Do-or-Die time has come to the National League Division Series, as both the Cubs and Mets are on the brink of heading to the LCS, while the Cardinals and Dodgers teeter on the brink of 9 AM tee times.
Cardinals at Cubs (4:37pm ET Tuesday, TBS)
Cubs ace Jake Arrieta’s reign of terror finally came to end on Monday, as he gave up 4 runs in 5 ⅔ innings, but the Cards failed to take advantage, surrendering 6 home runs in an 8-6 loss to go down 2 games to 1 in this best-of-five series.
And so, with their season on the line, the Cardinals send John Lackey to the hill on three days' rest. Lackey was brilliant in his Game 1 start, throwing 7 ⅓ shutout innings, and is one of the few guys for whom short rest in the playoffs is a worthwhile gamble, as he’s done it effectively before, going 10 2/3, giving up just 2 runs and striking out 10 over two starts.
Cubs starter Jason Hammel had been enjoying a fine first half, with a 2.89 ERA through 102 ⅔ innings, before getting sidelined with a hamstring injury that forced him out of a July 8 game against the Cards after the first inning. Since then, he’s tried to tough it out, but it hasn’t been pretty: In 14 starts since the injury, he’s made it through the 6th only twice, for a total of just 67 innings, allowing 12 home runs and a 5.10 ERA.
Dodgers at Mets (8pm ET Tuesday, TBS)
On a personal level, no player has more on the line Tuesday than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw. He came into this postseason with a reputation for not being able to pitch in the playoffs, and he did nothing to dispel this notion in Game 1, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks with 11 strikeouts in 6 ⅔. You can make a lot of money doing that every fifth day in the Major Leagues, but when you’re widely considered the best pitcher of your generation, that doesn’t cut it come October. Kershaw will be going on three days' rest, something he’s only ever done twice before, both time in the playoffs, giving up 5 runs in 12 innings. Given the alternatives, it’s probably the smart move.
To fully understand just how stacked the Mets’ rotation is, consider that Steven Matz is only their fourth-best starter age 27 or under. In 6 starts this year, Mazt was 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA over 35 ⅔. That said, his final start was a stinker, as he gave up 10 hits in 5 ⅔, but miraculously surrendered only 3 runs, thanks to zero walks and 8 strikeouts.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Watch the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Chicago Cubs at 4:30 PM ET on TBS.
Watch the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the New York Mets at 8:00 PM ET on TBS.