Chicago Cubs: Bullpen to play key role in next two game of NLCS


Cubs pen will need to rise to the occasion in NLCS

There’s a small percentage of Chicago Cubs’ fans that have gone into panic mode with the team dropping both games pitched by Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. Now, Kyle Hendricks takes the hill in Game 3 with Jason Hammel being a “maybe” at this point for Game 4. Winning one out of the two in New York would have been ideal, but there shouldn’t be a high level of dread–the Cubs won four in a row or more NINE times this season. So winning four our of five with three in Wrigley doesn’t sound all that daunting.

So while it’ll be Hendricks on the mound and not Arrieta or Hammel, the Cubs bullpen has proven to be a strength once again of this team–and at the right time. The offense needs to find its way, and should as they return to Chicago for at least two, and hopefully a third game. If the Cubs can even replicate on a small-scale what they did against the Cardinals in the NLCS that would bode well. But it’s the bullpen that may have to not only help keep them in the game but win it as well.

Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon has gone to the bullpen early in Hendricks’ and Hammel’s starts, and that shouldn’t be any different with Hendricks start tonight. At the first sign of struggle, he’s going to the pen–and his options there are plenty. Travis Wood has been an integral part of the success of the pen since being removed from the rotation earlier this year. In the postseason, he’s allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings while striking out eight and walking none.

Trevor Cahill is another that Maddon has taken a liking to in the playoffs as he’s allowed just one run as well in 3 1/3 innings. Once again, no walks to go along with seven strikeouts. Avoiding baserunners has made these two valuable.

Clayton Richard has fared well, mostly as a specialist as he’s made four appearances but pitched just 1 2/3 innings allowing no runs. Justin Grimm has pitched 1 1/3 innings while striking out three, and Pedro Strop has allowed just one run in three innings while walking no one as well.

The Cubs as a staff really aren’t pitching that bad. We’ve forgotten that Arrieta is indeed a man and not a machine while Lester has pitched well enough to win on several occasions but got little run support in his effort.

Is it possible that Hendricks could be the surprise of the NLCS and pitch a masterful Game 3? It is. He’s shown the ability to shut down teams before, and that ability isn’t lost. It’s just going to be a matter of the “eye test” from Maddon on how he feels and what he sees from the young Hendricks.

Next: How the Peralta game changed the Cubs season