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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Indians World Series Preview

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Seven wins down. Four wins to go. And up next, what should be an unforgettable World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians.

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World Series Preview. Man, that still seems like such an incredible thing to write down in an article.

I still find myself watching the final outs of the ninth inning on Saturday night over and over again, listening to Joe Buck's voice crack ever so slightly as he yells those amazing words: "The Cubs have won the pennant!!" The unbelievable roar of the crowd as Bill Welke rang up Yasiel Puig on a bang-bang play at first. Watching the mob scene on the mound -- with Dexter Fowler jumping on the pile at the end, mosh-pit style -- as the Cubs celebrated completing their run through the gauntlet of the National League Division Series and National League Championship Series to make it back to the World Series for the first time in way too long.

And now that the National League gauntlet has been successfully navigated, it's time to complete the mission and notch those remaining four wins in what should prove to be a great matchup between the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, a World Series matchup that sets the record for the longest combined drought for two teams between World Series titles at 174 years, smashing the previous record of 131 years set in 2005 by the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros.

It's the moment we've all been waiting for. The moment we've all been dreaming of.

Seven wins down.

Four wins to go.

The World Series begins tonight.  And it's going to be magnificent.

Know Your Opponent: The Hitters

Here's a look at the Indians on a position-by position basis (with regular season and postseason batting average and OPS):

  • Catcher: Roberto Perez (bats right; .183 BA, .579 OPS; .174 BA, .617 OPS postseason in 27 plate appearances)
  • First Base: Mike Napoli (bats right; .239 BA, .800 OPS; .179 BA, .626 OPS postseason in 30 PA)
  • Second Base: Jason Kipnis (bats left; .275 BA, .811 OPS; .167 BA, .585 OPS postseason in 32 PA)
  • Third Base: Jose Ramirez (bats both; .312 BA, .825 OPS; .222 BA, .535 OPS postseason in 29 PA)
  • Shortstop: Francisco Lindor (bats both; .301 BA, .794 OPS; .323 BA, .924 OPS postseason in 32 PA)
  • Left Field: Coco Crisp (bats both; .214 BA, .955 OPS postseason in 19 PA) / Brandon Guyer (bats right; .375 BA, .750 OPS postseason in 8 PA)
  • Center Field: Tyler Naquin (bats left; .188 BA, .500 OPS postseason in 16 PA) / Rajai Davis (bats right; .000 BA, .000 OPS postseason in 13 PA)
  • Right Field: Lonnie Chisenhall (bats left; .286 BA, .767 OPS; .269 BA, .681 OPS postseason in 28 PA)
  • Designated Hitter: Carlos Santana (bats both; .259 BA, .865 OPS; .172 BA, .629 OPS postseason in 32 PA)

Although the Indians have won seven of their eight games played so far in the postseason, it hasn't been as a result of their hitting; so far they have hit for a collective .208 batting average with a .635 OPS in the ALDS and ALCS combined. Their on-base percentage in those eight games has also been subpar, coming in at only .256. The Cubs have fared better in their 10 games this postseason, but not by large margins; they have a .222 average to go along with a .277 on-base percentage and a .672 OPS. The Championship Series saw the two teams on different paths, as the Cubs saw improvement against the Dodgers (.238 BA, .297 OBP, .723 OPS in the NLCS) whereas the Indians suffered strongly against the Blue Jays (.168 BA, .215 OBP, .544 OPS in the ALCS).  If the Cubs can manage to keep Cleveland's bats cold, it will go a long way toward the goal of winning those magical four more games.

Possible Pitching Matchups (with postseason statistics unless otherwise noted):

Game 1: Jon Lester, LHP (2-0, 0.86 ERA, 0.76 WHIP) vs. Corey Kluber, RHP (2-1, 0.98 ERA, 1.09 WHIP)

Game 2: Jake Arrieta, RHP (0-1, 4.91 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) vs. Trevor Bauer, RHP (0-0, 5.06 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)

Game 3: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (1-1, 1.65 ERA, 0.80 WHIP) vs. Josh Tomlin, RHP (2-0, 2.53 ERA, 0.94 WHIP)

Game 4: John Lackey, RHP (0-0, 5.62 ERA, 1.88 WHIP) vs. Danny Salazar, RHP (regular season 11-6, 3.87 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)

Once again, the only pitching matchup that is known for certain is that of Game 1 where Lester and Kluber have been penciled in to make the starts on Tuesday night in Cleveland. Indians' manager Terry Francona has announced that Tomlin and Bauer will start Games 2 and 3, but the order in which they will pitch is still unknown as Bauer is recovering from a cut on his pinky finger that caused him to leave Game 3 of the ALCS after facing only four batters. Salazar is on the Indians' World Series roster, returning from a strained right forearm that has kept him from pitching since September 9. If Francona decides to use Salazar out of the bullpen in the series, it's possible that southpaw Ryan Merritt (1.64 ERA, 0.545 WHIP in 11 regular-season innings) could be Cleveland's fourth starter. The possibility also exists that Kluber could go in Game 4 on short rest, according to Francona.

Another key for the Cubs in this series will be the need to score early in each game and to protect leads wherever possible in an attempt to minimize the appearances of the Indians' bullpen, which in the postseason has been led by the devastating one-two punch of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller. The tandem has made 12 appearances so far in the playoffs and has not allowed a single run while striking out a very impressive 33 batters in just over 19 innings of work. Another statistic that you probably saw during the Championship Series that is likely to continue in the World Series: The team that scored first in each of the 10 games of the Championship Series went on to win all 10 games. With the strength of both the Cubs' and the Indians' pens, there's every reason to believe that the trend will continue through this series as well.

Game Times (all games on Fox):

Game 1: Tuesday 10/25, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Game 2: Wednesday 10/26, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Game 3: Friday 10/28, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Game 4: Saturday 10/29, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Game 5 *: Sunday 10/30, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Game 6 *: Tuesday 11/1, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Game 7 *: Wednesday 11/2, 7:00 p.m. CT.

* if necessary

Prediction:

To be honest, I don't think I can come up with a prediction for this one. I'm not even sure that I want to try. I know what I want the final result to be, and that's the Cubs in five. I don't think that there's a chance for the Cubs to sweep the series and would never predict it even if I thought that there was one. I honestly think that whoever wins, it will take more than five games to make it happen, but I just want it to be the Cubs in five because the scene at Wrigley Field would be something that has never been seen before in the city of Chicago and would likely never be matched again in history.

Up next:

This is it. Up to seven more games. Four more wins to go. The end of a very long drought for either team. Regardless of how it turns out, it should be a World Series that people remember for many years to come. And if the Cubs win it all... there are going to be tears. Lots of happy, joyous tears.

Let the ride begin. #FlyTheW #LetsGo