Two weeks before the postseason opens, the Cubs apparently have no idea who they’d trust to start a playoff game after Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester.
“Everything’s wide open,” manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday, the day after Jason Hammel struggled early again in a start – his September ERA growing to 6.41 four starts in.
With both Hammel and Kyle Hendricks struggling down the stretch, Maddon said a “bullpen day” to cover a playoff start isn’t out of the question.
“I don’t see why it would be,” said Maddon, who lauded the bullpen efforts of long men Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill and Clayton Richard.
The Cubs got 6 2/3 innings out of that left-right-left combination, in that order, Saturday against the Cardinals during a bullpen day – a 5-4 victory after that trio allowed only one run.
After a 2.86 ERA through 17 first-half starts, Hammel has a 5.43 ERA in 12 starts – continuing to struggle long after recovering from a midseason leg injury.
Hendricks, who seemed to right himself after a rough April, so far as produced his worst two months of the season in August (5.40 in six starts) and September (4.91 in three).
The playoffs open Oct. 7, presumably against the Pirates in a loser-out wild-card game with Arrieta pitching. If they survive, they would open a best-of-five division series two days later, presumably, in St. Louis, with Lester as the Game 1 starter and Arrieta in line for a Game 3 start at home.
Games 2 and possibly 4?
“I’m not saying the guys that are pitching right now aren’t going to be those guys [who start],” Maddon said. “We have to iron out a couple things with some of the guys that have been pitching more recently.
“But, I mean, the guys that have been in the bullpen have done a wonderful job, too.
There’s different ways to get it done.”
Never mind the fact that fifth starter Dan Haren pitched seven scoreless innings in a victory at St. Louis two weeks ago.
“I’m not trying to insinuate anything right now,” Maddon said. “I’m just saying there’s different things to be considered.
“Let them play and then we’ll make our decision.”