Third Cubs starter in playoffs “absolutely fluid”

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It’s Jake Arrieta in the wild-card game, then if they make it Jon Lester in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Then?

Uh, stay tuned.

Jason Hammel, who has been the Cubs’ third starter this season, flubbed his latest chance to lock up a playoff start Saturday. Hammel went four-plus innings and allowed three earned runs. His first four innings were strong but he was charged with all three runs during a fifth when he retired no batters, continuing a second half that has thrown his playoff status into doubt.

“He pitched so well. All of a sudden everything kind of hit the fan there real quickly, like five hits in a row so you can see how good he can be,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We haven’t even had that discussion. I don’t know.”

So, that situation is still fluid?

“It is absolutely fluid,” Maddon said.

What about Rizzo?

Maddon has made sure to rest most of his core players. Anthony Rizzo hasn’t been one of them, playing in 154 of the Cubs’ 155 games.

Maddon said he’d talk to Rizzo about getting a break but didn’t sound too concerned about his first baseman’s energy. As Maddon mentioned, the Cubs will have two days off between the end of the regular season and the one-game playoff, giving Rizzo a breather.

“Before you get to the game, to our little Super Bowl that we’ve got going on, before you get to that game he’s going to have plenty of rest,” Maddon said. “I don’t want to take him out of a rhythm of sorts, and maybe get him out of a game sooner as we get closer to the end.”

Vote for Kris

Kris Bryant gave the Cubs their first lead of the series with a run-scoring single in the first. It was his 99th RBI of the season and prompted Maddon to throw him into the mix for MVP along with Rizzo and Arrieta.

“Everybody’s talking about Riz in the MVP conversation, you talked about Arrieta, how about KB? Look at his numbers,” Maddon said. “That’s almost 100 (RBIs) right there, almost 30 home runs. His average is over .280 right now, he’s playing great defense at third base and the outfield.

“You’ve got to talk about him, too,”

Per FanGraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Bryant is at 6.1. Bryce Harper leads baseball with 9.8.

In honor

Aramis Ramirez is retiring at the end of the season and he was honored by the Cubs before the game. A video montage was shown and Ramirez was presented a 16 placard from the center-field scoreboard by Starlin Castro.

After being acquired from Pittsburgh in July of 2003, Ramirez spent parts of nine seasons with the Cubs and hit 239 homers while driving in 806 runs. He was a part of three division winners. He left for Milwaukee before the 2012 season and was traded back to Pittsburgh in July.

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