The Cleveland Indians come into a historic World Series matchup as the underdog, but the shifting odds might underrate how Terry Francona has re-invented pitcher usage.
With the series opening at Progressive Field on Tuesday, Cleveland is listed at +170 in series prices whereas the Cubs are the -190 favorite, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Chicago has gone nearly wire to wire at the top of the World Series futures board all season, and their odds during the postseason have never been lower than +250. At the outset of October, Cleveland had the longest odds of any division champion at +900 before going 7-1 to win the pennant.
Generally, the Cubs have been credited with the edge in starting pitching and defense, while the Indians possess the more diverse offense and the scarier bullpen.
For Game 1, the Cubs are the slight -112 favorite at the sportsbooks and the Indians have a -102 payout. The total is listed at 6.5 runs. Cleveland RHP Corey Kluber will start against Chicago LHP Jon Lester.
Kluber has pinpoint control, which suggests he won’t come unraveled against the Cubs’ teamwide plate discipline. The righty has faced the Cubs’ regulars only once this season, working three scoreless innings during a spring training game in March.
The five-day respite since bouncing the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS presumably helps the bullpen of LHP Andrew Miller and RHP Cody Allen brace for more big workloads. The specter of having Miller, who’s been unhittable in the playoffs, come in as early in the sixth inning could have an effect on Cubs’ batters.
Cleveland’s lineup, whose power comes from 1B Mike Napoli, DH Carlos Santana and 2B Jason Kipnis, scored only 16 runs during the five-game ALCS against the Blue Jays. That might not suffice against the Cubs, who have almost a seven in 10 chance of winning the World Series according to website PredictionMachine.com.
Lester, who has spent most of his career in the American League, has a 3.72 ERA but a tidy opponents’ slash line of .225/.301/.329 (batting, on-base, slugging) in eight starts in Cleveland.
The Cubs scored 23 runs and had 33 hits in the last three wins of their NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The shorter break might assist 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Kris Bryant and SS Addison Russell with carrying over their NLCS success. Kyle Schwarber, who has not played since tearing an ACL in April, is expected to be the Cubs’ DH.
Francona and Cubs manager Joe Maddon have been opposing managers 133 times. Maddon has the slight 69-64 edge, including 5-3 in playoff games.
Cleveland is 14-6 over its last 20 home games against NL teams, and the total has gone over 12 times, according to the OddsShark MLB Database. Chicago is 13-7 over its last 20 road games against AL teams, and the total has gone over eight times.