I am not a superstitious person. I am not really even – to quote Joe Maddon quoting Michael Scott – a littlestitious person. That said, because I happened to be wearing my blue/red shoes each of the times the Cubs have won this postseason, and because I haven’t worn them the three times the Cubs have lost, I’ll wear them for the game tonight.
- Tonight’s starter for the Cubs is Kyle Hendricks, who had a mixed outing at St. Louis in the NLDS. On the one hand, he was dominant for a multi-inning stretch, and gave up just four hits and no walks (seven strikeouts), but, on the other hand, he gave up three home runs and lasted just 4.2 innings. With the winds at Wrigley potentially blowing out, Hendricks’ ability to get ground balls is what you want, but, because he’s generally a soft-tosser, he’s also a guy for whom mistakes up could be absolutely crushed (as we saw in St. Louis). Hopefully Hendricks keeps it down, and keeps the Cubs in the game through five innings, at least. You are reminded that Kyle Hendricks was quietly very good in 2015, and especially in the second half.
- Of course, “keeping the Cubs in the game” could be largely dependent on how the bats fare against Jacob deGrom. You probably know by now that the Cubs actually handled deGrom quite well in his two starts against them this year, but you probably didn’t know that, since the second of those starts on July 2, deGrom has done this: 2.85 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 2.55 xFIP, 30.7% K rate, 5.4% BB rate. That ERA is actually higher than his season mark (2.54), but the strikeout rate is quite a bit better (27.3%). Still, now that I’m typing this all out, I can see that he actually hasn’t been that much better in the second half. So that’s good, I guess. His velocity hasn’t ticked down as the season has gone, with him still sitting in the 96 to 97mph range. Get geared up, Cubs’ bats.
- A very enjoyable read from Rian Watt on Kyle Hendricks, his changeup, and his father. For his part, Hendricks is ready for the pressure of a near must-win playoff start (CSN).
- Regardless of what happens tonight, the Cubs don’t sound eager to use either Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta on short rest at any point in this series (CSN). Honestly, it’s fine by me. Going on short rest is one of those things that sounds like a good idea, and seems like it should be easy for a pitcher to do every once in a while, but the long history of pitchers doing it suggests it’s not always a great idea. Tomorrow, for example, I’d rather take my chances with Jason Hammel and the bullpen than Lester on short rest. Even if tomorrow becomes a literal must-win game, you’re going to have to win a start or two without Lester or Arrieta on the mound no matter what to win the series. Might as well keep guys on normal rest, then.
- I love the way Theo Epstein summed up the first two games of the NLCS here at CSN, because he sounds just like us: “We ran into two really good starting pitchers, and the baseball gods were a little bit against us that series, too. We smoked some balls that didn’t fall in, but we got outplayed, no excuses.” It’s all of those things at once: the Mets’ pitchers were great, the Cubs had some bad BABIP luck, and the Mets probably played a little bit better overall. That’s the nutshell.
- Jon Greenberg with a great piece, which somehow manages to use the word “bildungsroman” in an appropriate, non-showy way. And, yes, I absolutely had to look that one up.
- A video to pump you up this morning, if you missed it. Also, the Blue Jays are back in the ALCS, if you missed that one.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) October 19, 2015