The Cubs face elimination with a loss to the Mets on Wednesday in the National League Championship Series, and manager Joe Maddon made some minor tweaks to the lineup, starting right-handed hitting David Ross at catcher and moving Javier Baez up to seventh.
The Mets lead the best of seven NLCS, 3-0, and can earn a trip to the World Series with a win at Wrigley Field. The Cubs will face lefty Steven Matz, which could be good. In the postseason so far, Chicago batters were hitting .276 against left-handed pitching. Ross batted .176 this season, and .156 against left-handed pitchers. Miguel Montero, who batted .248 in the regular season, hit .234 against lefties and .250 against right-handers. Montero was 2-for-20 in the postseason so far, and 1-for-7 in the LCS.
The Cubs need to generate some offense. They are hitless in 25 at-bats leading off an inning. Anthony Rizzo was 2-for-10 and Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber were both 2-for-11 in the three LCS games so far. Soler was 2-for-8 with one home run. Schwarber has five playoff homers so far, and is one shy of tying the Rays’ Evan Longoria for the most postseason blasts by a rookie. Longoria hit six in 2008.
The Cubs have scored 16 runs at Wrigley Field in the postseason, 15 of which have come via the home run. The only run the Cubs have scored at home in the playoffs came on Hammel’s RBI single in the Division Series.
Here’s the lineup:
— Carrie Muskat
If the Cubs need inspiration to rally from a 3-0 deficit in the National League Championship Series against the Mets, they can look to Theo Epstein, who knows it can be done.
In 2004 when Epstein was the Red Sox GM, his team trailed the Yankees, 3-0, in the American League Championship Series. Boston was outscored, 32-16, in the first three games, yet won Game 4 in 12 innings, and ended up winning the series, then sweeping St. Louis in the World Series.
“It’s been done before and we can do it,” said Epstein, now president of baseball operations for the Cubs. “Nine different times this year we’ve won four or more games in a row. We’ll just do it a 10th time, one at a time.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon has emphasized one-game winning streaks all season. Wednesday’s Game 4 is no exception.
“Show up and win a ballgame tomorrow,” Epstein said. “If we show up and win tomorrow, we’re dangerous. Trust me. It’s been done before, rumor has it. We can do it. We’ve had nine winning streaks of four or more games this year, so we get hot, we get really hot, we can do it. We just have to show up and win tomorrow.”
The Mets opened the 3-0 lead over the Cubs in the NLCS with a 5-2 win on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. After the game, Maddon said he would approach Wednesday’s Game 4 as he has every other Wednesday game. His message is: Win.
Since Spring Training, Maddon has preached that he wants the same effort on March 21 in a Cactus League game as the players would give July 21 or Oct. 21. There will be no pre-game pep talk. Maddon doesn’t believe in team meetings. He holds three over the course of a season: one prior to the start of spring drills, another at the All-Star break, and one more before the postseason begins.
“From my perspective, it’s business as usual tomorrow,” Maddon said. “Come out, get ready to play, and just take it from there.”
The Mets’ young pitching has quieted the Cubs’ young hitters, but New York also has been aggressive on the base paths and taken advantage of every opening possible. The Mets scored the tie-breaking run Tuesday on a wild pitch, for example.
“Things bounce your way when you play good, and we’ve definitely gotten outplayed these first three games,” Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t outplay them the next four.”
The Cubs did overcome the odds to get to the postseason. They beat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game. They did topple the powerful Cardinals in the NL Division Series. They know about the Red Sox’s history.
“Keep battling,” rookie Kyle Schwarber said of the Cubs mantra now. “We’re going to keep battling until the end. It’s happened before, so it can – we’re really looking forward to getting back out to the ballpark [Wednesday]. … It’s a little frustrating, but we need to move past it and keep going. It’s been done before, and this team has done some special things throughout this whole season. We don’t count ourselves out by any means.”
Tuesday’s loss is behind them.
“There’s confidence in this clubhouse in everybody,” Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo said. “We just gotta keep playing baseball. One New York team has blown a 3-0 lead, let’s make it the other New York team. That’s the way we’re going to look at it. That’s the only thing we can do is be optimistic, and come out and play baseball.”
— Carrie Muskat
It’s the postseason and the Cubs face the Mets in Game 3 on Tuesday, but Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo took time to visit patients at Lurie’s Childrens Hospital earlier in the day. Rizzo signed autographs, took photos, and brought hats, teddy bears, and “W” rally towels (and hugs) to the patients and their families.
Last Friday, when the Cubs were in New York, Lurie Children’s Hospital honored Rizzo as the 2015 winner of the Champion’s For Children Award in recognition of his commitment to the health and well-being of the patients. He received the actual award on Tuesday.
Kyle Hendricks gets the start Tuesday night at Wrigley Field as the Cubs face the Mets in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series. The forecast will be delightful for October with temps projected in the mid 60s. Here’s the lineup:
Hendricks won both of his career starts against the Mets, posting a 0.69 ERA in those outings. He started Game 2 of the NLDS against the Cardinals, and did not get a decision. He gave up three runs over 4 2/3 innings in taht game, and each of the runs came on solo home runs.
*Jorge Soler is back in the lineup after not playing in Game 2. Soler was starting in right. He’s batting .455 in the postseason.
*Daniel Murphy has homered in each of his last four games, and was batting .357 (10-for-28) with five home runs and eight RBI this postseason. Murphy will look to join Carlos Beltran (2004 Astros) as the only players to homer in five consecutive postseason games. Murphy’s five home runs is a record for a Mets player in a single postseason. He is also tied with Mike Piazza for most career postseason home runs as a Met (five).
Here’s the Mets lineup:
Jason Hammel will start Game 4 of the National League Championship Series for the Cubs, manager Joe Maddon announced Monday.
The Mets lead the best of seven NLCS 2-0, with Game 3 scheduled for Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs while the Mets will counter with Jacob deGrom.
Hammel did not get a decision in Game 4 of the NL Division Series, and was pulled after three innings against the Cardinals. Even though Hammel is penciled in, he will be available in relief if needed.
The Cubs do not want to bring Jon Lester back on short rest. The lefty started Game 1 on Saturday, and threw 107 pitches over 6 2/3 innings.
“We’re going to play it straight as of right now,” Maddon said Monday of the rotation. “To push Jon to that point, I don’t think we want to do that. We refrained from doing that in the previous round and it played out pretty well, so we’ll do it again. We could always change but as of right now, we’re not thinking [about Lester starting] at all.”
This will be Hammel’s fifth postseason start, and first in the LCS. He is 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in his career, including this season.
— Carrie Muskat
Kyle Hendricks will start Game 3 of the National League Championship Series for the Cubs, and Jason Hammel could start Game 4 but manager Joe Maddon said Sunday he’s also considering having a “bullpen day” when the series shifts to Wrigley Field. One thing the Cubs will not do is have Jon Lester come back on short rest and start Game 4, Maddon said.
“We’re still working on Game 4 but we have Kyle definitely in Game 3,” Maddon said.
Neither Hendricks or Hammel got a decision in their NL Division Series starts. Hammel was pulled after three innings in Game 4, while Hendricks gave up three runs over 4 2/3 innings, and all coming on three solo home runs.
Hammel was available in relief if needed for Game 2 Sunday and also Game 3 on Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
“More than likely, [Hammel] will pitch Game 4 but I still want to talk to him and play it all the way through,” Maddon said.
The only other option would be using Travis Wood, Clayton Richard or Trevor Cahill out of the ‘pen.
“We could go with a bullpen [day] if you chose to,” Maddon said.
Lester started Game 1 on Saturday, and threw 107 pitches over 6 2/3 innings.
“I’m not planning on that right now at all,” Maddon said of having Lester start Wednesday.
*Sunday’s game time temperature was expected to be colder than Saturday’s 48-degree game time temp. Javier Baez, Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler all wore balaclavas over their heads to try and stay warm.
“They were fine,” Maddon said. “Starlin, before the game, told me he’ll be cold when the game is over. He played really well. I talked to him on the bench, when I went out to the mound, and he was fine. He was not worried about it.”
Soler hasn’t done well when the temperature is below 50 degrees.
“It’s going to be less than 50 today, so maybe it’s a good call [Soler isn’t starting],” Maddon said of the rookie, who was not in the starting lineup. “We’ll keep him warm until we need him.”
— Carrie Muskat
Chris Coghlan, who homered off the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard, will start in right field Sunday night when the Cubs take on the Mets in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series. Here’s the lineup:
*Kyle Schwarber is looking to become the second rookie to hit five home runs in the postseason. Only Evan Longoria (six home runs in 2008) has more than Schwarber’s four. He’s also looking to become the first Cub to homer in four straight playoff games. Only he and Alex Gonzalez (2003) have homered in three in a row for the Cubs. The last player to homer in four straight postseason games was Evan Longoria (2008)
*Jake Arrieta faced Syndergaard when the Mets rookie made his ML debut in May. Arrieta got the win. The Cubs ace has been better on the road (14-1, 1.49 ERA in 19 starts) this season than at home (10-5, 2.20 ERA in 16 starts). Those numbers include the postseason.
*Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel will start in the National League Championship Series, but manager Joe Maddon wasn’t ready on Saturday to announce which game each right-hander would pitch in.
Jon Lester opened the best of seven series on Saturday night and Jake Arrieta was scheduled to pitch Game 2 on Sunday. The series shifts to Wrigley Field for Games 3-4-5, starting Tuesday. Neither pitcher got a decision in their NL Division Series starts. Hammel was pulled after three innings in Game 4, while Hendricks gave up three runs over 4 2/3 innings, and all coming on three solo home runs.
Maddon said he wanted to wait until pitching coach Chris Bosio had a chance to talk to both pitchers before announcing how they would handle the rotation.
*Kyle Schwarber batted second in the NL Wild Card game and the first game of the NLDS but Maddon then inserted Jorge Soler into the No. 2 spot for the next three postseason games. On Saturday, Schwarber was batting second again because the Cubs wanted to give the left-handed hitting rookie as many at-bats as possible against Mets right-hander Matt Harvey.
Schwarber batted .278 against right-handed pitchers this season, hitting 14 of his 16 homers off southpaws.
Maddon was just hoping the Cubs don’t try to do anything different than they have so far.
“I don’t want us to change anything — just go out there and keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Maddon said. “All of their pitchers are good. They have great starting pitching. We have some pretty good offensive players. Go play. Don’t try to do anything differently. Just play.”
*Maddon was battling a raspy voice and a cold, which he caught celebrating after the Cubs won Game 4 of the NLDS at Wrigley Field.
“It’s a head cold, and after the game on the field, talking to everybody, it was so loud, and I was trying to talk so loud,” Maddon said. “I get a head cold every year in October and November. I’ve been that guy.”
Maybe it’s a playoff cold.
— Carrie Muskat
Jon Lester will face the Mets’ Matt Harvey Saturday night in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series. First pitch was scheduled for 7:07 p.m. Chicago time. Here’s the lineup:
*Lester has a 1-3 record and 3.86 ERA in six career LCS appearances, including four starts. He was 11-12 with a 3.34 ERA in his first season with the Cubs.
*Javier Baez is starting in place of shortstop Addison Russell, who is not on the Cubs NLCS roster because of a strained left hamstring.
*The Mets belted 102 home runs after the break, tops in the NL, including 22 by Yoenis Cespedes. The Cubs were second in the NL with 94 in the second half, led by young sluggers Anthony Rizzo (15), Kyle Schwarber (15) and Kris Bryant (14).
Chicago put on a power display in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against St. Louis, belting six home runs by six different players. The Cardinals boasted the best pitching staff in the NL, but the Mets enter the NLCS riding power arms in Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergard, and Matt Harvey. This could be fun. Game 1 will be Saturday at Citi Field. If you’re sitting in the outfield sections, bring a glove.
“We have hit home runs, and that’s when we do our best work, I cannot deny that,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Friday. “We work on other factions of the game — everybody does, it’s not just us. It’s just a matter of execution during the course of the game.
“We’re a high strikeout team, and that really tends to lead you away from good situational hitting in general because of the swing and miss,” Maddon said. “We work on it. You get to this particular moment, and you don’t know at what level the mental acuity will be at whereas a guy may be able to do something he hasn’t done at this point. I believe in that. I do believe in that.”
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs set the 25-man NLCS roster in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Mets.
Here is a look at the Chicago Cubs National League Championship Series roster:
28-Kyle Hendricks, RHP
33-Clayton Richard, LHP
34-Jon Lester, LHP
37-Travis Wood, LHP
39-Jason Hammel, RHP
46-Pedro Strop, RHP
49-Jake Arrieta, RHP
52-Justin Grimm, RHP
53-Trevor Cahill, RHP
56-Hector Rondon, RHP
57-Fernando Rodney, RHP
|POSITION PLAYERS (14)
11-Tommy La Stella