For the fifth time since divisional play began in 1969, the Chicago Cubs are in the National League Championship Series.
Here are a few quirks from the previous four that you might have forgotten.
I'll still never understand why the teams were forced to travel to the West Coast after playing at Wrigley Tuesday and Wednesday, and then had to play Thursday in San Diego. The off day in the series was after Game 3, so no travel day was given. Granted, both teams had to adjust, but the Padres were going home. I'll always wonder whether the Cubs might have completed the sweep if they'd had a full day off before Game 3.
Know how you see pitchers cover their mouths when they're in mound conferences? That's a direct result of Giants lipreaders seeing Greg Maddux say "Fastball in" when he had a conference with catcher Rick Wrona in the fourth inning of Game 1. The Cubs were trailing just 4-3, but the Giants had the bases loaded with two out. Clark, knowing what was coming, smashed Maddux' fastball onto Sheffield for a grand slam, and the rout was on.
There are few times when a manager can have a direct effect on a baseball game. After the, uh, "incident" in Game 6 should have been one of them. Dusty Baker should have come out of the dugout to slow the game down, settle down Mark Prior -- who, remember, was a 23-year-old rookie in his first full big-league season -- get his bullpen going, anything.
Instead he sat on his butt and did nothing. It is his singular failure as a manager.
The Cubs were thoroughly outclassed for this entire series. This is relevant, I think, to this year's series. Many of the players on this year's Cubs went through the loss to the Mets and, as young a team as this is, I think that was valuable learning and preparation for this kind of series. Between that, and the veterans added to the 2016 Cubs, this team should be quite ready for the challenges of the NLCS.
Here are today's particulars.
Fowler CF, Bryant 3B, Rizzo 1B, Zobrist LF, Russell SS, Heyward RF, Baez 2B, Ross C, Lester P
Kendrick LF, Turner 3B, Seager SS, Puig RF, Gonzalez 1B, Ruiz C, Hernandez 2B,, Pederson RF, Maeda P
Jon Lester made two starts against the Dodgers this year and gave them seven hits, two walks and one run in 15 total innings (0.60 ERA, 0.625 WHIP). The only run was a home run by Kiké Hernandez. Lester posted a 1.76 ERA in 14 regular-season starts after the All-Star break and didn't allow a run in eight innings in the division series vs. the Giants.
Basically: He's been a big-time pitcher most of the year, exactly what the Cubs hoped for when they signed him. Keep up the good work!
Kenta Maeda has never faced the Cubs or anyone on the current roster, as this is his first big-league season after spending eight years pitching in his native Japan. In the "what have you done for me lately" department, Maeda posted a 4.03 ERA and 1.345 WHIP in six starts after September 1, and he's been particularly bad since late September. Over his last three starts, including the one against the Nationals in the division series: 9⅓ innings, 17 hits, six walks, three home runs, 11.17 ERA. He hasn't thrown more than four innings in a game since September 21.
Today's game is on FS1. Announcers: Joe Buck, John Smoltz and Ken Rosenthal.
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The 2016 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used at the end of 2015. Here's how it works.
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.