It would be the Cardinals, wouldn’t it?
To be honest, though, I don’t really feel the portending darkness of Voodoo Magic. Maybe it’s because this year’s team is so different from years past, or maybe it’s because the Cubs handled the Cardinals with aplomb late in the year. The fact that the Cardinals are relatively banged up doesn’t hurt, either.
I also don’t feel too anxious today, at least compared to Wednesday, because I know that, whatever happens tonight, this thing ain’t over for several more days. Even if the Cubs – heaven forbid! – were to go down 0-2, I wouldn’t say they’re out. This Cubs team fights until the end, be it a single game, or a series like this.
Also, well: they’re really good.
The games begin with two in St. Louis, then come to Chicago for the next two, and return to St. Louis, if necessary, for the series finale.
I should say this more often: I’m so excited that I get to experience this season, and this postseason, with you fine people. Even if I’m not always able to participate down there in the comments or respond to every tweet, I’m taking it all in, smiling the whole way.
We’re Going Streaking
The Cubs swept the Wild Card series against the Pirates by, you know, winning that one game. That was actually they’re 9th win in a row, though. The Cubs are hot.
The Cardinals, by contrast, have lost six of their last nine games, including all three in Atlanta to close out the season. They didn’t even score a single run during that series. They had everything wrapped up at that point, so winning the games was not necessarily a priority. We also know that relative hotness or coolness coming into the playoffs doesn’t necessarily mean anything … but, man, losing three in a row – three shutouts in a row – and then sitting for five days. If the Cardinals came into tonight’s game flat, it wouldn’t be a shock.
(But, since it’s the Cardinals, them coming out firing like gangbusters would not be a shock either. Or something in between. Basically, they’ll probably come out and play some kind of baseball.)
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Friday, October 9 at 5:30 CT on TBS.
- Saturday, October 10 at 4:30 CT on TBS.
- Monday, October 12 at 3:30 or 5:00 CT on TBS.
- Tuesday, October 13 at 3:30 or 7:00 CT on TBS (if necessary).
- Thursday, October 15 at 3:30 or 7:00 CT on TBS (if necessary).
And, if you’re not in the blackout region, you can always watch on MLB.tv.
Expected Starters and Lineups
These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.
Starters: Jon Lester (3.34 ERA, 2.92 FIP; 4.40 K/BB), Kyle Hendricks (3.95 ERA, 3.36 FIP; 3.88 K/BB), Jake Arrieta (1.77 ERA, 2.35 FIP; 4.92 K/BB), TBA, TBA
Lineup (You know this will shift around a lot):
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Chris Coghlan, RF
- Starlin Castro/Tommy La Stella, 2B
- Miguel Montero, C
- Addison Russell, SS (unless David Ross is catching)
- Pitcher (for Lester and Arrieta starts)
Starters: John Lackey (2.77 ERA, 3.57 FIP; 3.30 K/BB), Jaime Garcia (2.43 ERA, 3.00 FIP; 3.23 K/BB), Michael Wacha (3.38 ERA, 3.87 FIP; 2.64 K/BB), Lance Lynn (3.03 ERA, 3.44 FIP; 2.44 K/BB), TBA
- Matt Carpenter, 3B
- Stephen Piscotty/Matt Holliday, LF (the outfield will probably feature many players)
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Yadier Molina, C
- Brandon Moss, 1B
- Kolten Wong, 2B
- Jon Jay, CF (Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham will factor in, as well)
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Huge games on Wednesday for Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber were especially nice given that each had been going through a bit of a down period at the plate. Other guys had not-so-great games, offensively, but that’s why you try to have a loaded lineup. Not everyone will hit every single day. But if you’ve got enough quality bats, some of them will. And, in the playoffs, sometimes it only takes a few runs to win.
The Cubs haven’t had great success against John Lackey this year, despite the fact that he hasn’t dominated them with strikeouts. Instead, the Cubs have put the ball in play a lot against him, but mostly for outs and singles (.244/.294/.295). He’s not a guy who nibbles, and this is a Cubs team that likes to see pitches. So it’s not been a great matchup for them, and they simply have to do damage early in the count unless he’s uncharacteristically wild.
The Cubs haven’t faced Jaime Garcia this year, and, while he’s been very good, he’s been more susceptible to lefty batters than righties (both this year and in his career). The Cubs have some solid lefties to throw at him, and hopefully Joe Maddon plays to the splits.
The Cardinals will have Yadier Molina (thumb) available for this series, and Adam Wainwright will pitch out of the bullpen.
Molina hit just .270/.310/.350, but his impact on the Cardinals goes well beyond what he does at the plate.
Since coming back from his most recent leg injury in mid-September, Matt Holliday is hitting just .182/.217/.318.
Despite suffering one of the scariest and ugliest head injuries I’ve ever seen in a baseball game, Stephen Piscotty came back to action just a few days later, and should be good to go for this series.
Starting with the July 8 game in which the Cubs knocked him around a little bit (the Jason Hammel injury/Jhonny Peralta homer game … sigh), Michael Wacha has put up a very pedestrian 4.28 ERA, 4.68 FIP, and 4.19 xFIP. Things were especially ugly in September, with an ERA and FIP approaching eight.