As noted in the series preview, the Cubs will have to sweep this series in order to clinch the N.L. Central title in St. Louis. That won't be easy, and I know Joe Maddon is very good about having his guys focus on one game at a time. On the other hand, according to this Tribune article, they just might be thinking ahead... a bit:
The Cubs adjusted their rotation so that Jon Lester is lined up to start the first game of the National League playoffs.
Lester will make his next start Wednesday in St. Louis in his first of four remaining regular-season starts. Left-hander Mike Montgomery, who originally was told he would pitch Wednesday, will start Thursday against the Brewers.
Manager Joe Maddon would not specifically say the switch was made with the playoffs in mind.
"We liked the idea of Jon pitching in St. Louis more," Maddon said Sunday. "That's all that was about. He felt pretty good staying on his regular turn this time around, knowing we might do something differently the next time. We decided to go this way."
Either way, it sounds right. Lester in Game 1, Kyle Hendricks in Game 2, both at Wrigley? Works for me.
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Here are today's particulars.
Fowler CF, Bryant 3B, Rizzo 1B, Zobrist LF, Russell SS, Montero C, Heyward RF, Baez 2B, Hendricks P
Wong 2B, Piscotty RF, Carpenter 1B, Grichuk CF, Molina C, Gyorko SS, Peralta 3B,Hazelbaker LF, Leake P
Fun Kyle Hendricks fact:
In his last 12 appearances (11 starts), Kyle has a 1.22 ERA and 0.910 WHIP, with an opponents' BA of .197 and only 16 walks in 73⅔ innings.
Now think about the first part of that sentence for a moment. "12 appearances (11 starts)." That's because going into the break, Kyle was kind of an afterthought in the rotation and so went to the bullpen and made one relief outing.
Now he's a Cy Young candidate. The last time he faced the Cardinals, August 13 at Wrigley Field, he threw seven innings, allowed two runs and struck out 12. (The bullpen blew that game, unfortunately.)
The only caveat to this start is that Kyle has a 5.51 lifetime ERA (three starts, small sample size) in Busch Stadium. Here's hoping he lowers that tonight.
Mike Leake has made two starts against the Cubs this year and has allowed six earned runs in 13 innings, which is just about where his season numbers stand (4.61 ERA). Since the All-Star break he's been somewhat worse: 5.76 ERA, 1.522 WHIP in eight starts. Current Cubs are hitting .268 against Leake (45-for-168) with seven home runs. Chris Coghlan has been particularly successful against him: 11-for-19 (.579) with four doubles and two homers. Anthony Rizzo, also good: 12-for-35 (.343), two doubles, two homers.
Today's game is on CSN Chicago. It's also available on MLB Network (outside the Chicago and St. Louis markets).
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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.