CINCINNATI – Bartolo Colon of the Mets? Johnny Cueto of the Giants? Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals?
No matter who’s on the mound for the other guys Friday, the Cubs basically set their lineup for Game 1 of the playoffs, previewing it Sunday in a 7-4 loss to the Reds, with a battery of Jon Lester and David Ross, and with glove-whiz utility man Javy Baez at third base and MVP candidate Kris Bryant in left field.
Asked whether this was his opening lineup for the playoffs, manager Joe Maddon said: “There’s a shot.”
A very good shot? “There’s a shot,” he repeated, smiling.
Including the pitcher?
“A shot,” he said. “A shot and a beer.”
Down side to down time?
Maddon called the team’s results this season a matter of “mission accomplished,” and said the one big remaining challenge is four days off between Sunday’s season finale and Friday.
But Game 1 starter Jon Lester doesn’t see it as a problem as long as the Cubs work smart during a simulated game Tuesday and brief workouts Wednesday and Thursday.
“People always want to lean toward the teams that have played those days in there,” Lester said after Saturday’s 7-4 loss to the Reds. “But the way it’s shaping up it might take two games to get to us. I like our chances there.”
The Giants and Cardinals enter the final day of the season with the potential to tie for the final wild-card berth, which would force a one-game playoff Monday before the wild card game against the Mets in New York on Wednesday.
The five-year contract extension signed by team president Theo Epstein this past week locks him up through 2021. Maybe that’ll be enough time for fans to get a glimpse at the Epstein beneath his serious, intellectual public persona – as those who work closely with him have gotten to know.
“My first interview with him, we went out afterwards,” Maddon said of their meeting for the Red Sox vacancy before the 2004 season. “I saw Theo.”
Since taking the Cubs job before last season, he has seen even more.
“From a distance there’s a perception of the Ivy League thing, tightly [wound] and all that stuff,” Maddon said. “But he balances out extremely well.”
Notes: Outfielder Jorge Soler (side soreness) took batting practice on the field Saturday in anticipation of starting in Sunday’s season finale, a key test for his fitness for the playoff roster. …Dexter Fowler’s seventh-inning single to right-center was the 1000th hit of his career. … Tuesday’s simulated game is mostly about getting work for starter John Lackey and many of the relievers, Maddon said. Hitting in the game will be optional for regulars. It’s closed to the public.