Chicago Cubs: Cardinals turn to John Lackey in Game 4 of NLDS
The Cubs will again have to face the Cards’ Lackey, who was the star in Game 1
The Chicago Cubs are on the verge of eliminating the best team in baseball from the playoffs. But they’ll have to beat the St. Louis Cardinals’ John Lackey–after being mesmerized by him in Game 1–as he’ll go on just three days rest for only the third time in his career. Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon had already named Jason Hammel his starter for Game 4, and now the Cards are in a tough predicament.
First, the Cardinals, of course, need to run their best starter out there even on short rest. If they didn’t and lost, Mike Matheny would never hear the end of it. But after Lackey, who would they hand the ball to in Game 5? For the Cubs, it’s a foregone conclusion. Jon Lester–the man they brought to Chicago for this EXACT type of game, will take the mound. But the Cards don’t have an obvious or confident answer. Score one for the Cubs on that one.
You might think there would be “pressure” on Cubs’ players to try and clinch a trip to the NLCS in Wrigley–but I don’t think that’s the case. Maddon has this team loose, and the pressure is on the Cardinals to stave off elimination. The Cards may even wonder if the Cubs are intimidated at all. Lackey takes the mound, but Maddon is confident in Hammel–that’s gotta be a punch in the gut the Cubs aren’t pitching Lester.
After a dominant performance in Game 1 in which he went 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, this is a look at Lackey’s season splits:
In his three regular season appearances against the Cubs, he went 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA in 21 2/3 innings striking out 19 and walking just five. He also allowed ZERO home runs to the Cubs in those three plus the NLDS opener. Something will have to give.
On three days rest, he’s 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA. He’s thrown just 9 1/3 innings, but the last was back in 2005 as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. He was also 26. Lackey’s 36 now, and it’s been 10 years since he went on short rest like this.
Maddon’s decision to go with Hammel has several advantages. First off, he’s fresh. With Lackey being tested like this, the Cubs have the edge here. That’s assuming Hammel can pitch like first half Hammel–or at least something resembling it for about five innings. The leash will be short, and Maddon will–and should–have faith in his bullpen. They’ve been critical in the two victories and he’ll lean on them again if Hammel gets in any trouble.
Some may not be super excited at the thought of Hammel starting a a possible clinching contest against the Cards and Lackey at Wrigley, but if I had told you in April that would be the case, would you have complained? No. And neither would I have.