Cubs to take crack at Indians rookie Plutko (May 22, 2018)
An accomplished veteran southpaw will face off against an inexperienced but ambitious right-hander when the Chicago Cubs host the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night to wrap up a two-game series at Wrigley Field.
Chicago (25-20) will look to escape with a series tie after suffering a lopsided 10-1 defeat one night earlier. This is the first series between the Indians and Cubs at Wrigley Field since the 2016 World Series.
Meanwhile, Cleveland (23-23) will try to sweep the short series and climb back above .500 for the first time in more than a week. The Indians lead the underwhelming American League Central Division despite their slow start.
The Cubs will turn to left-hander Jon Lester (4-1, 2.52 ERA) to try to create positive momentum in his 10th start. The 34-year-old has limited opponents to 40 hits in 50 innings this season while walking 21 and striking out 44.
Lester's resume includes three World Series rings. He is 163-93 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 big league seasons, which include 2,234 1/3 innings.
An even 102 innings of those have been against the Indians. Lester is 7-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 16 career starts.
By comparison, Indians right-hander Adam Plutko (1-0, 3.68 ERA) is a neophyte. He will make his second career start and his fourth career appearance for Cleveland, which drafted him in the 11th round out of UCLA in 2013.
Plutko never has faced the Cubs. He has an opportunity to seize the Indians' fifth-starter job in place of struggling veteran Josh Tomlin, who was demoted to the bullpen several days ago.
"If you look at Adam's track record, one of the key reasons for his success has been his fastball command," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said recently to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Last year, he was not able to do that whether it was because of health or performance.
"This year, he's pitched like he did early in his minor league career and in college at UCLA."
Tomlin, 33, has handled his demotion to the bullpen like a professional. He allowed a 433-foot home run to the Cubs' Ian Happ in the ninth inning of the series opener. He is 0-4 with a 7.88 ERA in 32 innings this season.
"I'm just taking the approach, 'OK, I'm in the bullpen, and I'm going to do whatever I can to help this team win out of the bullpen,' " Tomlin said to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I'll be in the bullpen for the foreseeable future. I'm not sure how long that's going to be.
"It could be for the rest of the year. It could be for two or three times through the rotation. You never know."
Indians outfielder Michael Brantley carries an 11-game hitting streak into the game. He is hitting .347 during the hitting streak with four home runs, 12 RBIs and 14 runs scored.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo ranks fourth in franchise history with 17 home runs during interleague play. He needs three more blasts to tie Aramis Ramirez, who ranks third with 20.