One advantage of winning the most games in the National League means time to rest. It also means the Wild Card teams will need to use their “ace” before the NLDS.
The season is over but we still have to wait. The Chicago Cubs open the National League Divisional Series on Friday night at Wrigley Field. That is four full days off. Plenty of time to rest. Or collect rust. No real baseball will be played by the team. Sure, there will be some simulation or practice, but not true baseball.
On Wednesday, all eyes will be on Citi Field in New York as the Mets will host the San Francisco Giants in the NL Wildcard. The match-up will feature the top starter for each team: Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard. Not only will that be a great game for ratings, it is good news for the Cubs.
Think of it this way. While we do not know the starting rotation for the Cubs, they will not face the top starters for either potential opponent in Chicago. At best, they will not pitch again until Game 3.
No rest for the weary
One way playing in the Wild Card game hinders a team is that it can impact the starting rotation for the next series. The choice is difficult. Does the manager send out their ace and hope to shut down their opponent? Or, do they slot their second or third starter, ask the offense and defense to step up, letting their ace start the next round. That is IF they make it there.
The managers for both the Giants and Mets have scheduled their top starters. Great match-up.
Problem is that neither Bumgarner nor Syndergaard will be available to pitch at Wrigley. With Cubs Manager Joe Maddon likely to schedule Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks in the opening two games, it is not too far to guess the Cubs could lead 2-0 before hitting the road.
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We know Bumgarner pitched on short rest, but that was in the World Series. Between the Wild Card game and Game 2 of the NLDS is three games. Could Bochy or Collins go to either ace that early? Possible, but if their teams do not make it to the World Series after that, the decision would be questioned for years.
What does that mean for the Cubs? They play two games against good pitchers rather than aces.
Now, the Giants could send Johnny Cueto to the mound in Game 1 of the NLDS and feel great. He pitched well against the Chicago Cubs this year, going seven innings, scattering five hits and allowing one run. For his career, Cueto is 9-8 with a 3.24 ERA when facing the Cubs. Who follows Cueto? Jeff Samardzija or Matt Moore? Moore would be a good bet as the Cubs hitter have never faced him, but succeeded against Samardzija.
For the Mets, the question is who can go? Seth Lugo has followed Syndergaard during the last weeks of the season. Would starting Game 1 at Wrigley Field against the best home team in the Major Leagues be overwhelming? The same could be said for Robert Gsellman. Sure, they have pitched well in their time this year, but October baseball at Wrigley is a completely different animal. Starting Bartolo Colon may be in the cards, yet the veteran sees more time out of the pen than starting in the post-season.
Lights will be on. Beverages will be flowing. And the stadium will be ready to erupt from the first pitch. If the Chicago Cubs score in the first inning, the energy will snowball into a massive party.