Will postponement rain on Cub rotation’s victory parade against Nats?
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Tanner Roark or Stephen Strasburg?
Does it really matter who pitches for the Nationals against the Cubs in Wednesday’s rain-postponed Game 4 of their National League Division Series?
Not if the first three games are any indication.
Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana have combined to allow just one earned run in 18 2/3 innings in their three starts this series — negating no-hit bids into the late innings by Strasburg and Max Scherzer and putting the Cubs one victory away from getting back to the National League Championship Series.
And their former Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta, hasn’t even pitched yet.
That happens Wednesday when the Cubs and Nats play a 3:08 p.m. game following Tuesday’s postponement — the Cubs holding a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-five series against a Nats team with one of the most balanced, explosive lineups in the league.
“Listen, they have spectacular pitching, the Nationals do,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Our guys have matched them inning for inning. That’s why we’ve won.”
Nationals starters Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Scherzer have a 1.96 ERA in 18⅓ innings over these first three games.
That’s head and shoulders above every other team’s rotation in the playoffs so far, except the Cubs’ (0.48).
Who saw that coming when the Cubs’ rotation sputtered to a 4.66 ERA in the first half? Or when they continued to spend time on the disabled list one by one even late into the season?
All five members of the opening rotation missed time this season because of injuries, including front-end horses Lester (lat and shoulder) and Arrieta (hamstring) during the final six weeks of the season.
Arrieta on Wednesday makes his first start since suffering a setback with his hamstring Sept. 26.
“He’s in as good of health as he’s been in a while,” Maddon said. “He’s ready to rock and roll.”
In 29 starts this postseason by all non-Cubs, the rest of the playoff rotations have a combined 5.94 ERA. Former Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Corey Kluber have all been roughed up.
“It’s been really interesting to watch, all the runs being scored against some really good pitching,” Maddon said. “I don’t know the reason. There’s no good reason.
“But I do know how good the Nationals pitching staff is vs. our hitters. And then Washington has a very good offensive team, and our pitchers have done a very good job.
“It’s been more of the classic ’60s, ’70s kind of series — ours has — as opposed to [the others].
And when it comes to the Cubs’ performances, consider this: Strasburg took a no-hit bid two outs deep into the sixth in Game 1. Scherzer took a no-hit bid one out deep into the seventh in Game 3.
Hendricks and Quintana (and their bullpens) in those two games: One combined unearned run allowed. The Cubs won those games 3-0 and 2-1, respectively.
“You have to pitch better than great pitching to win, and we have,” Maddon said. “It comes down to that. Our starters have permitted us to be in this position.”
If anything, the Cubs might have caught another break when Strasburg apparently balked at the idea of coming back on normal rest to pitch a must-win Game 4 on Wednesday instead of sticking to his planned Game 5 schedule.
That means Roark (13-11, 4.67 ERA) against Arrieta. Roark is 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA in five games (four starts) at Wrigley Field in his career.
“If you look at his body of work and his numbers against us, they’re very good,” Maddon said. “They have good pitching, period. And we have to win one more game somehow.”
Start Me Up
How every rotation in the playoff field has performed this month:
ERA GS IP ER
- Cubs 0.48 3 18.2 1
- Nationals 1.96 3 18.1 4
- Indians 3.24 4 16.2 6
- Astros 3.86 4 18.2 8
- Dodgers 4.11 3 15.1 7
- Yankees 6.19 5 16 11
- D-Backs 9.64 4 14 15
- Red Sox 12.71 4 11.1 16
- Twins 18.00 1 2 4
- Rockies 27.01 1 1.1 4
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