It is hard to believe but yesterday was the first time that the Chicago Cubs clinched a playoff series at Wrigley Field in their long history. They didn’t have to overcome a 3-0 series deficit to beat their arch nemesis like the 2004 Red Sox but yesterday had to feel similar for Cubs fans as it did for Red Sox fans eleven years ago. The St. Louis Cardinals have been to the Chicago Cubs what the New York Yankees were to the Boston Red Sox before 2004. Both teams have and still are going through long championship droughts and were always overshadowed by their rivals, who have the most World Series championships in their respective leagues. The Red Sox still had to win the World Series in 2004 after dispatching the Yankees to end their championship drought and were able to do that and have won two more championships since then. Time will tell if the Chicago Cubs will be able to do that this season and future seasons.
One thing is for sure, they are definitely set up well for the National League Championship series. Another favorable outcome that came out of yesterday besides the Cubs first series clinching win at Wrigley is that they won their series fairly early compared to the other playoff series in baseball and now have three days off before their next game on Saturday. This means that the Cubs can set up their rotation in a way that is very beneficial to them. The Cubs can now start Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta in game 1 and start the other in game 2. If the NLCS goes 7 games, the Cubs will be able to start Arrieta and Lester in five of the seven games. Arrieta is the best pitcher in baseball this year and Jon Lester has the most playoff experience and championship rings out of the pitchers remaining in this year’s postseason. There aren’t many teams in baseball that can match up with that combination in a short series.
The Cubs will know their opponent after tomorrow’s game 5 at Dodger Stadium between the Mets and the Dodgers. The pitching matchup will be Jacob deGrom vs. Zack Greinke. Jacob deGrom was able to defeat Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw in game 1 at Dodger Stadium but the Mets lost to Greinke in game two. Since the Dodgers are at home with an experienced pitcher on the mound, the edge goes to them to win game 5 and the series. If that happens, it is unlikely that the Dodgers will be able to pitch either Kershaw or Greinke in game 1 of the National League Championship series. Kershaw pitched game 1 of the National League Division series on Friday and game 4 last night on tuesday, which was only three days rest and he would only have 3 days rest between game 4 of the NLDS and game 1 of the NLCS. It is not likely that the Dodgers would ask Kershaw to pitch on short rest back to back. Greinke wouldn’t be able to start game 1 on Saturday or game 2 on Sunday because he is starting game 5 on Thursday. The Dodgers don’t have a reliable number three pitcher like the Cubs do with Jason Hammel so they won’t be able to set up their pitching the way they want to if they are able to beat the Mets.
If the Mets win game 5, they won’t be too worried about how they set up their rotation because of their depth between their number 1 and number 4 starters. They have Harvey, Syndergaard, Matz and deGrom. All of them are very solid pitchers now but all of them are very inexperienced in the playoffs and their best days are ahead of them. Jacob deGrom was very good in game 1 against the Dodgers but the other three have struggled at times against a Dodgers’ lineup that doesn’t pack the same punch as the one they would face in the NLCS. The Mets are a team of the future when it comes to their starting pitching and it is unlikely that the depth of their four starters can match up against the 1-2 punch of Arrieta and Lester in five games out of seven this year but maybe in future years.
The Cubs have a favorable path to the World Series. They will start the NLCS on the road whether it is in Los Angeles or New York but their rotation setup gives them the advantage over both the Dodgers and the Mets this season.