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In-flux Indians staff gears up for Cubs

Following an unintended break, the Chicago Cubs are ready for a return to the diamond. When they do, the Cleveland Indians will be waiting.

Back in action for the first time in five days, the visiting Cubs aim to keep the Indians from a third straight win on Tuesday night.

Chicago has won 10 of its first 13 games, but the Cubs’ scheduled weekend series at St. Louis was shelved entirely after more positive coronavirus tests involving Cardinals’ players and staff forced the entire series to be postponed.

The Cubs last played Thursday, when their six-game winning streak ended with a 13-2 loss at Kansas City. While the interruption is obviously not ideal, it does accurately reflect the current state of trying to play baseball amid a global pandemic.

“I think we all knew — and we’ve said it multiple times — about how this season is really a year of who can adjust to a little bit of adversity and some change,” first-year Cubs manager David Ross said. “That’s going to be throughout the season. We know that. We’ll continue to push forward.”

The Cubs eagerly move ahead against a Cleveland team that just took two of three from the Chicago White Sox and has won five of its past six contests. While the Cubs are averaging 5.0 runs per game, Indians pitchers enter Monday with a major-league-low 2.04 ERA, haven’t given up more than five runs in any game this season, and are opponents to hit just .188 on the year.

But that Cleveland staff is less daunting than it was prior to the trip to Chicago. Right-hander Zach Plesac (1-1, 1.29 ERA) was sent home from Chicago for violating team protocols during the trip, and he will have to undergo subsequent testing while under quarantine.

The same scenario played out again Monday when Cleveland announced that Tuesday’s expected starter — right-hander Mike Clevinger (1-1, 3.24) — will have to do the same.

“He has been instructed to quarantine and will undergo subsequent testing while away from the team,” the Indians said in a statement.

Right-hander Adam Plutko (0-1, 2.57 ERA) will get the start in place of Clevinger on Tuesday. Plutko will be making his second start of the season, having thrown six innings of two-run ball against the White Sox on July 28. He also threw a scoreless inning in relief against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.

Plutko won his lone career start against the Cubs, when he threw six shutout innings back in 2018.

The Cubs feature a roster that includes longtime Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. After playing nine seasons in Cleveland, Kipnis is batting .375 (6-for-16) with two homers over six games with the Cubs.

Chicago would also like to see Kris Bryant heat up. The former MVP is batting just .184 with one homer and 13 strikeouts. Including the 2016 World Series, Bryant is batting .321 with two home runs at Cleveland.

On the mound, Chicago’s Jon Lester (1-0, 0.82 ERA) is aiming for a third consecutive solid outing. The veteran left-hander has yielded one run over 11 innings of his first two starts. That run came during a six-inning stint in a 2-1, 11-inning win over Pittsburgh in his most recent start on Aug. 2.

Including the World Series, Lester is 8-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 19 career starts versus Cleveland. While Lester has fared relatively well opposing a decent amount of the Indians’ current lineup, Franmil Reyes is 4-for-5 with a home run against him.

Reyes is 7-for-15 with a home run and five RBIs in the last four games. His two-out double in the eighth inning Sunday against the White Sox tied the game at 3-3 as Cleveland ended up winning 5-4 in 10 innings.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona is expected to be back in the Indians’ dugout on Tuesday. Francona had missed Cleveland’s past eight games to deal with a gastrointestinal issue.

–Field Level Media

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