A look at the best-of-five National League Division Series between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals:
Schedule: (All times EDT) Game 1, Friday, at St. Louis (6:45 p.m.); Game 2, Saturday, at St. Louis (5:37 p.m.); Game 3, Monday, Oct. 12, at Chicago (4:37 or 6:07 p.m.); x-Game 4, Tuesday, Oct. 13, at Chicago (4:37 or 8:07 p.m.); x-Game 5, Thursday, Oct. 15, at St. Louis (4:37 or 8:07 p.m.). (All games on TBS).
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Season Series: Cardinals won 11-8.
Cubs: CF Dexter Fowler (.250, 17 HRs, 46 RBIs), LF Kyle Schwarber (.246, 16, 43), 3B Kris Bryant (.275, 26, 99), 1B Anthony Rizzo (.278, 31, 101), 2B Starlin Castro (.265, 11, 69), RF Chris Coghlan (.250, 16, 41), C Miguel Montero (.248, 15, 53) or David Ross (.176, 1, 9), SS Addison Russell (.242, 13, 54).
Cardinals: 3B Matt Carpenter (.272, 28, 84), 1B Stephen Piscotty (.305, 7, 39 in 233 ABs), LF Matt Holliday (.279, 4, 35 in 229 ABs), SS Jhonny Peralta (.275, 17, 71), CF Jason Heyward (.293, 13, 60, 23 SBs), C Yadier Molina (.270, 4, 61), RF Randal Grichuk (.276, 17, 47), 2B Kolten Wong (.262, 11, 61, 15 SBs).
Cubs: RH Hector Rondon (6-4, 1.67, 30/34 saves), RH Justin Grimm (3-5, 1.99, 3 saves), RH Pedro Strop (2-6, 2.91, 3 saves), LH Travis Wood (5-4, 3.84, 4 saves), RH Fernando Rodney (7-5, 4.74, 16 saves with Mariners and Cubs), LH Clayton Richard (4-2, 3.83).
Cardinals: RH Trevor Rosenthal (2-4, 2.10, 48/50 saves, 83Ks, 68 IP), LH Kevin Siegrist (7-1, 2.17), RH Jonathan Broxton (4-5, 4.62, 63 Ks, 60 1-3 IP in 66 games with Brewers and Cardinals), RH Seth Maness (4-2, 4.26), RH Carlos Villanueva (4-3, 2.95), RH Adam Wainwright (2-1, 1.61, 28 IP).
This is the first postseason meeting between the longtime Midwest rivals. Virtually every regular-season game is a sellout at both ballparks regardless of the standings, and the intensity will only ramp up in October. … The NL Central featured the top three teams in baseball, with the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs finishing 1-2-3 in wins. … The Cardinals won the season series but dropped six of the last nine meetings. St. Louis had a 3.93 ERA against the Cubs, going 7-3 at home and 4-5 at Wrigley Field. … Lackey gets the ball in Game 1 due to his wealth of postseason experience, including pitching the Game 6 clincher for Boston against St. Louis in the 2013 World Series. The 36-year-old right-hander was 9-4 with a 1.93 ERA at home and posted an over ERA below 3.00 for the first time in his career. … The Cubs had moments like this in mind when they signed Lester to a $155 million, six-year contract in the offseason. Now, it’s time for him to deliver. He played on two championship teams in Boston and is 6-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 12 postseason starts and 14 appearances for the Red Sox and Oakland Athletics. He won both starts vs. St. Louis in the 2013 World Series, allowing just one run over 15 1-3 innings. In five outings against the Cardinals this season, he was 1-3 but had a 2.59 ERA. Ross is Lester’s regular catcher, taking Montero’s more dangerous bat out of the lineup.
Cubs: Under free-spirited new manager Joe Maddon, the streaking Cubs (97-65) made the playoffs for the first time since 2008 by earning the second NL wild card. Paced by a young and powerful lineup, they’re trying to reach their first World Series in 70 years and end a championship drought that dates to 1908. Chicago took the first step with a 4-0 win at Pittsburgh in the wild-card game, the team’s ninth consecutive victory. Arrieta tossed a four-hitter in yet another dominant start, and the Cubs won a playoff game for the first time since famously squandering a 3-1 lead in the 2003 NLCS against the Florida Marlins. Chicago was swept in the Division Series in 2007 by Arizona and 2008 by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and endured five straight losing seasons. … Postseason baseball returns in Game 3 to venerable Wrigley Field, the quaint, old ballpark undergoing a multiyear renovation. It now features a massive video board above the left-field bleachers and a smaller one in right. … With Maddon keeping things loose and young players meshing with veterans, Chicago is the hottest team in baseball after going 46-19 over its final 65 regular-season games beginning July 27. The 46 victories were the most in the majors during that span. … Chicago had the best road record in the majors (48-33) and was only slightly better at home (49-32). … Chicago pitchers set a National League record with 1,431 strikeouts, breaking the mark set by the 2003 Cubs (1,404).
Cardinals: October baseball has become an annual tradition in St. Louis, where the Cardinals are trying to reach the NL Championship Series for the fifth year in a row. Despite injuries that sidelined Wainwright, Holliday and 1B Matt Adams for long stretches, the Cardinals (100-62) won their third consecutive NL Central title and finished with the best record in the majors. Mike Matheny became the first manager in major league history to take his team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons. This is the deepest team he’s had by far – and one of the deepest for the Cardinals in decades. The composition of the roster was complicated by numerous players coming off injuries, including Molina, Wainwright, Holliday, Grichuk and Adams, but the Cardinals filled big holes all season. … St. Louis went 55-26 at home, best in the majors. … Wacha was among the NL leaders in wins but struggled mightily in the final month, going 2-3 with a 7.88 ERA in five starts. … After clinching the division crown, the Cardinals were shut out three straight times on the final weekend of the season while playing makeshift lineups.
– Youth Served. The largest crowd ever at PNC Park in Pittsburgh did not rattle Arrieta or his young teammates in the wild-card game. Instead, the Cubs showed their poise while ending a nine-game postseason losing streak, and one of the biggest blows came from one of their prized rookies. That was a long, two-run homer by Schwarber off Gerrit Cole.
– Back In The Bullpen. Wainwright beat the odds by a country mile, coming back late in the season from a torn left Achilles sustained in April. Normally a No. 1 starter, he will pitch in relief because there was no time to get him stretched out again. But he’s been cleared to work multiple innings and on consecutive days if needed. The two-time 20-game winner was a sterling stand-in closer as a rookie during the 2006 championship season, closing out the NLCS and World Series with strikeouts.