Round One Playoff Preview: Marlins at Cubs, September 30 - October 2, 2020

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Round One Playoff Preview: Marlins at Cubs, September 30 – October 2, 2020

Chicago Cubs

Annnnnnd we’re back.

After a brief two-day hiatus following the regular season (and a slightly longer two-year hiatus from an NL Central title), the Chicago Cubs are back in the playoffs from atop their division. The Cubs will kick off “October” on September 30th as the three seed on the NL side of the 16-team bracket.

This first round will take place entirely at Wrigley Field and will be a best-of-three contest against the surprisingly competitive Miami Marlins (6th seed). And don’t worry, if you feel like you know nothing about the 2020 Miami Marlins, we’ve got you covered:

The Cubs will start Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, and Jon Lester (if necessary) in that order this series, which is a nice variety of handedness and velocity. Although as we’ve discussed, the Marlins are significantly better against left-handed pitching, so Lester will likely be on a very short leash if the series comes to a Game 3. The Marlins, by contrast, will use three righties: Sandy Alcantara, rookie Sixto Sanchez, and Pablo Lopez, which works to the Cubs favor, given their issues against lefties.

Since we’ve enjoyed only 60 games this season, I’d really rather not have things end anytime soon, so a nice, easy, two-game series win would be much appreciated. Go Cubs.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (0-0) finished the season strong, with two wins over the White Sox during a three-game series in which they scored 25 runs over three games – the second-highest run total over a three-game stretch for the Cubs this season (they scored 26 runs from August 30th-September 2nd). If the offense remains hot, I really believe this Cubs team can steamroll through the Marlins. But if they’re cold ….

The Miami Marlins (0-0) also finished the season strong, with a series win over the Yankees on the road. The Yankees did have slightly less to play for by the end, though, and the Marlins dropped 3 of 4 to the Braves just prior to that series.

Game Times and Broadcasts Info

•   Wednesday, September 30th at 1:08 CT on ABC, 670 The Score
•   Thursday, October 1st at TBA on ESPN, 670 The Score
•   Friday, October 2nd at TBA on ESPN, 670 The Score (If necessary)

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Kyle Hendricks (R) v. Sandy Alcantara (R)
Game 2: Yu Darvish (R) v. Sixto Sanchez (R)
Game 3: Jon Lester (L) v. Pablo Lopez (R)

Chicago Cubs

•   C – Willson Contreras
•   1B – Anthony Rizzo
•   2B – Jason Kipnis
•   3B – Kris Bryant
•   SS – Javy Baez
•   LF – Kyle Schwarber
•   CF – Ian Happ
•   RF – Jason Heyward
•   DH – Victor Caratini

Unavailable: Brad Wieck, James Norwood, Daniel Descalso, Tyler Chatwood, Ildemaro Vargas, Rowan Wick

Miami Marlins

•   C – Jorge Alfaro
•   1B – Jesus Aguilar
•   2B – Jazz Chisholm
•   3B – Brian Anderson
•   SS – Miguel Rojas
•   LF – Corey Dickerson
•   CF – Starling Marte?*
•   RF – Matt Joyce
•   DH – Garrett Cooper

*Marte was hit in the helmet with a pitch on Sunday and left the game. It’s not yet clear if he’ll be available, though it remains entirely possible.

Unavailable: Jose Urena, Logan Forsythe

Keep An Eye Out For …

Cubs Pitcher: Yu Darvish feels like the guy to watch this series. Why? Because I have a lot of faith in Kyle Hendricks to come through in the playoffs, at Wrigley Field, and against an inexperienced, weaker against righties lineup like the Marlins. If Darvish wins on Thursday, my bet is the Cubs are headed to the next round of the playoffs.

Cubs Player: Kris Bryant has been largely absent offensively all season long, until waking up in the final series of the year against the White Sox: 3-8, 2HRs, BB, 6 RBI. I think we’d all be silly to assume his season-long struggles and injuries just went *poof* … but that’s what I’m hoping for. Who knows? Maybe Bryant legitimately feels healthier/stronger and maybe that really will make all the difference. All I know is if he’s even close to the guy we know he can be (and has been), the Cubs are going to have a much more enjoyable month of October. Tough match-ups against the righties, though.

Marlins Pitcher: Sixto Sanchez had as hot of a stretch as any pitcher in MLB and against really good teams, to boot. However, when two of those teams (the Nationals and Braves) saw him for the second time, it all got blown up: 7.0 IP, 12H, 9ER, 6BBs, 4Ks combined. Hopefully, the Cubs studied those two starts well to see exactly how Sanchez was tagged/the hitters changed their approach. And hopefully the moment gets to the rookie a little bit. A patient Cubs offense could consistently load a lot of bases against this kid. (Um, but, well, then do some scoring, Cubs.)

Marlins Player: Corey Dickerson is 4-16 with a triple, a walk, and just 2 strikeouts against Kyle Hendricks and is 5-13 with two doubles, a homer, and two strikeouts against Yu Darvish. He’s also hitting .297/.333/.451 over his last 97 PAs and is a lot better against righties than lefties. It’s just a gut feeling, but let’s watch out for him this week.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami