The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians have both earned adoration by punching their tickets to the World Series. Only one long-suffering MLB franchise can obtain a happy ending.

Some people might have heard that the Cubs haven’t won a championship in a while. Cleveland can’t match the century-long misery, but it hasn’t captured a title since 1948. 

Both droughts, further illuminated by ESPN’s Buster Olney, explain why so many fans dreamed of this final matchup once the regular season concluded:

While Cleveland has already exceeded expectations by overcoming significant injuries, Chicago comes in as the juggernaut favored all along to win the Fall Classic. But Cubs fans know better than anyone that nothing is a done deal, and Cleveland dubiously receives home-field advantage thanks to the worst rule in sports.

Here’s a look at the World Series schedule along with predictions leading to a championship pick.


Don’t Count on Comebacks

Heading into Tuesday’s opening game, each squad harbors hope of a notable contributor returning from a lengthy absence.

Danny Salazar has not pitched since Sept. 9, and he followed a stellar first half by surrendering 29 runs over 32.2 innings after the All-Star break. Nevertheless, Cleveland can’t feel confident in getting another storybook outing from Ryan Merritt, who baffled the Toronto Blue Jays in his second career start to help clinch the American League pennant.

The team also must be careful with Trevor Bauer, whose bloody finger forced him out of his American League Championship Series start after he recorded two outs. According to’s Jordan Bastian, he is currently slated to pitch either Game 2 or Game 3.

Because of his rotation’s uncertainty, manager Terry Francona will turn to Salazar if he’s ready, which is looking like a realistic possibility. Per Bastian, the 26-year-old righty could make the roster and even start a game depending on the team’s impression of his Sunday simulated outing.

“If Danny pitches and he pitches healthy,” Francona said, “and he’s throwing the ball over the plate, we have a really good pitcher for however amount of innings he’s built up for, which can potentially help us.”

According to Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller, the team attempted to prepare him for a frenzied playoff atmosphere:

Salazar hasn’t lasted six innings in a start since July 19, so don’t anticipate anything more than three or four innings. In those frames, Chicago would wait out the erratic hurler, who issued 4.12 walks per nine this season. The Cubs’ 10.4 walk percentage, per FanGraphs, led the majors

An even bigger long shot to help, the Cubs have surprisingly left the door open for Kyle Schwarber‘s return. The 23-year-old tore his ACL two games into the season, but he took swings in the Arizona Fall League while the Cubs clinched the National League pennant.

Preparing to play as many as four games under AL rules, the Cubs wouldn’t mind retrieving the slugger, who belted five home runs last postseason. Per USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale, manager Joe Maddon said the circumstances keep his comeback alive:

It makes sense from a “leave no stone unturned” perspective, but Schwarber hasn’t faced major league pitching since early April. The Wall Street Journal‘s Jared Diamond approached the thought with skepticism:

Chicago has plenty of other options, most notably Jorge Soler. Maddon can keep catcher Willson Contreras in the lineup when David Ross starts with Jon Lester, who will likely take the mound in Game 1 or 2 at Progressive Field.

Predictions: If Salazar is available, Cleveland thinks better of the situation and limits him to a bullpen role with uninspiring results. The Cubs don’t include Schwarber on their World Series roster.


Chicago Cracks Cleveland’s Pitching

Despite facing two prolific lineups in the Boston Red Sox and Blue Jays, Cleveland enters the World Series wielding a 1.77 postseason ERA and 81 strikeouts in 71 innings. Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen should give Francona valuable innings, but the Cubs can mitigate their value by attacking everyone else.

The same Josh Tomlin who allowed 36 home runs over 174 regular-season innings kept Boston and Toronto in the park. Righties registered an .845 OPS against the strike-tossing veteran, and the Cubs have a good one in MVP favorite Kris Bryant.

If healthy, Bauer is a shaky bet because of his 3.32 BB/9. Polar opposites in style, neither Salazar nor Merritt is a comfortable bet for a playoff start against an offense that upended the Los Angeles Dodgers with 23 runs over three straight victories.

“You knew it was going to happen,” Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler said after Game 4’s 10-run outburst, per’s Jenifer Langosch. “It was just a matter of when.”

Observers are well aware of Miller’s playoff brilliance. The dominant reliever has compiled 21 strikeouts over 11.2 scoreless innings. Cleveland won all six of his appearances, all by three runs or fewer.

Even with Francona optimizing his value in high-leverage situations, the Cubs can diminish his impact by jumping out to early leads. Look at Saturday’s victory over the Dodgers, in which Kenley Jansen threw three perfect innings in vain.

Predictions: Cleveland’s pitching staff falls down to earth against a surging Chicago lineup. Kluber, Miller and Allen keep the series interesting, but the Cubs counter with a deeper staff and more offensive firepower. As a result, the Cubs win their first title since 1908 in a six-game series.

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