Today’s is the first game of the final regular season series at Wrigley Field.
And although the Cubs have already locked up the NL Central (and have nearly clinched baseball’s best record, too), the playoff implications are actually quite profound.
For one, a sweep might effectively bounce the Cardinals completely out of the postseason.
They’re currently a half-game behind both the Mets and Giants for a Wild Card slot, so three straight loses with just a couple of series to go would be absolutely devastating. That said, the Cubs will very likely face the winner of the Wild Card game in the NLDS (two weeks from tonight!), so they may be sealing a portion of their own fate, too.
They will of course simply try to win and let the balls fall where they might, but it’s hard not to entertain the implications.
Starting for the Cubs today is righty Jake Arrieta. Arrieta’s shot at back-to-back Cy Young’s is long gone at this point, but he can still make an enormous impact over the next month or so. With any luck, he’ll tighten up and deliver some 2014-2015 vintage Jake performances.
Opposing Arrieta is righty Mike Leake. Leake’s first season as a Cardinals was underwhelming, but perhaps not too far off from expectations. His 2.3 fWAR exceeds that of last season (1.7 fWAR) and matches his career high. With a couple more good performances, they may get exactly what they expected out of him (if not what they hoped). The thing with Leake is that his 5 year/$85 million deal just seems like so much money to give a starter of his caliber, but I suppose that’s the market. With that in mind, I’m continually impressed by the Cubs’ deal with Jon Lester (6 years/$155 million) – it just seems like such a steal, two years later (in this new, expensive market).
Chicago Cubs (97-55) at St. Louis Cardinals (63-88) – 1:20 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
Game Thread and Series Preview
Your game thread is down in the comments, so let’s have some good, clean (safe-for-work) fun this afternoon and into the early evening.
Cubs: Jake Arrieta (R): 2.96 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 3.73 xFIP; 2.41 K/BB
Cardinals: Mike Leake (R): 4.54 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 3.73 xFIP; 4.37 K/BB
St. Louis Cardinals Lineup:
- Matt Carpenter, 2B
- Jedd Gyorko, SS
- Stephen Piscotty, RF
- Matt Adams, 1B
- Yadier Molina, C
- Randal Grichuk, CF
- Jhonny Peralta, 3B
- Kolten Wong, LF
- Mike Leake, P
Chicago Cubs Lineup:
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, 2B
- Addison Russell, SS
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Chris Coghlan, LF
- Miguel Montero, C
- Jake Arrieta, P