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Indians vs. Cubs: Keys for Each Team to Win World Series Game 5

With a 7-2 victory Saturday night, the Cleveland Indians took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Chicago Cubs, and they'll be looking to wrap up a World Series title on Sunday.

Game 1 starter Jon Lester gets the ball for the Cubs after turning in a less-than-spectacular start his last time out when he allowed six hits, three walks and three earned runs in 5.2 innings of work to take the loss.

Meanwhile, the Indians will turn to Trevor Bauer on three days' rest, after doing the same with ace Corey Kluber Saturday night. Bauer made it just 3.2 innings in Game 2, allowing six hits and two earned runs to earn the loss.

Ahead of what could be a decisive Game 5 in Chicago, let's take a quick look at some keys to success for both teams.


Indians: Get just enough from Trevor Bauer

The Indians have ridden the three-headed bullpen monster of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen hard this postseason, and the formula has worked.

When Game 5 starter Trevor Bauer lasted just 3.2 innings in his last start, however, it meant digging deeper into the relief corps, and that quickly turned into an advantage for the Cubs.

Zach McAllister was the first to follow Bauer, and he promptly allowed two runs in his two-thirds of an inning of work as the Cubs managed to come away with a 5-1 victory in Game 2.

The Indians aren't asking for a complete game out of Bauer, who will be working on three days' rest. They simply need him to pitch deep enough that the questionable middle relief is a non-factor and they can go straight to that lights-out trio.

In order for that to happen, Bauer will need to survive the opening frame.

During the regular season, the right-hander worked to a 6.43 ERA in the first inning, and those early-game struggles have continued in the playoffs.

The Boston Red Sox got on the board early with a run against Bauer in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, and the Cubs were able to do the same in Game 2 of the World Series when Anthony Rizzo doubled home Kris Bryant.


Cubs: Get an ace-caliber start from Jon Lester

Leading up to the World Series this year and throughout his postseason career, Jon Lester has been mostly brilliant when the lights are brightest.

In 124.2 career playoff innings, he's pitched to a 2.60 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, including three terrific starts in the division series and championship series this postseason.

He wasn't at his best in Game 1, though.

Too much nibbling on an outside corner where he wasn't getting strike calls meant falling behind against a lot of hitters, and by the time his night was over, he had thrown just 57 strikes among his 97 pitches.

It was the first time that the 32-year-old failed to pitch at least six innings in a playoff game since 2013—a run of eight starts dating back to his time in Boston.

Sunday will be the biggest start Lester has made in a Cubs uniform, and with the offense sputtering once again in Game 4, they need the ace version of the left-hander to show up.

"He has been lights-out," shortstop Addison Russell told Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. "He has been our ace this year. We have all the faith in the world in him. I can’t wait to play (Sunday) and I know these guys can’t wait to play (Sunday) and hopefully get back at (the Indians)."


Both Teams: Capitalize with runners in scoring position

Clutch hits breed heroes during the postseason, and capitalizing with runners in scoring position remains an obvious key to success for both teams.

That's been easier said than done this World Series, though.

The Indians are hitting .231 with runners in scoring position so far during the Fall Classic, while the Cubs have managed a meager .135 clip.

In fact, the Cubs have struck out a staggering 17 times in 39 such plate appearances, so their offensive shortcomings have not been for lack of opportunity.

Early October hero Javier Baez has seen a team-high nine at-bats with runners in scoring position, failing to drive in a single run and going 1-for-9 with four strikeouts.

The home run ball has not been a weapon for the Cubs so far this series, so finding a way to manufacture a run or stringing together some base hits may be what it takes to break through.

On the other side, a dialed-in Lester could make things difficult on the Indians, so cashing in the chances they do have will be that much more important.

It sounds easy enough, but the difference in Game 5 could be who comes up with that one clutch hit.


All stats courtesy of, unless otherwise noted.

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