ST. LOUIS -- Much has been made of this being the first-ever Cubs/Cardinals playoff series, and absolutely, that makes this much more intense, exciting and fun.
Of course, a Cubs/Cardinals postseason matchup has only been possible since the wild-card playoff system was put in place in 1995. The closest we came to having this before now was 2004, and I'm sure you don't want to hear any more about that year.
In case you are interested, here are the results of all 2,363 games these two franchises have played since they first met in 1892. The team nicknames have changed, but the teams have been the same since that year. The Cardinals lead the all-time series 1,197 to 1,147 (there have been 19 ties, back when you could still have ties in baseball).
More relevant to right now is the Cardinals' skid at the end of the regular season. They lost six of their last nine games and got swept the final weekend by the horrid Braves, getting shut out in all three games. They're on a five-day layoff, too. Meanwhile, the Cubs ended the year on an eight-game winning streak and won Wednesday.
Regular-season marks can get thrown out in the postseason. As I've written here many times, the playoffs are a crapshoot; last year's wild-card World Series proved that. The Cubs have proven they can win in Busch Stadium; they took two of three in St. Louis just a month ago, then did the same to the Cardinals at Wrigley Field later in September, and with a break or two the Cubs could have swept both those series.
The weather should not be a factor. A few rainshowers passed through the St. Louis area overnight and early this morning, but it should be pleasant, if a bit cool for this time of year at game time, with temperatures in the mid-60s (average high is 72).
Let's win this thing. I'm totally pumped to be in attendance at this one. Go Cubs.
Fowler CF, Schwarber RF Bryant 3B, Rizzo 1B, Castro 2B, Coghlan LF, Russell SS, Ross C, Lester P
Carpenter 3B, Piscotty 1B, Holliday LF, Heyward CF, Peralta SS, Grichuk RF, Molina C, Wong 2B, Lackey P
Today's Starting Pitchers
This could be the most intriguing pitching matchup of the entire postseason.
Jon Lester and John Lackey were Red Sox teammates for three and a half seasons (2010, 2011, 2013 and part of 2014). Both pitched, and won, for Boston in the 2013 World Series -- against the Cardinals. They were both traded away from the BoSox on the same day, July 31, 2014. Both appeared in last year's postseason.
These longtime friends faced each other July 6 at Wrigley Field. Lester, famously, got his first big-league hit off Lackey, and is now 3-for-11 at the plate against the Cardinals this year. Lackey threw six shutout innings that night, and the game was closer than the final score (6-0). It was 2-0 when a thunderstorm interrupted play; the long-gone Edwin Jackson coughed up four runs to St. Louis in the ninth.
Lackey against the Cubs this year: three starts, 1.25 ERA, 1.108 WHIP in 21⅔ innings. No home runs allowed. Lackey's ERA against the Cubs in two starts at Busch Stadium this year: 1.84.
Lester against the Cardinals this year: five starts, 2.59 ERA, 1.117 WHIP in 31⅓ innings. Three home runs allowed. Lester has a 1.29 ERA in two Busch Stadium starts in 2015.
Pretty even, if you ask me, and these two men have combined for 35 postseason starts (21 for Lackey, 14 for Lester), so neither should be fazed by any pressure tonight. I'mooking for a pitchers' duel this evening. The start is late enough in the afternoon that shadows should not be a factor.
Today's game is on TBS. Announcers: Brian Anderson (play-by-play), Dennis Eckersley and Joe Simpson (analysts) and reporter Matt Winer. If you have not heard Anderson before, he's the Brewers' TV play-by-play man and is thus quite familiar with both these teams. I think he's pretty good.
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The 2015 Game Thread procedure has changed a bit. Here's how it will work going forward. (And a reminder that a "Rapid Recap" will be posted here by Josh shortly after the game ends, with my own recap at or before the usual time, 8 a.m. CT tomorrow.)
You'll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).
At the same time, a StoryStream™ containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream "Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads" so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.
You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in the game's StoryStream™ as noted above.
The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.
Discuss amongst yourselves.