NLDS Game Two: Jaime Garcia no easy task for young Cubs
By Jake Misener
After dropping Game One of the NLDS 4-0, the Chicago Cubs will have to battle one of the most underrated lefties in the game Saturday in Jaime Garcia.
The southpaw, whose career has been marred by injuries early-on, made 20 starts for the St. Louis Cardinals this season after returning from the disabled list, pitching to a mid-2.00 ERA while winning double-digit games for the first time since 2011.
When Cardinals manager Mike Matheny tapped John Lackey to go in Game One, more than a few people scratched their heads – why would you put a guy in his mid-to-late 30s in to start such a critical series?
Well, anyone who looked at Lackey’s numbers knew just why Matheny wanted the experienced right-hander on the hill in front of the home faithful: he’d been damn-near untouchable all season at Busch and Friday proved no different as the Cubs failed to record a hit until the middle innings while looking largely clueless at the dish.
The bad news for Chicago? Garcia’s splits are eerily similar to those of Lackey’s when it comes to home-road performance this season.
Under the Arch, the former 22nd-round pick pitched to a 1.70 ERA and 0.888 WHIP to go alone with his 5.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .208 opposing batting average. Away from St. Louis, though, Garcia was much less effective, as his strikeout-to-walk clip plummeted to 2.11 and his WHIP rose to 1.230.
As much as Cubs fans like to hate on Matheny, there’s no doubt he’s one of the better managers in Major League Baseball today. It’s no coincidence this team won over 100 games and is playing in its fourth-straight NLDS under their young skipper.
The logic, at least to me, has to be this: take care of business in Games One and Two at home, then if Wacha and Lynn continue to struggle against the Cubs, you can turn back to Lackey in Game 5, perhaps utilizing Adam Wainwright out of the pen to bridge the gap to Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth.
But, for now, it’s simple. The Cubs’ offense cannot do what it did last night. They looked overmatched and completely overwhelmed by the atmosphere at Busch Stadium. Game Two will be a mental test more than anything else, as the team will have to put a disappointing loss in the opener behind them and square off against a quality southpaw.
The goal is clear: take this series back to Wrigley Field even at a game apiece. Hand the ball to Jake Arrieta in Game 3 and let him lead you to a 2-1 advantage with two more chances to shut the door and end the Cardinals’ reign of terror in the National League.