Cubs

Quick takes: Cubs show no rust in return, avoid Mike Clevinger to beat Indians

Quick takes: Cubs show no rust in return, avoid Mike Clevinger to beat Indians

The Cubs didn’t seem to have any rust to shake off on Tuesday, despite an unexpected break over the weekend.

The Cubs beat the Indians 7-1 in their return to Progressive Field, the ballpark where they claimed the 2016 World Series title.

Before the game, Cubs manager David Ross set up his pregame Zoom session with reporters in the visiting manager’s office. It was the same room where former Cubs manager Joe Maddon sat Ross down to talk about the then-backup catcher's role for Game 7 of the World Series.

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“A lot of memories walking down the street,” Ross said, "walking to the park today, walking in, for sure.”

Here are takeaways from the Cubs’ win:

Cubs avoid Clevinger

Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger was originally scheduled to start Tuesday. But instead, he spent the evening in quarantine and on the restricted list.

Clevenger apologized Tuesday for violating health and safety protocols by leaving the team hotel without permission while in Chicago for the Indians’ series against the White Sox.

Instead, Adam Plutko drew the start. He began the season in the bullpen but stretched out to 78 pitches on Tuesday. In four innings, Plutko allowed one run on four hits.

The Indians’ rotation is considered one of the best, if not the best, in baseball this season. The Cubs benefitted from getting to the Cleveland bullpen early. A five-run sixth inning included a three-run home run by Jason Heyward.

Lester stays steady

Jon Lester recorded his second straight quality start on Tuesday. Including the one run he allowed in six innings Tuesday, Lester has only given up two runs this season.

Lester was originally slated to pitch in the Cubs’ series opener at St. Louis. When that series was cancelled, due to three more positive COVID-19 tests from the Cardinals, Lester threw a bullpen session instead on Saturday to stay sharp.

Lester didn’t pitch like his schedule had been altered. He held Cleveland scoreless through five innings. The only run he allowed came in the sixth, when the Cubs had a six-run lead.

Kipnis returns

Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis faced the Indians for the first time in his career, after spending nine seasons in Cleveland. He signed with the Cubs this offseason as a free agent.

The Indians played a tribute video for him before the game, which included an extensive montage of game-winning hits and plays.

During the game, Kipnis hit a double into right field to start his night at the plate. He also scored on a wild pitch in the seventh inning.

Where they stand

The Cubs improved to an 11-3 record, still leading the NL Central in wins despite having played three fewer games than the Reds at No. 2 in the division.

On deck

Next, the Cubs remain in Cleveland for the second game of a two-game series.

 

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Cubs get more reminders in Cleveland -- that league only strong as weakest link

Cubs get more reminders in Cleveland -- that league only strong as weakest link

Every hallway, clubhouse corner, stairwell — and certainly the weight room in the tunnel behind the dugout — was a reminder for Cubs manager David Ross and nine of his players of the pinnacle moment in Cubs franchise history as they returned to Cleveland on Tuesday.

But 2016 was a long-distant memory compared to everything else about Cleveland, this two-game series and the opponent when it came to in-your-face reminders for the Cubs on Tuesday.

“On the one hand, you feel sorry for the guy,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “And on the other hand, you’re kind of like, `You knew the rules and you broke them.’

“It’s another one of those reminders about how serious this is.”

Ross was talking about Cleveland pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac, who broke league and team COVID-19 protocols when they snuck out of their Chicago hotel last weekend to go out to dinner. Plesac was caught that night and sent back to Cleveland by car; Clevinger stayed silent about being out with Plesac until he was caught after flying back home with the club.

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Both have been isolated from the team and on Tuesday put on the restricted list.

It was the elephant in the room when it came to everything about the Cubs’ return to play after four days off thanks to the Cardinals’ ongoing coronavirus outbreak — if not the elephant in the room for every team in baseball this season.

RELATED: Cubs' 'super frightening' close call in St. Louis shows how fragile season is

“Guys make mistakes. it happens,” said Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis, former Cleveland teammate of both pitchers. “If I were to guess, they’re probably not the only ones who have gone out. Probably just two that have gotten caught. Just a hunch is what I’m thinking. Around the league, it looks like it’s just happening. I think that’s how stuff happened with St. Louis and Miami [outbreaks] from the sounds of it. So I don’t want to come down on them too much.”

But it’s hard to get past the irresponsibility to the rest of the team when it comes to players who do that — especially after the two outbreaks that led to at least 35 combined cases among the Marlins and Cardinals.

Especially considering Cleveland teammate Carlos Carrasco — who faces the Cubs Wednesday — battled leukemia just last summer, returning in September and who remains on medication, among the handful of MLB players considered high-risk for severe symptoms or death if contracting COVID-19.

“It just takes an extra level of accountability and responsibility this year to hold strong and not give in to any urges to go out or to maybe fight the boredom,” said Kipnis, a close friend of Carrasco who remains in regular touch with the pitcher. “It’s not easy. it’s not easy at all times. That’s about all I’ll say. I don’t want to comment on their stuff.”

But that’s the thing: This isn’t just “their stuff.”

The Cardinals’ “stuff” became the Cubs’ “stuff” when their series was wiped out over the weekend because of the Cards’ outbreak. And if Clevinger’s silence and willingness to remain exposed to teammates even after Plesac was sent home led to an outbreak and, in turn, another team getting the virus — that quickly becomes everybody’s “stuff.”

Nobody knows whether Cleveland's protocol perps were exposed to anything while sneaking out. They’ll have to be monitored and repeatedly tested before they’re cleared.

As Kipnis suggested, their behavior does not appear to be isolated, the Marlins and Cardinals notwithstanding. MLB instituted additional restrictions and stepped-up requirements to adhere to league protocols last week.

As Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said this week: “Every team, and even the league — we’re only as good as our weakest link.”

Plesac and Clevinger released statements in recent days about their mistakes, Plesac vowing “to earn my teammates’ forgiveness,” Clevinger admitting he “broke that trust” with teammates during this season during a pandemic.

Clevinger's replacement in the rotation Tuesday, Adam Plutko, had harsh things to say about both teammates following the Cubs' 7-1 win Tuesday night, offering at least a glimpse into that clubhouse:

"They hurt us bad. They lied to us," Plutko said. "They sat here in front of [media] and publicly said things that they didn't follow through on. It's going to be up to them. I'll let them sit here and tell you how they're going to earn their trust back. I don't need to put words in their mouths.

"The term that I continue to hear -- and excuse my language -- is 'grown-ass man.' So those grown-ass men can sit here and tell you guys what happened and tell you guys what they're going to do to fix it. I don't need to do that for them."

But nobody said it better than Cleveland’s All-Star shortstop, Francisco Lindor:

“It’s not about that one person,” Lindor said. “It’s about everybody around you: the family members, the coaching staff, Carrasco, all the players on teams that are high-risk. We’re in a time right now with COVID, with racism, with everything — this is a time to be selfless.”

For more than 1,000 players who already have been on big-league rosters this season and those yet to be added, that is proving to be the biggest ask of all. The mission-impossible task when it comes to getting the 100-percent compliance — or close enough to it — to make this season last the full two months plus playoffs.

“I don’t know that you always look at consequences, right?” said Ross, whose team remains the only one without a player yet testing positive for the virus since teams restarted. “Like I don’t think my children when they make mistakes look at the consequences before they do something. We’ve got enough on our plate on a daily basis that I can’t really worry about what the rest of the league is doing, even though it affects us.

“It’s just another reminder of how well our guys are doing. And we have to continue to stay strong.”

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Anthony Rizzo reminds Jason Kipnis that Cubs beat Indians in 2016 World Series

Anthony Rizzo reminds Jason Kipnis that Cubs beat Indians in 2016 World Series

Memories flooded back for former Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis as he returned to Progressive Field on Tuesday. But he wasn’t the only one.

“I’ve already had (Anthony) Rizzo walking me through, ‘I celebrated here, I celebrated here,’" Kipnis said. "I’m like, ‘Thanks, buddy. I get it.'”

Rizzo was of course was talking about the Cubs’ celebration after beating Kipnis and the Indians in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. 

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For the final out, Rizzo caught the throw to first base from Kris Bryant. Rizzo held both hands in the air and yelled, but his voice was drowned out by the Cubs fans that had packed into Progressive Field. Rizzo pocketed the game ball and ran in to greet his teammates.

The Cubs threw their gloves in the air, jumped, and hugged in one growing mass.

Kipnis said 99 percent of him was “absolutely crushed,” but he was able to look back at the field and have a small part of him think, “at least it’s the Cubs.”

Did any of Kipnis' other new teammates give him grief about that game?

“He’s the only dick on the team,” Kipnis joked.

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