NLDS Game 4 Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals

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 4 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 won 8-6

Game 4 (if needed) @ Chicago Tuesday 4:30 10/13 2015 on FS1

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

All times are Eastern

Probable Starters:

Game 4: Jason Hammel (R) (10-7) vs. John Lackey (R) (13-10)

Game 3 Recap

Eddie Vedder hanging out with Theo – Check

Wind blowing out – Check

Jake Arrieta on the mound – Check

No Jim Belushi sightings on TV – Check

One gross of new baseballs – Check

Arrieta and Michael Wacha each open the game with a scoreless first. Arrieta yielded a Jason Heyward double to left, but escapes unharmed.

In an omen of things to come, Kyle Schwarber, takes Wacha deep for the first run of the game. The Governor of Texas tweets his congratulations to the Cubs for winning the ALDS.

And then it happens: Somehow, HumanArrieta has escaped from Joe Maddon’s wine cellar and replaced RoboArrieta to start the fourth. The Cardinals take full advantage, scoring two runs on two walks, a Jhonny Peralta double and a groundout. The crowd at Wrigley sits in stunned silence listening for the braying of a goat.

The shock quickly wears off though, as Starlin Castro deposits a Wacha pitch into the stands in left center to tie the game at 2. The Cardinals leave the top of the fifth after one single and three strikeouts.

Joe Maddon calls a meeting in the dugout to explain that the Cubs might actually need to score some runs in this Arrieta start. After Dexter Fowler flies out to right, Jorge Soler hits a flare to left* to reach first and Kris Bryant follows with a homer to give the lead. Kevin Siegrist comes in to relieve Wacha and Anthony Rizzo welcomes him by hitting a ball 430 feet into right center. The Cubs lead 5-2.

Fans fret about which Arrieta will show up in the sixth. Heyward provides them with the answer, blasting a two run homer to bring the cards within a run. Arrieta strikes out the next two hitters, but he’s relieved by Clayton Richards after hitting Brandon Moss with two outs, who gets Kolten Wong to ground out, ending the inning.

Seth Maness starts the bottom of the 6th for the Cardinals. He too becomes a victim of the home run madness that seem so have afflicted the St. Louis pitching staff, as Soler hits a two run shot to put the Cubs back up by three.

Trevor Cahill starts the 7th, gets two outs and departs with men on first and second after a throwing error by shortstop Javier Baez, relieved by Travis Wood. Heyward lines out to end the inning for the Cardinals.

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny brings in Jonathan Broxton to start the eighth. He struck out the first hitter he faced and then Fowler became the sixth Cub to hit a homerun, giving them an 8-4 lead to take into the ninth.

The Cubs bring in Hector Rondon to try to close out the game, which would give the Cubs a 2-1 advantage with the next game at home. Randal Grichuk reached base on a single and then “stole” second because no one in America or Canada cared. (See Harold, this is all you need to do to not piss off an entire country. Canada just wants to be included.)

Then, with two outs, Stephen Piscotty came up and hit a two run homer, bringing the Cards within two runs. Roy Holliday is next.

One more home run, on a night designed for the home run, and we have a one run game. But alas, it was not meant to be, as Holliday grounded out to second to end the game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkftesK2dck

*couldn’t resist that line

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.

Veteran right-hander Jason Hammel takes the ball for the Cubs in Game 3. Hammel notched a 10-7 record over 31 starts with a 3.74 ERA, a 3.68 FIP, and a 3.47 xFIP this season. He relies on his slider (36.02%), four-seam fastball (30.02%) and sinker (23.28%). He also mixes in a curve (6.26%) and a change (4.42%). His slider sits around 85-mph, while his fastballs clock in at 93-mph.  

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.

Game 1 starter John Lackey will take the hill for the Cardinals in Game 4. Lackey did exactly what the Cardinals expected in that Game 1 start, as the playoff-veteran went 7 ⅓ innings, allowing just two hits and one walk, while striking out five en route to his eighth career playoff win.

In his first full season with the Cardinals, Lackey recorded 13 wins against 10 losses, with a 2.77 ERA, 3.57 FIP, and 3.77 xFIP. The right-hander relies heavily on his four-seam fastball (44.07%), with his main secondary pitch being a slider (19.28%). He also features a curveball (17.06%), sinker (15.83%) and the occasional changeup (3.67%). His fastball regularly sits at 92-mph, while he throws his slider around 85-mph.

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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