St. Louis Cardinals starter John Lackey has mowed down the Chicago Cubs in four starts this year, including Game 1 of this NL division series.
He has had only three days in between starts in the postseason twice in his career, and the first time was an occasion that thrilled Chicago manager Joe Maddon.
Lackey will try to help the visiting Cardinals force a decisive fifth game by stifling a red-hot Chicago lineup Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
The right-hander pitched 7 1-3 innings of two-hit ball Friday to earn a 4-0 victory in the opener, improving to 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four overall starts against the Cubs in 2015.
The Cardinals haven’t won since, falling to the brink of elimination after Monday’s 8-6 defeat in Game 3. St. Louis has advanced from this round each of the four previous years, rallying from 2-1 series deficits against Philadelphia in 2011 and Pittsburgh in 2013.
Lackey is 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA in four postseason starts on three days’ rest, with two of those outings following a start. The first was Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, as he gave up one run in five innings to earn a 4-1 win for Anaheim over San Francisco.
The Angels’ bench coach at the time was Maddon.
”I want to win championships. I want to be on good teams,” said Lackey, who has won four straight division series outings. ”Got a chance here, still, and try to keep it moving.”
Maddon will pencil in a lineup that will have many of the players who combined for a postseason record six homers Monday. Jorge Soler went deep for the second straight game and Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler and Starlin Castro also all connected.
”Pretty impressive,” Maddon said. ”You know, I know the wind was blowing out – we’ll concede that – but most of them were properly struck. We are definitely capable of that.”
Soler has set a major league record by reaching base in his first nine career postseason at-bats, going 4 for 4 with five walks. He is 4 for 8 with three doubles versus Lackey.
The Cubs are unsure whether shortstop Addison Russell will play after he left in the fourth inning with tightness in his left hamstring after legging out a triple, with Javier Baez replacing him. Russell is 3 for 9 off Lackey while Baez is 0 for 8.
”It feels fine now so we’re just going to have to wait, see how it goes overnight,” Russell said.
Lackey has not allowed a homer against Chicago in 29 innings in 2015. Fowler, Bryant, Castro and Rizzo combined to go 7 for 46 against him this year.
How the wind is blowing will be a factor for both starters, though Chicago’s Jason Hammel insists he isn’t concerned.
"I know that most of the time you come out here and check out the wind, see what the flags are doing what you get out there, but I could care less," Hammel said. "I’m not going to treat it any differently than another start, whether the wind is blowing in or not."
Hammel is 0-1 with a 4.80 ERA in three career postseason starts. His last playoff appearance was last year’s AL wild-card game as he allowed the only batter he faced, Kansas City’s Salvador Perez, to hit a game-winning single in the 12th inning of Oakland’s 9-8 defeat.
The right-hander went 10-7 with a 3.74 ERA in 31 starts this year, including 1-1 with a 5.73 ERA in three versus St. Louis.
He’ll get a break if he doesn’t have to face Yadier Molina, who is 6 for 13 with three doubles against him. Molina exited early Monday due to aggravating the strained ligament in his left thumb that caused him to miss the last part of the regular season.
"Let’s see what they can do, see if they can once again support that thumb in a way that he can continue to play and just see if maybe getting him out a little early can help us as we move forward," manager Mike Matheny said.
Jason Heyward, who homered Monday, is 9 for 18 off Hammel and Jhonny Peralta is 9 for 23 with two homers.