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Chicago Cubs: John Lackey, chip on his shoulder, is the man for the job

Apr 18, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey (41) reacts after striking out St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter (not pictured) to end the fifth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 18, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey (41) reacts after striking out St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter (not pictured) to end the fifth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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In bringing veteran John Lackey into the fold last winter, the Chicago Cubs prepared for a deep October run. Tuesday night’s Game Four of the NLDS gives him a chance to deliver just that.

Following the Chicago Cubs’ heartbreaking, up-and-down 13-inning loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game Three, there appeared to be no sense of panic in the visitors’ clubhouse at AT&T Park.

"“This is October baseball,” Jake Arrieta said. “We know games are going to be very closely contested. [The Giants] are no slouch with their pedigree in the playoffs. We have our work cut out for us.”"

The 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner drove in three of Chicago’s five runs in the loss, limiting San Francisco to a pair of runs over six innings of work. That theme – pitchers carrying the offense – emanated throughout the first three games of the series.

A struggling offense

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  • Joe Maddon‘s club scored 11 runs to the Giants’ eight thus far – with six of those coming from the bats of Kyle Hendricks, Travis Wood, and Arrieta. Outside of the pitchers, Chicago batters are sitting at a mere .188 mark in the series, led by the ice-cold bat of Anthony Rizzo.

    The Cubs’ first baseman is hitless (0-for-13) with three strikeouts and no walks. Across four career postseason series, Rizzo carries a dismal .133/.188/.267 slash-line, leaving a big hole in the middle of the Chicago lineup.

    With the offense struggling, it’s been up to the pitching staff – a major strength of this year’s Cubs team – to carry the load. After tossing Hendricks, Arrieta, and Jon Lester to open the series, Maddon will get another taste of experience on the hill in Tuesday’s pivotal Game Four.

    Big games nothing new for Lackey

    Enter Lackey, a grizzled veteran who has long been a go-to guy in these big games. He’s made almost two dozen postseason appearances in his big-league career, pitching to a 3.11 earned run average. His bulldog mentality has been on full display this season, especially as the postseason neared.

    "“I feel like there are some guys that are better in bigger games. Over the years, I found that you’re going to feel something different. You’re going to be a little more amped up. And to fight that sometimes can be counterproductive. If you embrace it and use it, it can take you to another level.’’"

    By now, Chicago Cubs fans are well aware of the Giant’s 10-0 run in elimination games heading into Tuesday’s contest. With a team that many believe are destined to end that run, Chicago may have a touch of fate on their side.

    In Game Seven of the 2002 World Series, the last time San Francisco lost an elimination game in the postseason, the Anaheim Angels turned to none other than then 23-year-old rookie John Lackey to get the job done.

    Since then, Lackey earned a second ring with the Boston Red Sox back in 2013 over the St. Louis Cardinals, earning his postseason stripes with the organization now-Cubs president of baseball operations built from the ground up.

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    Even with a pair of titles to his name, Lackey isn’t satisfied with anything just yet. Since he inked his two-year deal with Chicago last winter, there’s been just one thing on his mind: bringing a championship to the North Side.

    "“From Day 1, we have been talking about winning the World Series,’’ Lackey said. “That’s the goal. We want to be the last one standing, and that has not changed.’’"

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