The Chicago Cubs now stand at 8-1 in the month of October and have run the gauntlet in the best division in baseball. Chicago has won their first postseason series since they defeated the Atlanta Braves in five games dating back to the 2003 NLDS. The Cubs will now await the winner of the Mets and Dodgers series which is currently 2-1 Mets. Chicago was of course 7-0 versus New York in the regular season, however they have not played New York since they acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the trading deadline.
Chicago didn’t fare as well against the Dodgers as they split a four game series at Wrigley and then went on to lose two out of three in LA, with the lone victory coming on Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter on the second to last day of August. The Cubs rotation is pretty much set for the NLCS because they didn’t have to go five games with St. Louis. In Game 1 at either Citi Filed or Dodger Stadium on Saturday the Cubs will again put Jon Lester on the mound with Jake Arrieta to follow. The Cubs will then have their choices between Kyle Hendricks, Dan Haren, and Jason Hammel for games three and four before going back to Lester and Arrieta for five and six. Lester could pitch on short rest depending on how the series is going, but for Joe Maddon that’s not something he’s going to or needs to think about until next Tuesday when the series shifts back to the Northside.
In recapping the NLDS quickly, the most valuable player was Jorge Soler who absolutely demolished the Cardinals both in the field and at the plate. Solar set the rookie record for postseason plate appearances without being retired at nine before being struck out by John Lackey in the first inning of Game 4. Soler later in Game 4 would make a huge assist in the outfield gunning down the potential go ahead run in Tony Cruz at the plate when the game was tied at 4-4 to record the final out of the sixth inning. Cruz was in the lineup because of Yadier Molina’s injury, and the play wouldn’t have even been as close with the way Molina runs.
The other huge boost other than the long ball was the bullpen, the Cubs hit 9 home runs by seven different players in the series, and after being shut out in the first game 4-0, the Cubs would go on to score 20 runs in three games. The bullpen was lights out as the team effort was there from the outset. Chicago’s bullpen were constantly coming up with big strikeouts and big pitches in what’re deemed as high leverage situations. The bullpen was constantly getting the Cubs hitters back up to the plate in shutdown inning which is one of the most important aspects of the game as it keeps momentum rolling for the offense.
The real swing game was Game 2 in St. Louis as it set up the rest of the series for Chicago. Splitting on the road allowed Chicago to get Arrieta to the hill in an even series as compared to being down and facing elimination. It also allowed for Chicago to get themselves out of having to play a decisive Game 5 back in St. Louis on Thursday. Looking forward to the NLCS the Cubs have now won 12 of their last 13 and could be facing a team they shutout in the regular season in the Mets. In addition the Cubs rotation is set for the next round which it wasn’t for this series. The ability to throw Lester and Arrieta in Games 1 & 2 is enormous for the confidence of the team as a whole. If the Dodgers are to force a Game 5 tonight, they’ll have used their two big arms to get out of the NLDS which means The Cubs would avoid Kershaw or Greinke in LA. The Cubs defeated both pitchers in their starts at Wrigley this year. Lastly Jake Arrieta obviously likes pitching in Dodger Stadium as it is where he recorded the first no-hitter of his career.
Regardless of who the Cubs play they now now have four days off before they have to travel to either coast. When the series shifts back to Chicago expect the resale market to be insane and the buzz of the city to be unlike anything ever seen. The Blackhawks are a good team, but history is in the making for these Cubs that are even younger than their name gives them credit for.