Tommy La Stella! Frankie Cervelli!
So that was my first reaction, Wednesday afternoon, upon seeing starting lineups for the National League’s Wild Card Game.
Tommy La Stella’s batting fifth for the Chicago Cubs, and Francisco Cervelli’s batting fifth for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Which you could have gotten pretty goods on, last spring.
Even beyond that, though, the lineups are fascinating. Because where Joe Maddon had decisions to make, he went hard for hitting. And where Clint Hurdle had decisions to make — one decision, really — he went hard, I mean really hard, for fielding.
Maddon’s lineup features Kris Bryant in left field and Kyle Schwarber in right, and of course both are essentially playing out of position. In fact, this will be just the second time they’ve started in the outfield together. Oh, and center fielder Dexter Fowler is, according to all the metrics, a pretty crummy center fielder.
I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest this will be the worst defensive outfield in the majors this season, at least in a game that mattered much.
Of course, Maddon’s probably figuring that a) the Cubs need all the hitting they can must against Gerrit Cole, and b) Jake Arrieta’s a ground-ball pitcher who also gets a lot of strikeouts. So if you’re ever going to go all-offense, it’s now.
Meanwhile, Hurdle’s taken a completely different tack, at least at first base. Instead of power-hitting Pedro Alvarez, Hurdle’s got banjo-hitting Sean Rodriguez…
Interesting decision by Clint Hurdle to bench Pedro Alvarez for game. The word "interesting" undoubtedly will be replaced at game's end.
— Joe Posnanski (@JPosnanski) October 7, 2015
Yes, but only if the Pirates lose and it’s close and Rodriguez doesn’t collect a hit or two. Baseball’s funny that way. There’s actually just a small chance that this thing blows up in Hurdle’s face. But yeah, it sure might. Just as playing three left fielderes in the outfield might blow up in Maddon’s.
Unlike in Tuesday night’s game, Wednesday night’s will almost certainly provide highly fertile ground for the second-guessers. Oh joy!