Sunday, April 21, 2024

Cubs Starting Rotation For NLDS Becoming More Clear

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A hamstring injury, hints dropped by the general manager and recent performance are making the Chicago Cubs starting rotation for their NLDS matchup against the Washington Nationals more clear.

We already know for certain that Jake Arrieta will not pitch in either the first or second game in Washington, as manager Joe Maddon has said he wants to give the righty as much time to rest his hamstring injury as possible. John Lackey is most likely headed to the bullpen, so how’s the rotation going to shake out?

Well, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said on Friday that one of the most important factors is how pitchers have performed recently.

Via CBS Chicago:

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As the Cubs continue to debate how to configure their pitching rotation against the Nationals in the National League Division Series, general manager Jed Hoyer acknowledged that recent form is a crucial factor.

“That’s a fairly important factor,” Hoyer said of recent form in an interview with Danny Parkins and Matt Spiegel and 670 The Score on Friday. “I think when you think about it, like I said, we’ve got a group of guys that could all start Game 1.”

(Jed Hoyer)

Couple that with what Maddon said about Jon Lester and you start to get the idea of what the starting rotation will be against the Nationals. Maddon said the following after Lester’s second-to-last start of the season, after pitching six innings of one-run ball against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Just got to see good health,” Maddon said of Lester on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday. “I think we saw that the last three times out. Last night’s game, he got better in the fifth and sixth inning. He’s done that several times this year, more recently, where he’s gotten better in the latter part of the game. Listen, I have no idea yet what we’re going to do. We have to win one more game (ton clinch the division), and then we’ll set it up. Jon Lester is a proven commodity, man, so I’m not worried about him.”

(Joe Maddon)

That last sentence is the most telling because despite Lester’s struggles all year long, Maddon remains confident in the veteran who last postseason started Game 1 of the NLDS, NLCS and World Series for the Cubs.

However, Lester’s last two starts are extremely encouraging for all Cubs fans. He had the six-inning outing in St. Louis and then on Saturday he pitched five shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds. Lester was great against the Reds, only allowing four hits, while striking out seven and maybe most importantly walking none.

But will he start Game 1 on Friday?

Well, if you go by Hoyer’s comments the answer would be Kyle Hendricks and at least some local media tend to agree.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports was on 670 The Score earlier on Monday and he too guessed that Hendricks would be the Game 1 starter for the Cubs.

Hendricks is no stranger to the bright lights of postseason baseball, starting the two most important games in franchise history. He was masterful in Game 6 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers and he started Game 7 of the World Series too, pitching well before getting the quick hook by Maddon. This season didn’t begin how Hendricks would have liked, but after missing a little more than a month on the disabled list, Hendricks has returned to being one of the best pitchers in MLB.

In his 13 starts following the All-Star Game, Hendricks had a 2.19 ERA, and allowed one or no earned runs in eight of those 13 games. Remember the concerns about Hendricks only throwing 84-85 mph earlier this season? Well, that’s back up.

So, after Hendricks and Lester, Jose Quintana would start Game 3 at Wrigley Field and if needed Jake Arrieta for Game 4.

We’ll find out for sure what Maddon and the Cubs have decided on Wednesday.

There is a quirk in the schedule that allows the Game 2 starter to pitch Game 5 on normal rest. Yet, the Cubs may have the advantage because it sounds more likely that Max Scherzer won’t be on the mound on Friday after his own hamstring injury in his last start of the regular season.

If that happens, the Cubs will only see him once in the series instead of having to face one of the most dominating pitchers in the game twice.

Again, the series begins Friday, with Game 1 starting at 6:30 p.m.

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