Cubs? Ker­shaw? Big Papi? Plenty of play­off questions pop up

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Ben Walker

Af­ter a scram­ble to fin­ish the reg­u­lar sea­son, the play­offs are fi­nally on deck. With 10 teams left, here are 10 questions to carry fans through Oc­to­ber:

CAN THE CUBS DO IT?

Joe Mad­don’s crew romped to 103 wins, and now the North Side of Chicago is set up for ei­ther the big­gest party of all time or the most bru­tal dis­ap­point­ment ever. Noth­ing in be­tween for Wrigleyville, re­ally. The pres­sure won’t rat­tle Jon Lester and John Lackey — they’ve pitched in these spots. Kris Bryant, An­thony Rizzo and the young hit­ters must han­dle hopes and ex­pec­ta­tions that have been build­ing since the Cubs’ last World Se­ries cham­pi­onship in 1908.

WILL KER­SHAW COME UP ACES?

Dodgers star Clay­ton Ker­shaw is all set to pitch Game 1 at Wash­ing­ton. He’s cer­tainly got the pedi­gree: Cy Young Awards, ERA ti­tles, 20-win sea­sons and an MVP. What he doesn’t have is a win­ning record in the play­offs — 2-6. And in his last six starts in the post­sea­son over the past three years, he’s 1-5 with a 5.45 ERA, plus a high walk and home run rate. Re­mem­ber, Hall of Famers Randy John­son, Greg Mad­dux and Tom Glavine had los­ing ca­reer marks in the post­sea­son. But Ker­shaw could use a cou­ple of wins to round out an oth­er­wise glit­ter­ing re­sume.

ONE MORE BIG SWING FOR BIG PAPI?

David Or­tiz had a dream sea­son in his fi­nal year — huge num­bers, an MVP can­di­date, a worst-to-first turn­around by the Red Sox. His like­ness has been cut into the grass at Fen­way Park, his legacy is etched into his­tory. What the re­tir­ing 40-year-old DH re­ally wants is one more ring — he’s won three with Bos­ton and owns a ca­reer .455 bat­ting av­er­age and .576 on-base per­cent­age in the World Se­ries. He be­gins these play­offs against for­mer man­ager Terry Fran­cona and Cleve­land.

WILL MADBUM STAND TALL?

When last seen in the post­sea­son, Madi­son Bum­gar­ner posted a Gi­ant save to win Game 7 in Kansas City. The 6-foot-5 lefty will try to save San Fran­cisco’s sea­son on Wed­nes­day night in the NL wild-card game, on the road vs. the Mets. In 2014, he pitched a shutout at Pitts­burgh to win the wild-card game. If he gets to the World Se­ries, watch out — no one can match his 4-0 mark with one save and an 0.25 ERA.

WHO’S HURTIN’?

Stephen Stras­burg, Car­los Car­rasco and Ja­cob deGrom are among the in­jured aces as the play­offs be­gin. Wil­son Ramos, Neil Walker and Michael Brant­ley are out, too. A few oth­ers have been banged up, with Daniel Mur­phy, Ed­uardo Nunez and Danny Salazar among them. It’s easy to won­der what a team would’ve done with a full ros­ter; this late in the year, as man­agers of­ten say, it’s not worth wor­ry­ing about.

WHAT ABOUT THE TRADE-OFFS?

In late July 2015, the Roy­als ac­quired Johnny Cueto and Ben Zo­brist, and the pair helped them win the crown. A lot of big names moved to con­tenders this year in mid­sea­son — Car­los Bel­tran and Jonathan Lu­croy to Texas, Matt Moore (Giants), Aroldis Chap­man (Cubs), An­drew Miller (In­di­ans), Mark Me­lan­con (Na­tion­als) and Jay Bruce (Mets). We’ll soon see which trade-dead­line guys de­liver.

WHO’S NEW?

Ori­oles slug­ger Mark Trumbo led the ma­jors with 47 home runs and pow­ered into his first post­sea­son. Red Sox out­field­ers Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. also get to play for the first time on the big stage. Pro­duc­tive new­com­ers Trea Turner, No­mar Mazara and T.J. Rivera will join them this week.

GOT A BEEF?

A bat flip by Jose Bautista last Oc­to­ber sparked a wild scene in Toronto, and lin­ger­ing ill will led to him get­ting punched this sea­son by Texas’ Rougned Odor. Just imag­ine if they meet again this month. Brawls are rare in the play­offs, but they hap­pen — the Blue Jays, as we got to see, don’t take no guff.

ANY­ONE GET SKIPPED?

Quite a col­lec­tion of man­agers in these play­offs. Some have won the World Se­ries (Bruce Bochy, Fran­cona, John Far­rell), oth­ers have got­ten close (Dusty Baker, Terry Collins). Some have been in the play­offs be­fore (Buck Showal­ter, Joe Mad­don, John Gib­bons, Jeff Banis­ter), while Dave Roberts (Dodgers) made it in his first year.

STARTER OR RE­LIEVER?

Many of the most-scru­ti­nized de­ci­sions this month will in­volve how man­agers han­dle their pitch­ing staffs. Use a starter like Cole Hamels on short rest, or maybe in emer­gency re­lief? Push a closer like Ken­ley Jansen for four outs, or five or six? Four-man ro­ta­tion or three? With a lot of teams try­ing to ad­vance far­ther than they’ve been in years — the Cubs, In­di­ans, Texas and Wash­ing­ton — get ready to ramp up the sec­ond-guess­ing.

JOHN MINCHILLO — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Is it fi­nally the year for the ever-cursed Chicago Cubs? An early play­off exit would likely be the most dis­ap­point­ing play­off per­for­mance for a team with a long his­tory of dis­ap­point­ment.

Bos­ton Red Sox’s David Or­tiz tips his cap to the crowd dur­ing cer­e­monies be­fore Sun­day’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Bos­ton. The re­tir­ing 40-year-old DH re­ally wants one more ring.

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