We have seen it happen before. And, it just happened today. Having a long layoff between games can help or hurt the Chicago Cubs. Just look at the ALDS.
All is quiet. No celebrating or singing. Just quiet. In the four days since the last game of the season, the Chicago Cubs have been quiet. Players are resting, spending time with family, and just relaxing. Must be refreshing.
Not having to play in the Wild Card game has advantages. You can set your rotation up in a way that most benefits your club long term. Players can get treatment of injuries and rest muscle. But it is also four days without playing a true baseball game. Rhythm is effected, anxiety can increase. But does that really impact the divisional series, especially Game 1?
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Don’t ask that question to the Texas Rangers, as they were crushed 10-1 by the Toronto Blue Jays today. The Blue Jays came in flying high after a walk-off three-run home run in extra innings, defeating the Baltimore Orioles in the Wild Card Game. The Rangers sent veteran and 2016 All-Star starter Cole Hamels to the mound to start the series. He allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings pitched. Not the way the Rangers hoped to start. It is a punch to the gut.
However, Hamels has not achieved success again the Blue Jays in his career. While he did not face them in 2016, he is 0-2 in four games with an ERA of 6.97 and WHIP of 1.935 against Toronto. He last faced the Blue Jays in 2014, when he was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. He lost at home.
So, maybe it is not the layoff, but the match-up. Since 2012, when the Wild Card game was initiated, only three teams have won the first game of the Divisional Series: 2014 Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants, and the 2015 Houston Astros. Toronto makes four teams in games in that time.
In addition, more interesting is how the Wild Card winners fair in the LCS. Four of eight teams made it two the League Championship Series: 2015 Chicago Cubs, 2014 Royals and Giants, and 2012 St. Louis Cardinals. However, two made the World Series (Again, 2014), and one team won it all (Giants). Hence, anything can happen.
Simply put, 50% of Wild Card Game winners make it to the LCS. Toronto is off to a good start to make sure that happens again.
But, what about the Cubs? Should we be worried? Maybe. Not because of the layoff as much as the match-up.
Jon Lester is a Cy Young Candidate. There is no doubt about that. As much as that it true, his ERA (4.63) against the Giants this season is second-worst. Only team he performed worse against was the New York Mets. That said, Lester’s performance at Wrigley against the Giants in September was spectacular. This late-season success proves to be more insightful rather than the layoff the team enjoyed.
Furthermore, Lester is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA in five games against the Giants. I’ll take my chances.