LOS ANGELES -- I sat by my keyboard for most of a beautiful, sunny Southern California morning thinking about what to write in advance of Game 4.
I could call it a "key" game or "critical" game, but those are just words, and you already know that.
I could have quoted ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, who wrote about historical comparisons to other playoff series, and you know I usually love those things. But then he quoted former Yankee pitcher Jeff Nelson about the "108 years" thing, and I lost interest in all that. Typical national media tripe.
The truth is that each and every game of a postseason series is different. Media narratives cite "momentum" and "turning points" and those are just what I said they are, narratives. One of the things Joe Maddon has done best with this Cubs team is to get them to treat each game, each day, as a separate, different thing, to approach individually and forget about the previous one, win or lose.
This team has looked bad at times this year, at some points just as bad or worse than they do now (remember that 5-15 stretch in June and July?). It shouldn't matter to this bunch. They know how to win, they know how to win on the road, they know how to hit, they know how to produce.
No narratives, other than I think they'll start doing all that tonight.
One final note that could have an impact on the game: it's going to be hot. Temperatures are forecast to be in the low 90s in Los Angeles today, probably upper 80s at game time. Hopefully, that heats up the Cubs' bats.
Here are today's particulars.
Fowler CF, Bryant 3B, Rizzo 1B, Zobrist LF, Baez 2B, Contreras C, Heyward RF, Russell SS, Lackey P
Utley 2B, Seager SS, Turner 3B, Gonzalez 1B, Reddick RF, Pederson CF, Grandal C, Toles LF, Urias P
John Lackey has made many bold statements about the postseason, calling these "big-boy games" and famously saying he "came here for jewelry."
Now it's time for him to step up and help the Cubs get there. He has in general pitched very well in situations like this -- not in the division series, though, when he didn't get out of the fourth inning against the Giants.
So let's talk about his record against the Dodgers, which, for 2016, is nonexistent. The last time he faced them was May 29, 2015, while he was with the Cardinals. And he shut them down pretty good that day: seven shutout innings, five hits, nine strikeouts.
The Cubs need one of those tonight.
Julio Urias has pitched just once since September 29 -- two innings in the Dodgers' Game 5 win over the Nationals in their division series. He hasn't thrown more than five innings in a game since August. As I noted in the Game 3 recap, by starting this game Urias becomes the youngest pitcher ever to start a postseason game. It seems likely, given the facts above, that this could be a "bullpen game" for the Dodgers. Hopefully, that means Urias is out of the game early.
I wrote about Urias' balk move earlier today. I hope the umpires call him on it.
Urias made two regular-season starts against the Cubs. They hit him hard June 2 at Wrigley Field, including homers from Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward. August 27 at Dodger Stadium, he threw six solid innings (six hits, one run).
I'd like another one like the Wrigley Field game, please.
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.