If it all comes down to Game 3 this week, the Cubs know Jon Lester will deliver.
The highly irregular 2020 season has come to a close and everyone’s eyes are on the postseason. The Chicago Cubs clinched the National League Central division with a record of 34-26 and enter the postseason as the third seed in the NL. This postseason is very different from what we are used to with its expanded format, and this season the North Siders will be facing the Miami Marlins, who are the six-seed in the NL to begin their October run.
It should be noted that this will be the first time that the Cubs and the Marlins are going to meet since the disaster that was the 2003 NLCS. This series is a chance for Chicago to avenge that heartbreaking loss from nearly two decades ago and to put the remaining members of the 2016 core on the road to winning another World Series. When it comes to looking at this series and beyond, decisions need to be made to ensure that another run like 2016 is possible.
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One of these decisions is selecting starting pitching on a game-to-game basis for the entirety of the postseason. We always knew it would be Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish in the first two games – although we were unsure of the order. Early this week, David Ross named Hendricks his Game 1 starter and Darvish his Game 2 guy.
That’s hardly a shock. Hendricks turned in yet another successful season this year and has proven himself worthy of getting the ball in October time and time again. Given Darvish’s status as a legitimate Cy Young candidate in the Senior Circuit, his getting the nod makes sense as well.
For a brief time after the announcement, we were left wondering – who gets the ball in a potential Game 3? As if there were any doubt.
The clear-cut answer was and is veteran pitcher Jon Lester. There is no denying the three-time World Series champion and five-time All-Star has experienced his share of struggles in 2020 – even admitting he lost confidence at one point. All told, Lester posted a career-worst 5.16 ERA across 12 games started and a total of 61 innings pitched.
Despite these stats, the 36-year-old southpaw’s experience in big games give him a clear advantage – one that could help him make up for a pedestrian regular-season showing. Lester has been a prominent part of several postseason runs and by now he knows how to handle the pressure. Besides that, his presence as a veteran in the clubhouse would be especially helpful to the younger members of this ballclub.
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No one knew all this more than Lester’s former batterymate and the current Chicago skipper. He took all this into account when naming him the Game 3 starter. It will surely be interesting to see how the lefty does in what could be his final games with the team. Considering the years of postseason experience Lester has garnered over the years, hopefully things pan out and he turns back the clock one more time.