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Lester gets Game 1 call for Cubs in NLCS regardless of foe

The Cubs didn’t have to wait to find out who they’ll play in the National League Championship Series to know how they want the top of their rotation to open the series – with Jon Lester going in Game 1 on Saturday and Cy Young candidate Jake Arrieta scheduled for Game 2 Sunday.

As the Cubs awaited the outcome of Thursday night’s game between the Dodgers and Mets to determine their NLCS opponent, the only thing certain was that those two games will be played on the road.

Manager Joe Maddon said the rotation was set up in the first playoff series, against the Cardinals, to line up this way if Lester wasn’t needed for a Game 5.

“Of course, it’s nice giving Jake an extra day,” Maddon said. “It kind of played out well.”

Lester, who pitched well in a Game 1 division-series loss in St. Louis, would be pitching with four days’ extra rest. Arrieta, who struggled with command in a Game 3 win, will have two extra days.

If the Cubs face the Dodgers, the Los Angeles rotation presumably lines up to create a Game 2 matchup between two of the most dominant pitchers in the game, with three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw’s natural fifth day falling on Sunday, opposite Arrieta.

Dodgers co-ace Zack Greinke (19-3, 1.66 during the regular season) wouldn’t be available until the series moves to Wrigley Field on Tuesday.

If the Cubs face the Mets, they will miss Jacob deGrom, the top performer this season from New York’s power rotation, in Games 1 and 2. DeGrom was to face Greinke Thursday night.

Maddon said he hadn’t made his decision for Games 3 and 4, suggesting the opponent might factor into the decision.

Asked if he was considering using a “surprise” starter in the NLCS, Maddon on Thursday said, “As of right now, no.”

The Cubs don’t have to officially set their roster for the NLCS until Saturday morning.