Well, as they say they beautiful thing about baseball is that there isn’t a lot of time to linger because there’s another game tomorrow. Well, I mean, that’s probably not how they say it, but you get it. Sadly, the problems that were pretty evident last night aren’t going to go away tonight. You can’t run from your problems, people. Remember this.
So the first thing to look at is the Dodgers starter, Rich Hill. I’m going to completely leave any sense of what Prospectus is all about here, because I illogically hate Rich Hill. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know why. If you don’t, it boils down to one pitch. Game Three, 2007, Wrigley Field, A first-pitch fastball to Chris Young. The only thing he could hit. The only thing he was looking for. That series was over right there. And when asked about why he threw Chris Young the only pitch he could hit and was looking for and sucked all the energy out of Wrigley, Hill’s answer was, “I don’t know.” I. Don’t. KNOW?!
Hill was a mental waif back then, so you’ll excuse me if I don’t buy into the whole “HE’S SO INTENSE NOW IT MEANS SO MUCH TO HIM” Baseball Dave Grohl act that he has now. It’s an act.
Anyway, rant over.
But yeah, Hill was a problem for the Cubs last year in this very spot, a playoff game in Dodger Stadium. He threw six shutout innings that night. Obviously, as the Cubs don’t look likely to be able to win games late for various reasons, that won’t do tonight.
Hill’s plan of attack is hardly a secret. He throws a fastball and a curveball, and he throws the curve ball A LOT. Like 40 percent of the time. Sometimes half the time. And it’s a big curve. You won’t find curves that move as much as Hill’s six inches down and ten inches horizontally. Because both the fastball and curve start on the same plane, they can be hard to distinguish from each other until it’s too late. Hill only throws 88-89, but after that curve it can look like 108.
So with the Cubs probable lineup, who can handle that curve? Well, Kyle Schwarber was the best, except he’s not likely to play tonight. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell were next on the list. Then it’s Tommy La Stella, who also probably won’t start (though it’s an idea). Whoever is in there is going to have to figure out how to do damage on a curve, because they’re going to see a lot of them.
For the Cubs, it’s clear now they have to get six or seven innings from their starters to have their best chance of winning. Two of their three wins against the Nationals saw their starter get into the 6th at least. And then there was that one win where everyone went to Strawberry Fields. But what can the Cubs expect out of Jon Lester with three days rest after his relief appearance in Game Four against Washington? He only threw 55 pitches, which would be something of a side-session, but we simply haven’t seen Lester do this. And much like Jose Quintana, it wouldn’t be a shock if he’s really good but it would be something of a surprise if he can carry that into the 6th or 7th with the altered between-starts schedule.
Luckily for Lester, the one Dodger who has given him fits won’t be playing, and that’s Cory Seager. He’s completely muzzled Justin Turner in his career, with Turner hitting .050 against him in 21 ABs.
But of course, the big questions are what happens whenever Lester leaves the game. Given the Dodgers’ patience-level at the plate, the Cubs pen has to start throwing strikes. But they haven’t done it consistently all season. You would imagine Mike Montgomery is down today, and John Lackey likely too. While he coughed up the winning homer last night, I wouldn’t shy away from Hector Rondon just yet. If only because there might not be another choice. You can see Pedro Strop getting a lot of run, but as we know that can go anywhere. If the Cubs are leading, expect Wade Davis to be needed for anywhere from four-to-six outs. Maybe we’ll find out if Carl Edwards, Jr. is permanently broken as well.
Lead photo courtesy Jayne Kamin-Oncea—USA Today Sports