CHICAGO – From the final pitch in Cincinnati on Sunday, the Cubs will have just over five days off between contests that count.
Only a few simulated games and some workouts have made up the 122 or so hours between the regular season finale and the start of the 2016 National League Division Series.
It brings up familiar topic in not just baseball but all of the world of sports: Is rest a good thing or a bad thing? Players can heal but momentum could be lost?
As expected the gap between the last regular season game and Friday’s playoff opener against the Giants at Wrigley Field produced a few differing opinions.
“A couple of days off, it was good for us,” said infielder Javier Baez. “We’re all tired, all the teams are tired. But I would prefer to keep playing.”
Catcher David Ross, who will retire whenever the playoffs come to an end, had a better analogy.
“The cooped up dog in the house all day and the owner gets home,” is how the veteran catcher described the team as they finally get the chance to play Friday. “We’ve been running around the house for too long.”
What does recent history say about teams that have a longer break? There are examples of benefit and harm. Twice the No. 1 team in a particular league has won the World Series in the one-game Wild Card playoff era that began in 2012 (Red Sox in 2013, Royals in 2015). Yet in 2014 both Wild Card teams won the playoff and made it all the way to the World Series, with the Cubs’ NLDS opponent San Francisco beating Kansas City in seven games.
While some of the players thought the break seemed like forever, at least one saw it go quick.
“It feels like it flew by,” said Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. “I’m sure the next thing you know we’ll be talking about hopefully another series and another series. They fly by, that’s just how this game goes.”
Pitcher Jon Lester believes the Cubs’ strategy to get some rest began well before the break this week. The Game 1 starter was asked about the reasons he enjoyed one of the best years of his career (19-5, 2.44 ERA) and he pointed to Joe Maddon keeping the starters under 100 pitches per outing as the playoffs approach.
“I think Joe’s done a good job with us. I know there’s been times this year where we haven’t been happy about coming out of games, but it’s not our decision,” said Lester. “He wanted us to be in a good position health wise and mentally, mental wise coming into this post-season.
“I feel like we have done a good job of that.”
PRIME TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME
Once again Major League Baseball is choosing to keep the Cubs and the Giants in prime time.
The league announced the times for the remaining three contests for the NLDS on Friday:
Game 3 – Monday – 8:38 PM
Game 4 – Tuesday – 7:08 or 7:40 PM
Game 5 – Thursday – 7:08 or 7:40 PM
On Friday the Cubs also start late with the games getting underway at 8:15 and 7:08 PM, respectively.
THIS DAY IN PLAYOFF HISTORY
A year ago, Jake Arrieta was at his absolute best to get the Cubs to the NLDS.
In one of the greatest postseason performances in team history, Jake Arrieta pitched nine shutout innings, allowing just four hits and striking out 11 in a 4-0 Cubs victory.
It was the first win in the postseason for the team since Game 4 of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins and was fueled in part by Kyle Schwarber. The rookie had three RBI’s including a towering two-run homer to right that flew out of PNC Park.
Tweet of the Day
Anthony Rizzo is embracing the playoff atmosphere. Fans should too.