Josh and I thought it might be fun for the two of us, plus Duane, Danny and Russ, your regular front-page writers, to get together to discuss the playoff series that begins this evening at Wrigley Field.
Since we live in far-flung spots around the country, we had a virtual meeting late Thursday afternoon. Here’s what we all said. (This has been lightly edited to put some answers that came in out of sequence, in an order that made more sense.)
Al Yellon: So... The Cubs are going to win it all. Right?
Danny Rockett: That's the plan.
Russ La Croix: Obviously! He said, looking around nervously.
Danny Rockett: They are by far the best team. And they didn't limp in. The Giants are gonna hit a wall.
Josh Timmers: In a just universe, of course. But we all know that in a five or seven game series, any major league team can beat any other major league team. Heck, give the Twins enough five game series and they'd beat the Cubs once.
Duane Pesice: Agreed. Cubs win.
Al Yellon: What do you guys think will be the toughest thing against the Giants, besides facing MadBum?
Duane Pesice: Cueto.
Russ La Croix: Cueto won't be an easy task, although the Cubs have had decent success against him this year. Or in past years, rather. Can't read my BB-Ref page right.
Duane Pesice: He used to kill the Cubs, though.
Danny Rockett: Keeping their annoyingly scrappy bats off the bases. And the Cubs beat Cueto a bunch when he was a Red. Not worried!
Al Yellon: Cueto did not have a good postseason last year -- until that last World Series game.
Josh Timmers: I've probably watched more Giants games than anyone here. They were a bad team in the second half. Having said that, their starting rotation was pretty good. And if Bochy can avoid his bullpen, they can beat us.
Duane Pesice: Not scared of Shark.
Danny Rockett: They were under .500 in the second half, right? And Cueto uncharacteristically walks guy in the playoffs.
Josh Timmers: Also, the Giants are really left-handed. Lester should have no trouble with them, but I worry a bit about Hendricks, Arrieta and Lester. Wood and Montgomery will be important.
Danny Rockett: Don't forget Lefty Chapman!
Josh Timmers: Danny -- Everyone has to worry about Chapman. Doesn't matter what hand they bat with.
Al Yellon: Hendricks has been so good at Wrigley, so they seem to have the rotation set up right
Russ La Croix: How weird is it that the matchup I worry about most is Arrieta vs. Bumgarner?
Duane Pesice: Not weird at all. Same here.
Josh Timmers: If the Giants hadn't won the final four games of the season (three against a disinterested Dodgers team), they'd have had the worst record in the 2nd half after the best record in the first half.
Danny Rockett: Is there no way Mad Bum pitches Saturday?
Al Yellon: They wouldn't pitch MadBum on two days rest. That would be crazy.
Russ La Croix: I can't see him pitching Saturday, especially not after a complete game in the Wild Card.
Josh Timmers: MadBum will not pitch in Wrigley.
Duane Pesice: We need to be up two by the time we face him.
Al Yellon: If the Cubs take care of business at home they should win the series.
Russ La Croix: I agree with Al... they do the job at home in Games 1 and 2 and I think they're fine. They split that series and I get a lot more nervous.
Danny Rockett: Probably game 3 and 5 for MadBum though, right?
Russ La Croix: I think he's Game 3 only.
Al Yellon: If they threw MadBum in Games 3 and 5, that would again be on two days rest.
Josh Timmers: He could come on in relief on two days, but I doubt he will.
Danny Rockett: Just a thought... he's so dominant.
Duane Pesice: Not gonna be a Game 5
Russ La Croix: So the Giants will go, what? Cueto, Shark, MadBum, Moore?
Josh Timmers: Russ -- that's the rotation, yes.
Duane Pesice: Yeah. Moore throws slow enough to bother the Cubs.
Al Yellon: The Cubs have good RH power to counter Moore, though.
Josh Timmers: Moore can't go more than six innings though, which means that we get to the Giants bullpen, which has been a raging dumpster fire the whole second half. Although Romo was good the final week, I guess.
Duane Pesice: Was gonna say that. Gotta get into the pen. Be patient, run up counts.
Al Yellon: Which is what the Mets failed to do in the WC game.
Josh Timmers: Exactly, Al. The Giants were able to get MadBum to go the distance, which is why they won. They couldn't score until the ninth.
Russ La Croix: Yeah, that's definitely key.
Duane Pesice: Exactly. 21 pitches for three innings?
Danny Rockett: BTW, San Francisco has walked the fewest batters in the majors.
Duane Pesice: *nods* True.
Danny Rockett: Patience may not help... aggressive is possibly the best plan... he types worriedly...
Duane Pesice: In terms of waiting for your pitch. If they're not walking, the ball is over the plate. Pick your spot.
Josh Timmers: Just get their starters on the ropes early. Fowler will be big.
Duane Pesice: Huge.
Al Yellon: When the Cubs faced MadBum in SF, he drove in the only run with a double off Hendricks. He's a good hitter, got to work more carefully. If not for that, that game goes to extras probably.
Josh Timmers: Bumgarner's got power, but let's not forget, he's still a .186 hitter.
Danny Rockett: Mad Bum’s homers are down and he's under .200. not quite as hitterish, but...
Al Yellon: .186 is still a lot better at the plate than Lester or Hendricks...
Josh Timmers: Arrieta hit .262.
Duane Pesice: I bet Jake gets a knock off him.
Russ La Croix: Hey, Lester ended at .102! :smile:
Danny Rockett: Did you guys see that Rizzo is 3-for-25 vs. Cueto? Kryptonite...
Duane Pesice: Yes. He's due!
Danny Rockett: Rizzo has a homer though...
Josh Timmers: Small sample size.
Danny Rockett: Fowler has K’d half the time he's seen him.
Duane Pesice: I want Heyward to find his bat.
Russ La Croix: We all do.
Al Yellon: Heyward could be key to this whole thing if he can hit the way he did last year
Duane Pesice: Yep.
Danny Rockett: Heyward will be Mr. October. Heard it here first...
Duane Pesice: :smile:
Josh Timmers: I think the Cubs defense will be the key. I think the Giants will have trouble scoring. Conor Gillaspie aside, they don't hit home runs. And the Cubs are really good at turning balls in play into outs.
Duane Pesice: Giants don't suck on D though.
Josh Timmers: No, they don't. Crawford is as good as Russell. Panik is solid. Posey is a terrific catcher. Pagan is bad in left, Who knows who will play 3rd with Nunez out for Game 1 at least.
Duane Pesice: Pagan is one of those guys though, surprises you sometimes.
Danny Rockett: They are third in DER. But the Cubs stand 30 points higher.
Russ La Croix: Well, the Cubs were runaways there.
Danny Rockett: Let's hope nerves don't play a role. That's been an issue with defense. Like when Russell threw the ball away on clinch night...he seemed nervous to me.
Al Yellon: So let me put everyone on the spot. Make your series prediction!
Duane Pesice: Cubs in 4
Josh Timmers: Cubs in 4. I almost want to say Cubs in 3, but that's tempting the baseball fates.
Russ La Croix: Yeah, I'll go Cubs in 4.
Danny Rockett: Cubs sweep!
Al Yellon: Cubs in 4. They win games 1 and 2, lose to MadBum, win it in game 4.
Duane Pesice: That's the way I see it too.
Josh Timmers: Just to get ahead of ourselves, Go Nats! Go Nats!
Danny Rockett: I'd like to see Nats, but would rather see Dodgers. It's warmer there..
Duane Pesice: Indifferent.
Danny Rockett: Dusty would be a trip...
Duane Pesice: Yes.
Al Yellon: For sure.
Russ La Croix: Those baby-making Nats.
Danny Rockett: What happened?
Josh Timmers: Dusty called the Nats "a baby-making team." No one knows what that means.
Al Yellon: Thanks, everyone! Let’s hope we get to do this two more times this month!