The Rundown: Cubs’ Road to World Series Starts Today, Hendricks Gets Game 1 Assignment, Road Teams Won Three of Four Yesterday

Road teams won three of four Wild Card games yesterday, and the Indians, A’s, and Twins are staring at possible home elimination games today. Hopefully David Ross and his charges are attuned to the importance of getting off to a good start. The pressure is really on in a three-game series when you lose Game 1, especially at home. If you watched yesterday, mental gaffes cost at least two teams a possible chance to win.

But let’s not talk about potential pitfalls, however. Queue the postseason hype video!

The North Siders started the season as the hottest team in baseball, winning 10 of their first 13 games before a series with the Cardinals was cancelled because the St. Louis organization went into COVID-19 quarantine. When the Cubs resumed their schedule against the Indians, they quickly won two at Progressive Field and another at home against the Brewers before starting a stretch where they dropped 15 of their next 25, falling back to .500.

A decent finish gave Chicago the NL Central championship with a  34-26 record, a couple wins better than the 31 most analysts had predicted before the start of the season. A relatively dormant offense found its swagger in the Cubs final series against the White Sox, in which Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras led the team to 10-0 and 10-8 wins sandwiching a 9-5 loss. Those 25 runs scored in three games were more than Chicago scored in its previous nine games combined.

So which team will we see against the Marlins starting at 1pm today? Let’s hope it’s the team that tends to score in bunches when they heat up. Still, pitching will be the key to the series, and the Cubs will kick things off today with Kyle Hendricks facing Sandy Alcantara.

The extra round of playoffs this year makes a lot of the opening matchups feel like trap series, and yesterday’s outcomes serve as proof. The winner of Game 1 holds a huge advantage in a three-game set, so it’s important to set the tone early. Hendricks has a 2.98 ERA in 11 postseason appearances and is no stranger to key games, as he took the mound in the 2016 NLCS clincher as well as Game 7 of the World Series in Cleveland.

Nobody wants to see the Cubs facing elimination on Thursday.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Ross announced his rotation yesterday and Yu Darvish will get the start on Thursday’s Game 2. If necessary, Jon Lester will take the bump for Game 3 on Friday.
  • The first-year manager feels like he really has co-aces in Hendricks and Darvish.
  • This will be the first playoff matchup for Ross as a manager. As a well-seasoned leader during his playing days, Ross is probably not feeling the jitters one would expect.
  • Though many fans lost faith in the team’s core players this season, Ross never did.
  • “Like some sort of sporadic minor plague, the Marlins rise from obscurity once in a while to make the postseason and win the whole damn thing.” Evan Altman wrote that yesterday and I had to grab it verbatim. Anyway, here’s how our Editor-in-Chief views the CHI-MIA series matchup.
  • If the Cubs’ bats have finally woken from their season-long slumber that could spell trouble for the rest of the National League.
  • Theo Epstein is very bullish on Craig Kimbrel right now. The former closer had a rough start, but was easily the most dominant reliever in baseball in September. Dirty Craig struck out 13 of the 24 batters he has faced this month.
  • One of the strangest of oddities in this already unique postseason is just how many of the top starting pitchers in the league this year did not make the largest playoff field in big-league history. The Cubs’ path to the NLCS goes through the Marlins and either the Braves or Reds and turning around rotations on short rest probably isn’t optimal, so deeper rotations will give teams that advance to the second round a slight edge. If the Cubs make it past Miami, they probably won’t see Max Fried or Trevor Bauer in the first game of the Divisional series.
  • If you’re unsure where to watch the Cubs this week, here’s the latest TV schedule.

Odds & Sods

Season tickets were truly works of art back in the days before radio. By the looks of this image it appears one ticket lasts a whole season because there’s no game date or opposing team. Note the wording “Thrice Record Breakers,” which I’m assuming refers to the Cubs exceeding 100 wins in each of 1906 (116), 1907 (107), and 1909 (104).

Apropos of Nothing

I watched the debate last night instead of baseball and I will never do that again. How embarrassing for this country, as we have now devolved into chaotic, made-for-TV nonsense in the way we represent ourselves politically to the world. The candidates may as well sell sponsorships and hire Vince McMahon to moderate. Jason Kipnis shared a similar point of view on social media.

Postseason Potables

Lucas Giolito took a perfect game into the 7th inning, and the White Sox rediscovered their mojo that has been missing since mid-September in beating the A’s 4-1 yesterday. They’ll go for the sweep in Oakland at 2pm CT today. Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 1.99) takes the mound for the Pale Hose and the A’s counter with Chris Bassitt (5-2, 2.29).

The Twins have now lost a remarkable 17 straight playoff games after the Astros drubbed them 4-1 yesterday.  The game was tied 1-1 heading into the 9th when the wheels came off for Minnesota. Sergio Romo walked José Altuve with the bases loaded to give Houston a 2-1 lead, then Michael Brantley hit a two-run single to pad the lead. All of it came after a throwing error by Jorge Polanco with two outs kept the inning alive.

A 7th-inning two-run homer by Rays center fielder Manuel Margot iced the Blue Jays yesterday, giving Blake Snell and Tampa’s elite bullpen more than enough support to turn away Toronto 3-1. Snell had nine strikeouts in 5.2 innings. Tyler Glasnow (5-1, 4.08) will attempt to give the Rays the home sweep this evening. The Blue Jays will counter with Hyun-Jin Ryu (5-2, 2.69).

Shane Bieber may win the AL Cy Young Award this season, but last night Gerrit Cole was the better of the two as the Yankees dusted the Indians 12-3. Cole had 13 strikeouts while pitching seven innings of two-run ball, and shortstop Gleyber Torres led New York’s offensive onslaught with a 4-for-4 game that included a home run and three RBI. It’s Masahiro Tanaka (3-3, 3.56) against Carlos Carrasco (3-4, 2.91)  at Progressive Field tonight as New York looks to advance to the divisional round.

How About That!

Bassitt was originally drafted by the White Sox and is especially looking forward to today’s game.

Hall-of-Fame shortstop Barry Larkin says the Reds’ rotation is a modern-day version of the famed Nasty Boys.

There will be eight playoff games on television today. Let’s call it September Madness! What a time to be alive.

Brewers players don’t feel like they’re the pushovers everyone thinks they are and expect to give the Dodgers a tough series.

If the Dodgers fail to win the World Series this year Los Angeles, fans may feel as cursed as any fanbase ever. Back in their Brooklyn days, the Bums were perennial bridesmaids of the Cardinals and Yankees.

The league’s video replay process overturned 42.2% of reviewed plays this year.

Sliding Into Home

Is it just me, or does it seem like it’s been a million years since the Cubs played a playoff game? Yes, we have become a little spoiled, haven’t we?

Extra Innings

Twins fans know playoff doom and gloom better than anybody.

They Said It

  • “I think just watching the guys get in, and the looks on their faces in what they’ve accomplished, and just their attitude —and you saw them swinging it good Sunday — there’s a sense of, like, ‘OK, now we go.’ They know how to play in this environment, and they expect a lot out of themselve,. They know what it’s like playing pitch-to-pitch, at-bat-to-at-bat in this environment and how crazy this time of year can be.” – David Ross
  • “[Kimbrel’s] stuff was explosive and as good as we’ve seen all year long. The arc of his season is putting him in a really good place to, I think, be a dominant guy in October.” – Theo Epstein

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones – Gameday is here. Strap it on!

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