NLDS Game 3 Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals

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The Wild Card games are over and the Divisional Series matchups are set. The Chicago Cubs will play the St. Louis Cardinals in a best of five series. Pete Hodges has an NLDS game 3 preview of the matchup.

Chicago Cubs (97-65) vs St. Louis Cardinals (100-62)

Cardinals won the season series (11-8)

Series Schedule:

Game 1: St. Louis won 4-0

Game 2: Chicago won 5-3

Game 3 @ Chicago 8:10 PM Monday, 10/12 on FS1

Game 4 (if needed) @ Chicago Tuesday TBD 10/13 2015 on FS1

Game 5 (if needed) @St. Louis Thursday TBD 10/15 on FS1

All times are Eastern

Probable Starters:

Game 3: Jake Arrieta (R) (17-7) vs. Michael Wacha (R) (22-6)

Game 4: Jason Hammel (R) (10-7) vs. TBD

Game 2 Recap

Game 2 started off innocently enough. Jaime Garcia threw a scoreless frame followed by Kyle Hendricks allowing a solo home run by Matt Adams before promptly getting three outs. Then the top of the second inning happened.

Starlin Castro singled on a ground ball up the middle to lead off the second inning. The wheels came off when Austin Jackson hit into what should have been a double play. The throw to first sailed and Austin Jackson advanced to second on the error. Jackson then stole third, which was followed by a Miguel Montero walk. Hendricks then attempted a sacrifice bunt, but a throwing error by Jaime Garcia put Hendricks on second, Montero on third, and scored Jackson. Rookie Addison Russell laid down a successful sac bunt that scored Montero and moved Hendricks to third. Hendricks would score on a Dexter Fowler infield single. To cap off the inning, Jorge Soler hit a two-run homer putting the final tally at five runs for the Cubs. Garcia managed to get Kris Bryant to ground out to mercifully end the second inning and his day.

Lance Lynn entered the game in the third for Garcia and for a short time, it appeared that the runs were going to keep coming for the Cubs. A leadoff walk by Anthony Rizzo was followed by a single by Castro. Two batters later, Montero grounded out to Lynn and Rizzo scored as Castro advanced to second. Luckily for Lynn, Hendricks was batting eighth and the Cardinals’ righty was able to escape the inning after striking out his counterpart.

After the leadoff home run, Hendricks kept the Cards off the board until the fifth inning. Wong and Randall Grichuk launched back-to-back home runs to bring the score to 5-3.

However, that would be the end of the scoring for the day as the bullpens combined for 8 straight frames of scoreless baseball. Hector Rondon notched his first career playoff save, and the Cubs tied the series at one game apiece.

Chicago Cubs

Overall

The young Cubs lineup scored the 6th most runs (689) in the NL. Their 171 home runs were good for 5th place, while their 95 stolen bases saw them in 6th. They hit for a .244/.321/.398 line with a 6th place wOBA of .313.

Starters

Chicago’s rotation had a 60-39 record, posting a 3.36 ERA, 3.26 FIP and 3.24 xFIP. Batters hit just .230 against them and they struck out 23.9% of batters faced while only walking 5.8%, with an impressive 1.11 WHIP. The rotation is led by the aforementioned Jake Arrieta and Game 1 starter Jon Lester.

The Cubs turn to Cy Young-candidate Jake Arrieta in Game 3, after his win in the Wild Card game. The ace started 33 games with an impressive 22-6 record, putting up a 1.77 ERA, a 2.35 FIP and a 2.61 xFIP. Arrieta is a sinkerball (43.06%) pitcher who also throws a slider (29.61%), curve (15.32%), four-seamer (7.63%) and a changeup (4.38%). His sinker sits around 95-mph while his curve and slider are 81- and 91-mph, respectively.

The Relievers

Chicago’s bullpen posted a 37-26 record, with 48 saves, 89 holds, and blew 19 saves. Their ERA was 3.38 ERA in 514 ⅔ innings. Their K/9 and BB/9 were 8.94 and 3.20, respectively. They allowed 0.73 HR/9 while opposing hitters hit for an average of .230 with a .291 BABIP.

Hector Rondon saved 30 games for the Cubs with a nifty 1.67 ERA, striking out 8.9 batters per nine innings and walking 1.9.

The Offense

The Cubs offense improved in the second half of the season hitting .250/.328/.426 after hitting .239/.315/.374 in the first half. The Cubs struggled a bit with lefties, putting up a .238/.319/.372 line while hitting .246/.322/.406 against right-handed pitchers. The offense was fairly evenly split between Wrigley Field (.237/.322/.396) and opposing parks (.251/.321/.400).

Chicago’s offense is led by Anthony Rizzo, who has become a force in the middle of the Cubs’ lineup, while rookies Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber have shown that they were worth the hype they received in the preseason.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals won the toughest division in baseball relying heavily on players they developed.

Overall

St. Louis scored the 11th most runs (647) in the NL this year. Their 137 home runs and 69 steals also had them ranked 11th. Their combined batting line was .253/.321/.394 with the 8th ranked wOBA at .311.

Starters

The rotation had a 72-42 record this year with a 2.99 ERA, 3.47 FIP and 3.64 xFIP. Their batting average against was .244, striking out 21.2% of batters faced, while walking 7.2% with a 1.24 WHIP. Their rotation is led by playoff veteran John Lackey.

Youngster Michael Wacha will get the ball for the Cardinals in Game 3. Wacha started 30 games in his first full season in the big leagues with a 3.38 ERA, a 3.87 FIP, a 3.88 xFIP, and a 17-7 record. The righty primarily throws a fastball (54.82%) with a solid mix of changeup (16.24%), cutter (12.83%) and curve (12.13%). His fastball is usually around 95-mph while his other pitches range from 77-mph (curve) to 90-mph (cutter).

The Relievers

The bullpen posted a 28-20 record with a 2.82 ERA, 3.50 FIP and 3.87 xFIP in 485 innings pitched. The ‘pen had 62 saves, 84 holds and blew 15 saves. Their K/9 and BB/9 were 8.65 and 3.40, respectively. They allowed just 0.72 HR/9 while allowing a BAA of .238 with a .298 BABIP.

Trevor Rosenthal anchors the bullpen. The closer had 48 saves in 68 appearances and struck out 10.88 batters per nine innings while walking 3.28.

The Offense

The Cardinals offense was consistent throughout the season, hitting .257/.323/.389 in the first half and .248/.319/.401 in the second half. Against right-handed pitching, St. Louis put up a .261/.326/.409 line but a dismal .230/.307/.355 against lefties. The team hits better at home (.262/.331/.398) than on the road, but not by much (.248/.318/.391).

Soon to be free agent, Jason Heyward, leads the offense with a .293/.359/.439 line. Matt Holliday returned from a quadriceps injury in the middle of September, and it appears he hadn’t shaken the rust off yet. Rookies Randal Grichuk (.276/.329/.548 in 103 games) and Stephen Piscotty (.305/.359/.494 in 63 games) provided a boost to the lineup this season.

*Click here for our preview of the New York Mets-Los Angeles Dodgers match-up.

Pete Hodges has also written about the origins of the rally cap and the call up of Luis Severino.

Follow Pete on Twitter @PeterWHodges.

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