cubs only put five of those in play. It was a masterful showing of how to pitch a patient lineup that hadn’t seen him in 2016, with the movement on that pitch and the threat of him mixing in an effective curveball and slider breezily working through the Cubs’ lineup over six innings. 

But against Toronto, Kluber frequently missed low with his sinker (he had five called below the strike zone for balls) and gave up a home run on one to right-hander Josh Donaldson. Only nine of the 33 sinkers he threw were called strikes, compared to 14 sinkers called for strikes against the Cubs. 

Both Kluber and the Cubs will make adjustments heading into Game 4, with Kluber having a better idea of how to prepare on three days’ rest and the Cubs lineup having a better idea of the action on Kluber’s pitches. But no matter how many days off he’s had, Kluber is one of the very best pitchers in baseball, and the Cubs’ best shot at getting to him Saturday night looks to be if he’s not as pinpoint with his sinker. 

“The guys got to see him, so there won't be as much of a surprise the next time he pitches,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “You have to — i.e. (Clayton) Kershaw, the first game he pitched here, extremely sharp with everything. The next game we saw him not as sharp. So you just don't know. It's difficult for pitchers to replicate time after time, especially against the same team, especially with shorter rest to be as sharp. But he may be. Not that it's an advantage, only in the sense that we have seen him relatively just a couple days ago.

“So hopefully that works to our advantage. But you've got to wait until the game's actually played to find out how sharp he is.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

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Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here: