After we had two game 163’s yesterday, we finally have the full playoff bracket. The National League Wild Card game will be played between the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies. This game will take place this evening in Chicago. The winner of this game will take on the Milwaukee Brewers, which will start Thursday. The other division series will be between the Dodgers and the Braves, which I will break down Thursday morning. But first, let’s look at the Wild Card game.
The Cubs vs the Rockies is a compelling matchup. The Cubs, who are 95-68, led their division for most of the year. It was a race to see who could win the Wild Card spots, but that changed after Milwaukee went on a tear. The Cubs find themselves in the position they were in during their 2016 World Series run, so they have good mojo in this spot. The Rockies were in the Wild Card game last season, but ultimately lost to the Diamondbacks.
The Cubs are starting Jon Lester, who is 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA, while the Rockies are starting Kyle Freeland, who is 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA. The Cubs are the second worst team against left handed pitching this season, hitting only .229 (Seattle is the worst .227). Colorado is the 5th best in the league, hitting .267. Against one another, the teams are 3-3 this year with scoring being equal, 33-33, but who cares. The last time they played was May 2nd, but both teams are different now.
In order for the Rockies to win, they have to get to Lester quick. They need Lester out of the game, because without Lester, the Cubs bullpen is a disaster and the quicker you get there, the better. They need Freeland to pitch four scoreless, at least. The Cubs offense often attacks early, but if it doesn’t, it hasn’t shown up at all. For a weird stat, the Cubs have played 34 games in which they score less than 2 runs. So, if the Rockies offense shows up and the Cubs can’t get to Freeland, it could get ugly. But the thing is, will the Rockies offense show up? The Rockies are amazing at home, in fact they hit .060 better at home. On the road they hit .226 (at home .287), which doesn’t look good for them with Lester on the mound. And with the travel from LA overnight, expect them to be sluggish.
For the Cubs to win, their offense needs to show up. It’s plain and simple. The Cubs have played 49 games with more than 7 runs. If they get to Freeland, who is on short rest anyway and hasn’t pitched on short rest this year, then I expect them to win easily. It will all ride on whether or not their offense comes to play, which they didn’t yesterday.
I am taking the Chicago Cubs. I am taking the Cubs for the sole reason they didn’t have to travel. The Rockies are coming from LA, which is a different time zone. I expect them to be sluggish and I expect Freeland to get shelled early. He has never started on short rest, so it should be interesting today. Lester will be dominant. I expect a blowout, 8-3 Cubs moving on to face Milwaukee.