With Lester, Arrieta and Hendricks lined up, Cubs still have hope
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Roughly everyone with a pulse who follows the Cubs had the same thought in regard to John Lackey heading into Game 4 of the World Series:
This is why they got him.
Already facing a series deficit, with nerves fraying from here to the farthest reaches of Cubdom, what was needed Saturday night was a pitcher who could win a baseball game. Sounds simple enough, but the Cubs are learning how hugely difficult it can be.
A deflating, dispiriting 7-2 defeat to the Indians was not in the Cubs’ World Series blueprint.
And so now, roughly everyone with a breaking heart who follows the Cubs — down three games to one in a series that was supposed to be their coronation — is holding on for dear life to a different thought:
Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks are lined up for the last three games. These guys are pretty good, right? Can they pull off the incredible? Can the Cubs pull a Cleveland — which is to say the Cavaliers, who won it all after trailing 3-1 in last seasons NBA Finals?
Listen, folks, it’s dream that big or cry in your coffee. Your choice.
“To get through (Sunday) would obviously be very comforting,” manager John Maddon said of Lester’s start. “We get to celebrate Halloween appropriately at that point. So going back over there and having (Arrieta and Hendricks) ready to pitch, it’s just a matter of us gaining offensive confidence.
“If we do that, I really think, based on what they have left pitching-wise and what we have, I kind of like our chances.”
Lackey wasn’t the reason the Cubs dropped the ball for the second straight night at Wrigley Field. Other Cubs dropping the ball had something to do with it. So did another awful night at the plate. But Lackey doesn’t appear to be much of a postseason answer, either.
The 38-year-old now has 23 postseason starts, the most of any active pitcher in baseball. He still has that pair of World Series-clinching victories — as a rookie with the Angels in 2002 and with the Red Sox in 2013 — under his belt. The credentials are there, no doubt.
The Cubs have been pointing all season to the been-there, done-that strength of Lackey’s October experience. Lackey has said often — with tremendous confidence — in his first year with the Cubs that everything he does is geared toward being ready to roll in the playoffs, when the stage is grandest and the stakes are highest. “Big-boy games,” he calls them.
But Lackey started three games for the Cubs in the playoffs and didn’t make it past four innings in either of the first two. The Cubs happened to win those two games, but their bats and their relievers carried the water. In Game 4 against the Indians, Lackey hung in there for five innings, allowing three runs, one of them unearned. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t good enough.
“If it was an American League game,” he said, “I feel like I would’ve gone six or seven (innings), easy.”
Doesn’t mean a dang thing now, big boy.
No, this is about Lester. And Arrieta. And Hendricks. If it gets that far, which it has to because — you know what? — it just does. Hope makes you kind of crazy when it’s all you’ve got left.
Then again, hope isn’t all the Cubs have left. Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks. Go on, chant those names a few times and see if it doesn’t make you feel a little better.
This thing isn’t over yet.
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.