For Cubs, top honor to Lester
CHICAGO — Asked whom he would vote for in the Cy Young Award race, Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks, Cubs manager Joe Maddon took the evasive way out.
“Rizzo,” he joked of his MVP candidate first baseman, Anthony Rizzo.
But Maddon might have revealed his imaginary ballot when he released the Cubs’ postseason pitching order and Lester’s name was at the top to start Game 1 of the NLDS against the Giants tonight at Wrigley Field.
The veteran left-hander has been strong in the postseason with a 2.85 ERA in 98 career innings. And like the rest of the Cubs staff, Lester has been really good all season. How good? Last year’s Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta, falls third in line behind Lester and Hendricks in the bestof-five series rotation. John Lackey is the fourth starter.
While his manager wouldn’t choose a winner for the trophy, Hendricks wasn’t shy about saying Lester deserved props.
“My opinion is him, 100 percent,” Hendricks said of the Cy Young Award. “He’s had maybe three bad starts all year. From start to finish, he’s been our horse.”
Johnny Cueto, the Giants’ $130 million man, isn’t a shabby option to start opposite Lester, considering ace Madison Bumgarner is not available until Game 3 after a dominating performance in the wildcard game against the Mets.
Besides, dominate is what Cueto has done to current Cubs, who are batting .184 with a .525 OPS in 141 at-bats against him.
The right-hander spent 71⁄ seasons facing the Cubs regularly while with the Reds, whom he helped to the postseason twice before they traded him to the Royals last season.
After helping the Royals to their first World Series title since 1985, he signed as a free agent with the Giants, who are going for their fourth title in seven years.
“I already know them,” Cueto told the San Jose Mercury News of the Cubs. “I just have to ... put my pitches where I want and finish what we started.” MadBum: The Giants have baseball’s biggest October star on their side in Madison Bumgarner. He has thrown 23 straight scoreless innings in the postseason and is 6-1 with an 0.79 ERA and three shutouts in his last nine postseason outings. He’ll be on regular rest in Game 3 and could pitch in relief if the series goes five games, as he did in pitching five scoreless innings to save Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. The Target: When the Cubs won 97 games last year and eliminated the Pirates and Cardinals in the playoffs before getting swept by the Mets, they were the plucky upstarts. Not this time. They showed up for spring training with a new T-shirt slogan coined by Joe Maddon, “Embrace the Target,” and they couldn’t have worn it any better during the regular season. But how well will they wear that target under immense pressure? Closing time: The bullpen that played such a key role in the Giants’ recent World Series titles melted down in the second half. Santiago Casilla tied for the most blown saves in the majors with nine and lost his job. After struggling to find a replacement, Bruce Bochy went to Sergio Romo, the closer during the 2012 title run. He converted all four save opportunities in the final two weeks. AP
Cubs veteran left-hander Jon Lester enters tonight’s start with a 2.85 ERA in 98 career postseason innings. Game 1: 9 tonight Giants (Cueto 18-5) at Cubs (Lester 19-5), FS1 Game 2: 8 p.m. Saturday Giants (Samardzija 12-11) at Cubs (Hendricks 16-8), MLB Game 3: TBA Monday Cubs (Arrieta 18-8) at Giants (Bumgarner 15-9), FS1 or MLB Game 4: TBA Tuesday* Cubs (Lackey 11-8) at Giants (Moore 13-12), FS1 Game 5: TBA Thursday* Giants at Cubs, FS1