Amid their significant injuries to their rotation, the Cleveland Indians will start emerging star right-hander Aaron Civale on Monday night when they visit the Chicago Cubs.
It will be the third game between the teams this season. The Indians won the first two, including a walk-off victory in 10 innings on May 12.
Last year, the Cubs won all four matchups, including the last two on walk-offs.
Both the Indians and Cubs won on Sunday. Both victories avoided what would have been three-game sweeps by last-place teams. The Cubs blanked the Miami Marlins 2-0, and the Indians defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1.
The 26-year-old Civale (10-2, 3.48 ERA) has become the ace of Cleveland’s staff now that reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber is on the injured list due to a right shoulder injury.
The Indians are also without starter Zach Plesac, who broke his right thumb while angrily removing his shirt following a poor performance last month.
Bieber (7-4), Plesac (4-3) and Civale have combined to win 21 games. No other pitcher who has started a game for Cleveland this year has won more than once.
This will be Civale’s second start against the Cubs. He faced them last year and allowed two runs in six innings, finishing with a no-decision in one of the Cubs’ walk-off wins.
Cleveland’s third-round pick out of Northeastern University in 2016, Civale made his major league debut in June 2019. He uses a cutter and curve to keep batters off his low-90s fastball, and he consistently produces soft contact.
Civale’s strikeout rate is nothing special — 6.9 per nine innings this year. But he doesn’t walk many batters (just over two per nine).
Offensively for the Indians, third baseman Jose Ramirez leads Cleveland in homers (16) and RBIs (44). He sat out Saturday’s game due to a bruised left foot after he was hit by a pitch on Friday.
Ramirez was used as a pinch-hitter on Sunday and is expected to start on Monday. Ramirez has two homers and six RBIs in his past three starts.
“He’s going to be fine,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Ramirez.
In addition, Indians catcher Austin Hedges is out due to a concussion.
Meanwhile, the Cubs are expected to start right-hander Adbert Alzolay (4-5, 4.06), who is expected to come off the injured list.
Alzolay hasn’t pitched since June 7. The 26-year-old Venezuelan has been out due to a blister on his right middle finger. When he starts, the Cubs are 5-6 this year.
Since breaking into the majors with the Cubs in 2019, Alzolay is 6-7 with a 4.24 ERA. He is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in his one career start against the Indians. It came on May 11, when he went six innings and allowed three runs in a 3-2 Indians win.
His career ERA at home (3.40) is much better than on the road (5.27).
There’s a good chance Alzolay’s catcher will be Willson Contreras, a two-time All-Star.
Contreras entered Saturday leading major league catchers with 483 innings at the position this year. The next-busiest catcher in the National League is 76 innings behind.
“It’s extremely difficult not to write his name in the lineup card,” Cubs manager David Ross said of Contreras. “My job is to try to win every game, and our best chance is to put Willson in the lineup.”
–Field Level Media