Starting pitching key for Cubs postseason


Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks throws a pitch in their Sept. 16 home game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Hendricks will be starting in game one of the NLDS.

By Eddie Garcia

The Chicago Cubs are back to familiar territory as they prepare for the 2017 National League Division Series Friday against the Washington Nationals. Despite their lackadaisical start to the season, or “hangover” as first baseman Anthony Rizzo previously referenced, the Cubs have had one of the best second halves in all of Major League Baseball.

After entering the All-Star break two games under .500, the Cubs 49-25 second half record ranks them No. 2 in all of MLB behind the Cleveland Indians, whose 22 game-win streak helped them to the league’s best 51-18 record. The Cubs will need to improve on their starting pitching to make another run at glory.

In July, when the starting rotation was in question, the Cubs made the acquisition of left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana with the hopes he would establish himself in the rotation. Quintana has arguably lived up to his trade value as he finished the season 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA since switching to the north side.

Even though Quintana proved himself to be a fourth starter in the playoff rotation, the problem remained within the one and two starting spots.

“I was talking about it all year, but then again you have to actually do it,” Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said. “The fact to not be too concerned too early about the lack of performance and understanding that we’re coming off a tough two years, and just letting it play out. So I think post All-Star break that’s obvious that the record to that point to right now, a lot of it had to do with not pushing too hard too quickly, and then the starting pitching set the tone once again.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Nationals rotations ranked No. 1, 3 and 4 in ERA, respectively. The Cubs 4.07 ERA ranked down at No. 8, according to ESPN.

The Cubs pitching struggles begin with last year’s National League Championship Series MVP Jon Lester. Lester has struggled since returning from his injury Sept. 2, having allowed 14 runs in 21.1 innings through four starts.

Senior economics major Habeeb Durojaiye said the Cubs need solid pitching all around to contend.

“Lester has to get back to what he was doing before,” Durojaiye said.

“Jake Arrieta has to get healthy and [Kyle] Hendricks and [Jose] Quintana just have to do what they have been doing for the past couple of weeks. If everybody does their part we can be successful.”

After missing a few weeks because of a hamstring injury, Arrieta will be on the mound for game four, according to a Wednesday Bleacher Report. Since his return in early July, Arrieta has gone 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA while striking out 23 batters in 32 innings.

Maddon announced he will be starting Hendricks for game one Friday, followed by Leter for game two and Quintana for game three, according to a Wednesday Bleacher Report.

Hendricks has been dominant after the all-star break, finishing with a 2.19 ERA in 78 innings pitched, according to ESPN.

Even though Hendricks has had success as of late and will be the starter for game one, the Cubs main focus for acquiring Lester back in the 2014 off-season was the playoffs and the experience he brings. The Cubs will look for success from Lester in game two Saturday.

While Lester has had a down month post-injury in September, his last two starts have looked promising as he has allowed just one earned run in eleven innings of play.

Graduate history major Cameron Halas said the team should not worry about the pitching, given what they have accomplished this season.

“I don’t really think much needs to be done [with the Cubs pitching],” Halas said. “Our pitching has gotten us this far, don’t change it.”

The Cubs finished the regular season 92-70 overall as they posted a 19-9 record in the month of September, their best month of the regular season.

The guys on the north side seem to be hot at the right time, but the pressure will be on the pitching staff this postseason.