In case you missed it, here’s how Wednesday went down:
The Cubs got off to an electric start against Pirates ace Gerrit Cole when Dexter Fowler singled, stole second, and was driven in by Kyle Schwarber’s base hit. In the top of the 3rd, that same duo came through again. Fowler’s second single of the game was followed by a Schwarber monster home run which put the Cubs up 3-0. Dexter Fowler hit a homer of his own in the 5th, and the pair finished a combined 5 for 7 with all four RBIs and all four runs scored.
Jake Arrieta was filthy as expected. His complete game shutout featured 11 strikeouts without a single walk, and only 4 hits allowed. He did plunk a couple Pirate hitters unintentionally, but the Pirates took offense and retaliated in the 7th. When Pirates reliever Tony Watson hit Jake Arrieta with a fastball, words were exchanged and the benches cleared. Arrieta seemed rather unfazed by the altercation though; He stole second base and pitched a near perfect final 3 innings.
With Wednesday’s dominant 4-0 win, the Cubs move on to face their next challenge: The St. Louis Cardinals. To say these two franchises have a storied history would be an understatement. They’ve been playing each other since 1885, and Friday will be the 2,362nd all time matchup between these clubs. However, it will be their first ever postseason game against each other, and it’s going to be special. A historic rivalry that has been rather lopsided for several years now features two of the best teams in the league. Can the cinderella-story Cubs who won just 73 games a year ago overcome the long-time juggernaut Cardinals? The evidence says yes, they can. If things go right.
In game one, Cubs lefty Jon Lester squares off against the Cardinals’ John Lackey. Lester’s postseason track record was a major reason that the Cubs unloaded 155 million dollars to sign him, and his succeeding in the postseason is crucial to the Cubs. If it means anything, Lester won a 2013 world series game in St. Louis as a member of the Red Sox. On the offensive side, there are three Cubs who have done particularly well against Lackey in their careers: Jorge Soler (4/8, 3 2B), Austin Jackson (5/13, 2 2B) and Chris Coghlan (8/17). We won’t see all three of these outfielders in the lineup, but it provides a strong bench in a game where a pinch hit opportunity could be a turning point.
Unlike most people, I expect this series to be relatively high scoring. (Besides when Arrieta pitches on Monday, of course.) The Cubs have roughed up both Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn twice this season, and Jaime Garcia has been inconsistent of late. On the other side, the return of catcher and leader Yadier Molina could be the offensive spark that the Cardinals need.
If you believe in momentum, the Cubs have an edge. They’ve won their last nine games including the Wild Card game, and they’ve been playing with more enthusiasm and swagger than any team in the game. The Cardinals, on the other hand, closed out the regular season by getting shutout by the Atlanta Braves for an entire three game series. While the Cardinals took the season series 11 games to 8, the Cubs won 6 of their final 9 matchups.
The beautiful thing about the postseason is it’s total unpredictability. You can analyze every statistic down to the core, but ultimately anything can happen. This should be a series for the ages. Let’s Go Cubs!!!!!
Game times and dates for this series as follows:
Friday in St. Louis 5:45 PM CST
Saturday in St. Louis 4:37 PM CST
Monday in Chicago 5:07 PM CST
(IF NECESSARY) Tuesday in Chicago 3:37 PM CST
(IF NECESSARY) Thursday in St. Louis 3:37 PM CST