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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Cleveland series preview

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The Cubs play their first games of 2021 in an American League park.

Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

You will notice something different about the headline of this series preview, to wit, there’s no opposing team nickname, just the team’s city.

This is a conscious choice, and it’s not just us doing this. Our SB Nation community for that team's fans rebranded itself before the 2021 season began from “Let’s Go Tribe” to “Covering The Corner.” Managing editor Matt Lyons explains the change in this article introducing the site’s new name:

Last year, the front office came to the conclusion that their nickname cannot continue, and it would be irresponsible of us to believe that ours should as well. That’s why, as soon as it was revealed that Cleveland would be changing their team name, we set out to start changing ours.

It was a decision narrowed down from over a dozen suggestions by staff and community members, and we ultimately landed on Covering the Corner for its versatility, unique link to Cleveland baseball, and downright catchiness. Not to mention that what we do here can loosely be described as “covering”. So, y’know, it works.

While we excitedly wait to see what the team will be called in 2022 and beyond, we also feel that “Covering the Corner” can work for anything when it comes to baseball at Progressive Field, at the Corner of Carnegie & Ontario.

For the uninitiated, “the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario” pays homage to the opening call of Tom Hamilton prior to every home game as well as Cleveland’s home stadium being situated — as you might have guessed by now — at the corner of Carnegie Avenue and Ontario Street in downtown Cleveland. Cleveland baseball is played at the Corner, the Corner is Cleveland baseball — no matter what their new name ultimately is.

The rebrand seems solid, honoring a longtime Cleveland local tradition. Tom Hamilton, if you don’t know, has been the team’s radio play-by-play announcer since 1990.

Further, Covering The Corner isn’t using the current team nickname in any of their articles. Given the Cubs are playing two series against the Cleveland club this year, this one and another at Wrigley Field in June, I felt it appropriate to follow their lead.

Note: Any comments related to the above that have any political content whatsoever will be removed without notice.

Now, here’s more on the Cleveland baseball team from Matt Lyons.

Cleveland was no-hit twice in the span of a little over a month and somehow they’re still all right? That’s the gist of how 2021 has gone so far, really, as they sit half a game back from the White Sox in the AL Central.

José Ramírez started to look gassed at the end of their recent stretch of games (although he had two big hits Saturday), so I would look forward to him continuing his strong start coming off two days of rest (Sunday’s game was rained out). He’s been one of the few offensive bright spots so far, along with Franmil Reyes hitting a few small pockets of greatness. In general, Cleveland’s offense has been due for some position regression all season long. They were hitting the ball hard during their early struggles but nothing was falling — lately, they’ve started falling. The hope is that it can continue, and maybe even someone like Jake Bauers can back into some BABIP luck and be an offensive contributor.

On the pitching side, things are still as good as they’ve ever been, though now a little thinner. One through three are a lock with Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and Aaron Civale. Triston McKenzie is sticking as the fourth starter, though durability may be an issue as the season goes on. You will get a look at the current fifth starter, Sam Hentges, a 6-foot-8 lefty who can hit the upper 90s with his fastball. I have some decent hopes for him in the future, but right now he’s a two-pitch pitcher without a feel for his changeup. He’ll get there, though I’m worried about what the Cubs offense might do to him on Wednesday.

The bullpen was probably underrated coming into the season, and they have well overperformed expectations. With the addition of rookie sidearmer Nick Sandlin, they have a stable of half a dozen arms who look unhittable at times. It’s an embarrassment of riches back there and I don’t think they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Bryan Shaw, James Karinchak, and Emmanuel Clase are as lockdown as a bullpen can get.

Fun fact

The Cubs swept Cleveland in the four games the teams played in 2020 and outscored them 23-10.

Pitching matchups

Tuesday: Adbert Alzolay, RHP (1-2, 4.50 ERA, 0.885 WHIP, 3.72 FIP) vs. Shane Bieber, RHP (3-2, 2.98 ERA, 1.076 WHIP, 2.59 FIP)

Wednesday: Zach Davies, RHP (2-2, 6.30 ERA, 1.833 WHIP, 5.41 FIP) vs. Sam Hentges, LHP (1-0, 5.00 ERA, 1.778 WHIP, 7.77 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Tuesday: 5:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Wednesday: 12:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, MLB Network (outside Cubs and Cleveland market territories)

Prediction

Series like this tend to split, so that’s what I’ll call for — a split of the two games (while hoping for a sweep).

Up next

The Cubs have Thursday off, then travel to Detroit to face the Tigers in a three-game series beginning Friday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against Cleveland?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    2
    (23 votes)
  • 54%
    1
    (68 votes)
  • 27%
    0
    (34 votes)
125 votes total Vote Now