The Chicago Cubs sent the World Series back to Cleveland with a Game 5 win over the Indians Sunday night. Needing two more victories on the road, the Cubs have a pair of aces waiting to take the mound.

In Tuesday’s must-win Game 6, the Cubs will send out 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta. Cleveland will counter with Josh Tomlin, who has followed a shaky season with a spectacular postseason run.

If necessary, two stoic studs will compete in the third Fall Classic Game 7 in six years. Kyle Hendricks—who registered an MLB-best 2.13 ERA this season—is in line to make Chicago’s final start. On the other side, Corey Kluber could cement a fabled October with his third win of the series.

With the World Series shifting back to Progressive Field, let’s break down the upcoming pitching matchups on tap.

Game 6: Jake Arrieta vs. Josh Tomlin

Like Game 5, this starting-pitching matchup favors the Cubs. Then again, we said the same before Game 3, before Tomlin kept the NL champions off the board in a 1-0 victory against Hendricks.

After a rusty opening, Arrieta settled down and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his Game 2 start. Yet as ESPN’s Buster Olney noted, he constantly fell behind en route to issuing three walks:

Arrieta, who allowed nine earned runs after 2015’s All-Star break, is on the hook for seven scores this postseason. Nevertheless, this is a hurler who finished the regular season with a 3.10 ERA, which marked major regression from the previous year’s unworldly 1.77 mark.

Believers of momentum will argue this matchup is far closer than the first glance suggests. Although he finished the season with an unremarkable 4.40 ERA, Tomlin has registered a 1.71 ERA since Sept. 1. 

He has watched only one ball leave the park since then—a significant feat given he dished up 35 dingers over 147 prior innings. The likes of Mookie Betts, David Ortiz, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant have not taken him deep during an improbably stout playoff roll:

Of course, this isn’t a one-on-one showdown anyway. Tomlin hasn’t worked six or more innings this postseason, and that shouldn’t change on short rest. Cleveland’s bullpen advantage helps even the score.

For the Cubs to force a Game 7, they must attack Tomlin, silence the partisan home crowd and avoid giving Andrew Miller and Cody Allen the chance to seal the deal. 

Knowing their goal, Cubs fans will look at Tomlin’s splits with encouragement. According to, he allowed more long balls during the first inning (20) than any other frame in his career. Given the 32-year-old’s 7.06 fifth-inning ERA, he shouldn’t stick around too long.

Throwing more curveballs has aided his fall surge, but expect enough ill-timed regression from Tomlin for the Cubs to jump ahead early and tie the series.

Prediction: Cubs 5, Indians 3


Game 7: Kyle Hendricks vs. Corey Kluber

If the Cubs win Game 6, everyone will shout about them wielding all the momentum entering Wednesday’s winner-take-all Game 7.

Then they’ll remember Kluber is starting for the Indians.

Going into this series, the AL champions knew they’d need a legendary showing from their ace. This is a team that won the pennant in a game started by rookie Ryan Merritt, so Indians manager Terry Francona placed all of his hopes on Kluber headlining a three-man rotation in case of a possible Game 7.

Well, here it is. Through five inspiring postseason starts, the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner has forfeited three runs over 30.1 innings. He has tossed six strong innings in both World Series victories.

If he follows the same blueprint again, Francona will go directly to Miller and Allen for all the marbles. That’s a deadly trio for the Cubs, as they have combined to relinquish four runs this postseason:

Hendricks is no slouch. Having limited the opposition to four runs or fewer in all 34 starts this year, he’ll give Chicago’s offense a fighting chance in a low-scoring affair. While the 26-year-old has also allowed three runs in the playoffs, he has received a quicker hook from Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

The Cubs skipper will require another lengthy appearance from Aroldis Chapman, who recorded an eight-out save Sunday. After the longest outing of his career, the closer discussed his mindset heading into the game, per’s Jesse Rogers.

“Joe talked to me this afternoon before the game,” Chapman said through a translator. “He asked if I could be ready possibly to come into the seventh inning, and obviously I told him, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready to go.’ And whatever he needs me to do or how long he needs me to pitch for, I’m ready for it.”

Maddon should also have John Lackey available from the bullpen on three days’ rest. Jon Lester, who started Sunday night, may become an option as well in an all-hands-on-deck scenario.

Cleveland is better off sticking with its relief aces than Trevor Bauer, who has surrendered as many World Series runs (five) as all its other pitchers combined. Francona will want six more from Kluber with his two stud relievers splitting the final nine outs.

Cleveland once again rides Kluber, Miller and Allen to a key October victory, this time securing its first World Series title since 1948 in a low-scoring, tightly contested Game 7 thriller.

Prediction: Indians 3, Cubs 2

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