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BCB staff Cubs vs. Nationals NLDS roundtable

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The front-page writers here had a chat Tuesday afternoon about the series that begins Friday.

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Tuesday afternoon, the BCB front-page staff got together to have a virtual discussion of the first-round postseason matchup between the Cubs and Nationals. This is a transcript of that chat, lightly edited to put the answers in order so they made more sense.


Al Yellon: Since we are doing this before the Cubs set their postseason rotation, let's talk about that first. Who should go in games 1 and 2?

Danny Rockett: Hendricks, Lester. Not necessarily in that order...

Thomas Smith: Hendricks 1, Lester 2.

Duane Pesice: Who should and who will are two different things. I like Hendricks, Quintana, Arrieta, Lester.

Al Yellon: I'm with you, Duane. I'd save Lester for Game 3. I'm not yet even sure Arrieta will be ready to go at all.

Josh Timmers: Hendricks, Quintana. I think.

Sara Sanchez: I had home away splits up a bit ago and I think they really should consider those as they make that decision.

Danny Rockett: Kyle is about the same home and away but gives up more homers at Wrigley.

Thomas Smith: I just don't think Lester was right in the second half. Hate to rely on him in Game 5 if he is still not on his A game.

Duane Pesice: If Arrieta can go, that's an imposing three.

Al Yellon: I'm with you there, Duane. Arrieta/Lester or Lester/Arrieta at home.

Josh Timmers: The Nats seem equally good against left and right handers, so there isn't really a reason to either load up or hide Lester and Quintana.

Al Yellon: I think the fact that the Nats have never seen Quintana might be a factor in his favor going early in the series.

Josh Timmers: Good point, Al.

Sara Sanchez: We all agree that Lackey has to be on the roster in case Jake blows up, though. Right?

Josh Timmers: Yeah, let Lackey pitch out of the pen.

Duane Pesice: Yes, though I favor MiMo in the rotation.

Danny Rockett: I would love to see really good Quintana go 2nd, but bad Quintana needs to pitch after good Lackey.

Al Yellon: And yes, Sara, Lackey has to be on the roster. I'm pretty sure that's why he threw in relief on Sunday. MiMo will have to back up the starters. Lackey too, I think

Thomas Smith: I expect Lackey on the team, too.

Duane Pesice: I also expect Wilson to make the pen because MiMo might have to start.

Al Yellon: Ugh, Justin Wilson. He has talent, but something's wrong with him and the postseason is not the place to fix it.

Sara Sanchez: Kyle is better at home, I almost want him in Game 3, 2.83 home ERA vs. 3.20 ERA on the road. Quintana is way better on the road. Lester is pretty even home and road. Jake is almost a full ERA point better at Wrigley (2.90 vs. 3.87) and if you throw him in Game 4 he gets more rest.

Al Yellon: So throw Q in Game 2.

Thomas Smith: Right on Arrieta and he was that way last year too.

Duane Pesice: Yeah. I do expect Arrieta to at least start a game

Danny Rockett: Kyle being a No. 1 is kind of a new thing... as in just the last month.

Al Yellon: Kyle has been the most consistent starter for the last 2 months

Josh Timmers: After this, I'm on the mind to go Hendricks, Quintana, Arrieta, Lester. That way you go R-L-R-L to keep the Nats off balance.

Duane Pesice: I'm with Josh.

Al Yellon: Josh has a good point about alternating R-L-R-L. Could work very well.

Thomas Smith: I also like Josh's order.

Sara Sanchez: I do sort of think you give Lester the ball first. Q has shown some nerves issues.

Duane Pesice: Exactly

Sara Sanchez: So I'd go Lester, Q, Kyle, Jake, the 1-2 lefty punch followed by Kyle at Wrigley where he's just been a beast.

Danny Rockett: Consistency with Kyle recently may tip the scales and he was decent against the Nats this year. Went seven, allowed three runs. Two homers though.

Al Yellon: So now that we have settled the rotation, what is the thing you worry about most re: the Nats?

Duane Pesice: The bullpen and the running game.

Sara Sanchez: Two things: Max Scherzer and Daniel Murphy.

Josh Timmers: If Scherzer pitches, their rotation is scary. If he doesn't, there are holes that can be exploited.

Duane Pesice: Just hit Murphy.

Al Yellon: The Cubs HAVE to figure out a way to stop Murphy. He hit them again well during the regular season this year (three HR in 28 AB).

Duane Pesice: Anthony Rendon scares me more than Murphy.

Josh Timmers: Rendon could be the league MVP.

Sara Sanchez: I'm not sure I can handle another ridiculous Murphy postseason series at Wrigley. Scherzer is pitching, it looks like it’s a cramp, MRI was good.

Duane Pesice: Montgomery and Duensing have to neutralize Murphy and Harper

Al Yellon: Bryce Harper could be the "X" factor for the Nats. Is he 100 percent yet?

Josh Timmers: Harper isn't 100 percent. But how close is he to 100 percent, no one knows.

Thomas Smith: Some of it was injuries but the Nationals were not remarkable offensively in the second half.

Danny Rockett: I worry that the Cubs barely beat them this year when they did beat them and the guys who they beat (the bullpen) are now gone and replaced with much better pitchers.

Thomas Smith: The Nats’ bullpen is probably better than the Cubs’ now. Hate that in what looks like a close series.

Sara Sanchez: I think the top of the Cubs bullpen is better than the top of the Nats bullpen.

Josh Timmers: That's so funny that their bullpen is better now because before getting Doolittle, Madson and Kintzler, their bullpen was the worst.

Thomas Smith: I think Montgomery and Edwards need to be really sharp.

Josh Timmers: Montgomery is going to be everywhere. He'll pitch a lot.

Al Yellon: Having Hector Rondon back to form is key.

Duane Pesice: I agree.

Josh Timmers: Edwards may be the key to this series.

Danny Rockett: The Nats got Doolittle, and the Cubs Didlittle and got Wilson and like five catchers.

Al Yellon: And yet, getting Alex Avila was very very important. Also, Scherzer has been very tough on the Cubs at Nationals Park, that will be a very difficult game.

Sara Sanchez: I watched Scherzer pitch in the postseason against the Red Sox, he was automatic. The only reason Detroit lost those games was Leyland pulling him too early.

Al Yellon: Sara, that likely is what cost the Nats the series vs. the Dodgers last year, too. Their bullpen blew that game. I am counting on Dusty to do something that will hurt his team like that.

Duane Pesice: I think you’ve gotta small-ball Scherzer.

Sara Sanchez: I know some of the Cubs bullpen guys have been hit or miss (no pun intended) but I do think when you line it up head to head I'd want the Cubs pen over the Nats.

Josh Timmers: You intended that pun, Sara.

Sara Sanchez: :innocent face:

Thomas Smith: Managing is a huge Cubs edge. I still despise Dusty for his choke job in 2003

Sara Sanchez: I am counting on the Dusty and Joe factors to break the Cubs’ way.

Danny Rockett: Edwards blew a save against the Nats at Wrigley that could have won the season series. He worries me too. Let's just say I'm worried and I agree with Sara that we need some classic Dusty screwups to win.

Al Yellon: Which Cubs hitter will be the most important in this series?

Duane Pesice: Heyward.

Josh Timmers: All of them?

Sara Sanchez: Ha ha ha, I was just thinking that, Josh!

Danny Rockett: Willson Contreras needs to be clutch like he was all year.. Heyward is for speeches.

Thomas Smith: Russo

Al Yellon: Thomas -- I assume you mean Russell?

Josh Timmers: I think he's watching "High Heat" and he's yelling at the TV.

Thomas Smith: I'm looking for a huge Rizzo series.

Sara Sanchez: We need the offensive Cubs to show up. Period.

Al Yellon: I'll go with Contreras. He was just getting hot when he was injured, hasn't been all that great since he came back. Now with a few days off he should be at 100 percent.

Josh Timmers: OK, I’ll play along. I don't worry about Rizzo and Bryant. I think Contreras and Schwarber will have to come through to give the Cubs the scary offense that they need.

Duane Pesice: If Jason Heyward supplies some offense, I think Cubs win the series. That's the X factor to me.

Danny Rockett: I'd like to see Addison Russell come on strong now, and Schwarber has been heating up too. Rizzo has fallen off considerably this last month. Just gotta fire on all cylinders.

Al Yellon: Heyward hit .263./364/.434 with three HR in 78 AB in September. That's pretty good.

Duane Pesice: Gotta grind, good at-bats, lotta pitches.

Sara Sanchez: Willson wasn't quite as good powerwise in Sept/Oct but he did hit .289. He also had 12 walks.

Al Yellon: Maybe not being able to push off fully on the leg hurt his power.

Josh Timmers: The thing about the Cubs offense is that it really doesn't rely on one guy though. Its strength is when it comes at you 1 through 8.

Al Yellon: Right, Josh. So they just have to all get in sync!

Duane Pesice: Yes... which is why Heyward batting 7,8 is huge for me.

Danny Rockett: The Cubs walk and hit homers mostly. When they put up the big numbers is when they score on stringing hits together. I agree: In sync!

Thomas Smith: I'm also curious to watch playing time distribution. And actually it is a strength that the Cubs have 11 or 12 guys who can contribute.

Duane Pesice: The Cubs are also much better defensively than the Nats.

Al Yellon: Duane, you're right -- defense has always been key to winning for the Cubs the last two years, and could be a huge factor in this series. Javy Baez could be a difference maker there.

Duane Pesice: Baez and Heyward at the back end can be gigantic if they sync up... and that's a good point, Thomas.

Sara Sanchez: Yeah, the key is that the offense shows up. Period. It seems like it's contagious when they get going.

Danny Rockett: Yeah this team has been Jekyll and Hyde all year.

Al Yellon: How many pitchers will they carry, and will they carry a third catcher?

Thomas Smith: I am in the no third catcher camp

Duane Pesice: Yeah. Schwarber is the third.

Josh Timmers: They'll carry four if you count Schwarber. But no, I wouldn't put Rivera on the roster.

Thomas Smith: Joe needs to contemplate how he would use Rondon and Wilson.

Al Yellon: So everyone here thinks Leonys Martin will be on the roster?

Duane Pesice: Yes.

Josh Timmers: Yes. Martin should make the roster.

Danny Rockett: He's definitely an asset with speed and D, but he does take a spot from someone. No Grimm. Please, no Grimm.

Sara Sanchez: Pitchers: Lester, Q, Kyle, Jake, Lackey, MiMo, Edwards, Davis, Rondon, Duensing, Strop, Wilson/Grimm

Thomas Smith: If Joe thinks he would use both Rondon and Wilson I'd give them to him.

Duane Pesice: I don't think Grimm makes it.

Al Yellon: I can't imagine Grimm making it.

Josh Timmers: No need for Grimm if Lackey is pitching out of the pen.

Duane Pesice: I'd use Maples before Grimm.

Sara Sanchez: Grimm has had better moments than Wilson. My point was just I think one of them is in there.

Thomas Smith: I don't have room for Martin or Rivera if all of Lackey Wilson and Rondon are there

Al Yellon: There was a report on Twitter that said Jake will not throw in a sim game, but will throw "on the side" instead. Hope that’s not meaningful.

Danny Rockett: Could be gamesmanship?

Al Yellon: Could be.

Duane Pesice: That's my thought... as long as they're being coy about Scherzer.

Josh Timmers: Who knows. I hope it's just all that Jake thinks he needs.

Thomas Smith: I trust Jake with what he needs to get ready.

Al Yellon: Also, I find this funny.

Josh Timmers: Heh.

Danny Rockett: Please put Edwin Jackson in. Please. The Cubs clobbered him... well... until he settled down...

Sara Sanchez: Yeah, that game was great.

Al Yellon: Let 'em hit BP off Edwin. It'll make them overconfident.

Josh Timmers: The Nats have to go with either Jackson or Roark in Game 4. I would be happy to see either.

Danny Rockett: Took the Cubs seven innings to get a run off Roark.

Thomas Smith: Roark was pretty good in his start against the Cubs. Don't know why they would skip him unless they are down 2-1

Al Yellon: I would imagine it would be Roark, unless they decide that their Game 1 starter goes in Game 4.

Sara Sanchez: Which would be similar to what the Cards tried to do against the Cubs in 2015.

Josh Timmers: They can do that, but I think the Cubs won the World Series last year because the Indians had a three-man rotation. Most of Clayton Kershaw's postseason struggles have been because he pitched on short rest.

Al Yellon: Exactly, Josh. So I hope Dusty decides to do that.

Sara Sanchez: Federal Baseball seems to think they are going with a three-man rotation for the NLDS with Roark and EJax out of the pen. It seems like a Dusty thing to do, and there is another hidden Dusty advantage....he'll let them go too long as a three-man rotation... OR have to pull them early and the Cubs get to tee up vs. EJax.

Josh Timmers: We mock Dusty, but he is such a better manager than Matt Williams was. Which says a whole heck of a lot about Matt Williams.

Danny Rockett: Just have to hope Gary Jones can out toothpick Dusty.

Duane Pesice: Is it Friday yet?

Al Yellon: So let's move on to picking the winner of this series!

Duane Pesice: Cubs in five.

Al Yellon: Cubs in five. There will be a lot of close games in this series, so the bullpen work will be critical.

Thomas Smith: Cubs in five. But this series scares me.

Josh Timmers: Tell me how healthy are Scherzer and Harper? If they're close to 100 percent, this series is a tossup. If they're not, the Cubs should win in four.

Danny Rockett: Cubs in five. Game 5 goes 18.

Thomas Smith: How many of the 18 does Lackey throw?

Danny Rockett: ⅔ of an inning... haha

Sara Sanchez: Cubs in five. Game 5 winds up being a vintage Lester gem against a fatigued Strasburg.

Josh Timmers: Yeah, this series scares me too. If Scherzer is pitching like Scherzer can pitch, I wouldn't be shocked if the Cubs got swept. But if he doesn't, the Nats are in a whole lot of trouble.

Sara Sanchez: Even with a three-man rotation, Scherzer only pitches two of those games. The Cubs have gotten to him once before. I just hope they do it again here. Preferably in Game 1.

Thomas Smith: Josh has the gist of it. As the series extends I think the Cubs are increasingly likely to win it.

Danny Rockett: The Cubs need to hire someone to be in the dugout who also has two differently colored eyes so Scherzer doesn't feel so darn special.

Josh Timmers: In fact though, the Nats scare me more than any team in the N.L. right now. Except maybe the Diamondbacks.

Al Yellon: Any other final thoughts?

Josh Timmers: Yes. A long series benefits the Cubs.

Al Yellon: Agreed, Josh. Also, if the Cubs can steal one of the two in DC they are in very good shape.

Duane Pesice: Keep the ball in the park.

Thomas Smith: Josh and I are on pretty much the same page

Danny Rockett: My best friend Johnny is a Nats fan and he thinks the Nats will blow it. They are the new choke artists.

Thomas Smith: Hope your friend is right!

Sara Sanchez: The Cubs need Lester to be Lester, and Jake to be Jake. If that happens, I think the Cubs have got this.

Duane Pesice: Yes. Healthy Jake and Jon are essential.

Josh Timmers: Looking over the Nationals, it's hard to get a sense of exactly how good they are. They're very good, no doubt, but they feasted on a incredibly bad division this year. They weren't so strong outside of the N.L. East.

Danny Rockett: The Nats had a bad last week. That's the best news I can give. Doolittle and Kintzler blew saves.

Thomas Smith: If everyone on both sides was healthy and locked in I like Cubs in four. My only fear is not enough Cubs are.

Duane Pesice: I think the Cubs survive to face the D-backs.

Al Yellon: Yes, I agree, I think the D-backs win the wild card game and beat the Dodgers... they are a very tough matchup for the Dodgers

Josh Timmers: D-backs are scary right now. But they might not even get past the Rockies. The D-backs are the favorites to win the WC game, no doubt. But anything can happen in one game.

Duane Pesice: True.

Thomas Smith: I still think Dodgers bounce back and win

Sara Sanchez: October baseball is beautiful. I'm so thrilled we get to watch this team play it again.

Duane Pesice: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Danny Rockett: Hopefully we get a whole month more! I was just starting to enjoy this season!

Al Yellon: Indeed. And the Cubs' experience from last year should help them a lot as October goes along.

Sara Sanchez: And from the year before that too.

Duane Pesice: This is so much better than the doldrum years.

Josh Timmers: The Cubs have been so good since the All-Star Break. I think it's a tribute to the team depth.

Thomas Smith: Absolutely.

Josh Timmers: Other teams got worn down while the Cubs were fresher.

Al Yellon: Since the ASB they've been pretty much as good as they were all last year. This team knows how to win.

Danny Rockett: They definitely seemed to click. Just gotta keep clicking. Can't afford those awful sleeping bats games in the playoffs.

Josh Timmers: It's so funny that Theo admitted he considered dealing Davis and Arrieta at the break.

Al Yellon: Well, if the Cubs had started poorly out of the break, that made some sense.

Danny Rockett: If the Cubs get swept he'll wish he did

Al Yellon: No, Danny -- even if the Cubs get swept, they did the right thing. Obviously it all worked out.

Josh Timmers: It would have. That's why the Quintana trade made so much sense. It gave the team a shot in the arm for this year and if it didn't work out, he was still under contract for 3 more.

Danny Rockett: I'm just saying what Twitter hot takers will be saying all winter...

Duane Pesice: I just enjoy that they're in contention. Last year exorcised so many demons.

Al Yellon: Duane, last year exorcised ALL the demons.

Sara Sanchez: Indeed. And I don't think the Cubs are getting swept... riding two starters who have thrown more than 200+ innings this year feels like a pretty risky move by the Nats.

Josh Timmers: We want to see them win another title, no doubt. But the intense pressure to win is off.

Sara Sanchez: Yep, and the knowledge and belief that the Cubs can win is there.

Al Yellon: Exactly. This will be a fun ride. And who knows? Maybe the Cubs stay hot and win it all.

Duane Pesice: W flag’s ready to go!

Sara Sanchez: This Cubs team has a confidence no other team in the NL has this year. I think that counts for something.

Danny Rockett: Prices for World Series tickets are half price from last year. That reflects that sentiment.

Josh Timmers: Yeah. It's not the same telling your grandkids: "I was there the day the Cubs won their second World Series in two years."

Danny Rockett: Like the 1908 grandparents that said it for 108 years.

Al Yellon: Well... there is still one thing left to see: the Cubs winning the WS at Wrigley Field.

Duane Pesice: Definitely want to see that.

Al Yellon: So do I.

Thomas Smith: Absolutely. I have to believe we will see it during the contention window

Sara Sanchez: Never been done. That would be a thing of beauty for sure.

Al Yellon: Well, I think that about covers everything. Thanks everyone for doing this, and hopefully we get to do it twice more this month!

Duane Pesice: Yay!

Sara Sanchez: Awesome! Looking forward to it.

Josh Timmers: Yes! Beat the Nats!

Duane Pesice: Off to go make chili.

Thomas Smith: Take care, all.

Al Yellon: Thanks again everyone for taking the time to do this!

Danny Rockett: Bye everyone! Go Cubs!

Josh Timmers: Thanks everyone.

Duane Pesice: Cheers, people.