Cubs SS Russell (hamstring) to miss NLCS; Lester to start Game 1
The Chicago Cubs will send Jon Lester to the mound for Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against the New York Mets on Saturday night, and Javier Baez will get the start at shortstop after Addison Russell was shelved by a left hamstring injury.
Russell got hurt while legging out a triple in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Cardinals. He said he felt the hamstring grab while he was rounding second, and manager Joe Maddon said the rookie had a moderate strain.
"Addy right now will not participate in this next round," Maddon said Thursday. "We’re not going to utilize him. Continue to work on him. Hopefully if everything plays properly and we have another opportunity to play in another round he might be available at that time, but for sure not this one."
Maddon said they haven’t made a decision on who Russell’s replacement on this roster against the Mets. The roster must be submitted by Saturday morning.
Baez replaced Russell in the NLDS, and hit a three-run homer in Chicago’s series-ending 6-4 victory in Game 4. The 22-year-old slugger has big-time power, but he has struck out a lot during his brief time in the majors.
"Addison has played enough here this year to know that he belongs here and he can do this. I want to believe that Javy is arriving at that same point," Maddon said. "I think to hit a three-run homer in a playoff game like that against one of the best pitchers in the National League should boost your confidence."
After Lester pitches in the pener, Jake Arrieta will go in Game 2 on Sunday night. Lester is 6-5 with a 2.66 ERA in 15 career postseason games, including 13 starts.
Arrieta threw a five-hit shutout in the Wild Card Game at Pittsburgh but had his worst start in months when he allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings in Game 3 against the Cardinals. Lester hasn’t pitched since the NLDS opener last Friday.
"It’s been a while since Jon’s been out there, so it’s good for him to get out there Game 1," Arrieta said, "and I’ll be ready for Game 2."
Arrieta, one of the favorites for the NL Cy Young Award, is up to 243 2/3 innings this year, easily cruising past his previous career high of 156 2/3 innings from last year. The right-hander threw a side session Thursday and said he is fine.
"I think the playoff atmosphere can drain you of energy mentally and you spend a lot of brain power throughout the day contemplating things, thinking about different scenarios and it can be taxing, and sometimes that’ll translate into some physical fatigue," he said.
"But I think being able to understand how to handle these playoff sort of atmospheres and situations, especially leading into the game, is going to do me a lot more good going into this series."