The Chicago Cubs lack the extra scheduled home game for the World Series, but their edge in starting pitching and a hot-hitting lineup makes them the favorite against the Cleveland Indians.
Fresh off outscoring the Los Angeles Dodgers 23-6 in the last three games of the NLCS, the Cubs are now the -190 favorite in World Series prices while the Indians are the +170 underdog, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Chicago has done little all season to dissuade oddsmakers from writing down their chances, apart from an offensive funk early in the playoffs. Manager Joe Maddon’s team has never had odds of more than +250 during the postseason, and became better than even money before they eliminated the Dodgers.
Cleveland started the postseason at +900 on the championship futures, and was lower on the board than the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays before beating them decisively.
Game 1 is at Progressive Field on Tuesday, by virtue of the American League having gained home-field advantage by winning the All-Star Game. The Cubs are a slight -112 favorite, with the Indians listed at -102 for the contest.
The Cubs are starting LHP Jon Lester, who is plenty experienced in pitching at Progressive. Lester’s 3.72 earned-run average in his eight career starts belies that he has held various Cleveland teams – which weren’t as potent as the current one – to a .201 batting average.
Chicago’s everyday players saw Cleveland ace Corey Kluber on March 9, and could only manage two hits against the recent Cy Young Award winner over three innings. Overall, the Cubs’ major hitters such as CF Dexter Fowler, 3B Kris Bryant and 1B Anthony Rizzo appear to be peaking at an optimal time. Many NL teams lack a true DH when they go to an AL park, but Chicago plans on using Kyle Schwarber, who tore an ACL on April 7.
The Cubs are 13-7 straight-up over their last 20 road games against AL teams. The total has gone over eight times, with two pushes.
Cleveland is 9-1 straight-up in Kluber’s last 10 home starts, including shutout wins in each playoff series. Manager Terry Francona’s hole card, of course, is that LHP Andrew Miller and RHP Cody Allen have been untouchable as a workhorse bullpen. Cleveland can practically shorten a game to five innings – or even four.
As far as facing a lefty goes, Cleveland has also won against one in each series. Shortstop Francisco Lindor, DH Carlos Santana, and 3B Jose Ramirez being switch-hitters keeps Cleveland never being at a platoon disadvantage.
The Indians are 14-6 SU over their last 20 home games against NL teams. The total has gone over 12 times with one push.