Go inside the numbers and matchups that will decide Sunday night’s showdown between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the World Series, and then vote for which team will win at the bottom of the page. The Indians lead the series 3-1.
How we got here
Corey Kluber improved to 4-1 in the postseason with a 0.89 ERA. The Indians improved to 10-2 in the postseason with a 1.68 ERA. Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis each homered and had three hits apiece. The Cubs went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and their bullpen coughed up four runs. The Indians won 7-2 to take a 3-1 series lead. Cubs catcher Miguel Montero told his teammates to “just chill.” — David Schoenfield
Inside the pitching matchup
When Trevor Bauer is on the mound: If this game is like his Game 2 start, you can expect a lot of 3-2 counts, too much time between pitches and probably a pretty quick hook. In that start, he threw 87 pitches while facing only 18 batters and lasting 3⅔ innings. At least the pinkie didn’t explode.
Bauer works off a fastball that averages 93.1 mph, preferring to work middle-away to both lefties and righties. He works up in the zone with the fastball, which has resulted in a .447 slugging percentage allowed on the pitch. His average fastball velocity in Game 1 was just 91.6 mph, tied for his lowest of the season, and it was located in the strike zone just 41.8 percent of the time compared to a season average of 55 percent. He adds a curveball, cutter and changeup, with the curveball his go-to wipeout pitch — batters hit .134/.145/.221 with a 45 percent strikeout rate against it. He has drastically reduced his cutter usage his past five starts, from a season rate of over 17 percent to less than 8 percent of late.
Manager Terry Francona has the luxury of a series lead, but don’t expect Bauer to face more than 18 hitters again. He drops off significantly the third time through the order:
Danny Salazar threw one inning in relief of Bauer in Game 2, his first outing since early September. He could be an option for a couple of innings if Francona needs to bridge the gap to his other relievers. — Schoenfield
When Jon Lester is on the mound: Lester has given up five runs over 26⅔ innings this postseason, but three of those came in Game 1. He gave up two runs in the first inning in that start, uncharacteristically walking two batters and hitting a third. Still, with a career 2.60 postseason ERA, this is the guy the Cubs want out there. Given some shaky outings by the middle relievers, Joe Maddon would love to use Lester and Aroldis Chapman and avoid his other relievers if possible.
Lester’s basic approach is pretty simple: A lot of fastballs that he locates to both sides of the plate while working the bottom of the strike zone, a lot of cutters and then a curveball that he loves to use as a two-strikeout wipeout pitch. He throws his fastball over 60 percent of the time, a change from recent seasons, when it was felt he was throwing the cutter too often. That pitch has remained effective, however, and one reason he’s so tough on right-handed batters.
Lester’s inability to hold runners will certainly factor into the Indians’ strategy. However, Lester is quick to the plate, so while he allowed 28 steals, he also had 13 caught stealing, and baserunners have to be aware of the back pick from catcher David Ross. Francisco Lindor stole a base off him in Game 1 but also got caught stealing. — Schoenfield
Player in the spotlight
Javier Baez. He’s 2-for-17 in the World Series, as the Indians have been able to exploit his free-swinging approach better than the Dodgers or Giants did. With men on base against Cleveland, he has swung at 17 pitches outside the strike zone, without putting any of them in play. — Schoenfield
Did you know …
The Indians will be trying to finish off the Cubs in Game 5. A win would make them 11-2 in the postseason. The last team to win a World Series with two or fewer postseason losses is the 2005 White Sox, who went 11-1. The Cubs are 3-7 all time at home in games in which a loss meant postseason elimination. The losses were all by three runs or more; the wins were all by two runs or fewer. — ESPN Stats & Information
What will decide the game Sunday night
Jon Lester has pitched well when facing a team for a second time in a postseason series. He has started against the same team twice in a postseason series on five previous occasions (2008 ALDS, 2008 ALCS, 2013 ALCS, 2013 World Series, 2016 NLCS). In his second starts in those five series, he has pitched 34 combined innings with a 1.85 ERA. He gave up more than two earned runs only once in those five starts. – ESPN Stats & Info
The man in blue
Tony Randazzo, one of the umpires who ranked closest to average in terms of strike-calling this season, will be behind the plate for Game 5.
Though Randazzo rates average, he does have several noteworthy tendencies that could impact this game. The key thing to know with Randazzo is that he doesn’t call the outside pitch a strike often (eighth least likely out of 80 umps).
With a right-handed pitcher on mound:
• Left-handed hitter: Randazzo calls the inside pitch and the down-and-away pitch more often than his peers.
• Right-handed hitter: He’s consistent in not calling the pitch on the outside corner as often as his peers (regardless of its height). He will call the inside strike more often.
With a left-handed pitcher on mound:
• Left-handed hitter: Randazzo calls the pitch on the inside corner often, but does not call the pitch on the outside corner.
• Right-handed hitter: He calls the high strike a lot, but does not call the bottom of the zone as frequently as his peers.
Between the two starters, Lester’s most recent experience with Randazzo adds up to three starts in 2015, with 16⅔ innings, 11 earned runs, 19 hits, 16 strikeouts and three walks. Randazzo has never been behind the plate for a Bauer start.
A key thing to remember with Lester: The outside corner is important to him and to David Ross — Ross gets a lot more strike calls than other catchers on outside-corner pitches. In his 11 best starts this season in terms of getting strike calls on outside pitches (outer third or off the corner), Lester had a 1.40 ERA (12 ER in 77 IP). He has a 2.95 ERA in his other starts. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Info
Choosing sides: Who will win?
The Cubs haven’t had their moment yet in this series, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to declare that they’ll come back from this deficit, I do feel like the series is just getting started. In Game 5, they have a huge edge in the starter matchup, though as it has been through the series, it’s imperative that they get the early lead. The Cubs haven’t lost three straight since early July, and it won’t happen Sunday. It’s only a flesh wound. — Bradford Doolittle
There’s no way the Cubs can get swept at home, right? Right. I might be trying to convince myself of that, but Lester is usually up to the task while the Cubs face the one pitcher they beat in this series in Bauer. Plus, close-out games are really tough. The Cubs win on Sunday and then all bets are off. — Jesse Rogers
The Indians got what they came for — two victories at Wrigley and a commanding lead in the series. And they should still feel good about their chances even after Lester — every bit the “postseason wizard” that Cubs president Theo Epstein says he is — outpitches the erratic Bauer in Game 5. — Scott Lauber
The Indians have played incredibly well at Wrigley Field, but it’s too much to ask for Bauer to outpitch Lester, one of the best postseason pitchers of his generation. I think Bauer will be better than he was in Game 2 but not good enough to prevent the series from returning to Progressive Field. The Cubs will take Game 5 and force the Indians to try to wrap it up behind Josh Tomlin or Corey Kluber back in Cleveland. — Jerry Crasnick
Where the series stands
You know where it stands! The Indians have sold out Progressive Field to watch a game being played at Wrigley Field. Game 6 would feature Jake Arrieta versus Josh Tomlin, but if the Cubs want to get back to Cleveland, they’ll have to stop swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. Hope for Cubs fans: Five teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series. Hope for Indians fans: The last team to do that was the 1985 Royals. — Schoenfield