Lackey to start elimination Game 4 on short rest
Cardinals confident in veteran, who threw 86 pitches in Game 1 victory
CHICAGO -- One game from elimination, the Cardinals are turning to John Lackey to keep them from going home for the winter. Lackey will return to pitch on three days' rest in Game 4 of the National League Division Series vs. the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday (4:30 p.m. ET, TBS).
Following an 8-6 loss to the Cubs on Monday, St. Louis trails 2-1 in the best-of-five series, with Lackey accounting for the Cardinals' win in the series opener at Busch Stadium.
"I'm going to compete my butt off," Lackey said. "We're in this situation, and I'm going to go out and compete and try to keep us alive."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had withheld the identity of his Game 4 starter, pending the outcome of Game 3. Lance Lynn was originally slated for the game when the series began, but Lynn is winless vs. Chicago this season and so Matheny is turning to Lackey in a must-win game.
"I think he's proven it all season long, a guy we go to in big situations, and tomorrow is a big situation and he's ready to go on short rest," Matheny said. "And we were able to get him out a little bit earlier [in Game 1] than what he's been accustomed to. He's had enough rest, and it's time to go."
Lackey has pitched on three days of rest four times during his career -- including twice in the postseason. The last time it happened was in 2005, with the Angels in Game 4 of the American League Division Series vs. the Yankees.
In those two postseason starts, Lackey has a 1.69 ERA with two earned runs allowed over 10 2/3 innings. In 2002, as a rookie for the Angels, his five-inning start with one earned run allowed earned him the deciding Game 7 win over the Giants in the World Series. Of course, he was quite a bit younger back then at 24 years old.
In the Wild Card era, there have been 69 postseason starts on three days' rest after a previous start, and those starters are a combined 17-27 with a 4.63 ERA. But it can work. Just one week ago, Houston's Dallas Keuchel defeated the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game on short rest.
In three career games where his team faced elimination, Lackey is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA over 18 2/3 innings. His team won two of the three games.
Lackey, now 36, wasn't interested in his own resume heading into the start.
"What I've done in the past has nothing to do with tomorrow," Lackey said. "I'm not going to get all dramatic and stuff. It's time to go to work."
While he dismissed talk about his own experience, some of Lackey's teammates felt optimistic because of it.
"I'm confident in Lackey. He's been there multiple times," outfielder Jason Heyward said. "There's nobody, right now in our situation, you'd rather have the ball. I look forward to it."
During the Cardinals' 4-0 victory in Game 1, Lackey worked 7 1/3 scoreless innings with two hits -- including a bunt single. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and gave up one walk with five strikeouts.
Lackey threw only 86 pitches in the game, which should put him in a better position on Tuesday.
"The fact that it's the playoffs, it doesn't really matter how many pitches you've thrown," Lackey said. "Go hard until they come get you."
In three regular-season starts vs. the Cubs, Lackey was 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA. All three starts were at least seven innings with fewer than two runs allowed.
Heading into the 2015 postseason, teams that go ahead 2-1 in a Division Series are 39-10 (79.6 percent) in winning that series.
The Cardinals have some recent history of being battle-tested when facing elimination -- it's the second time in three years they've been down 2-1 in the NLDS. In 2013 vs. the Pirates, then-rookie Michael Wacha was sensational in a must-win Game 4 in Pittsburgh, as he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in the Cardinals' 2-1 victory. Adam Wainwright took the ball and won Game 5 as St. Louis advanced.
The Cardinals also trailed in the 2011 NLDS vs. the Phillies and won Game 4 at home and Game 5 in Philadelphia.
Now it's Lackey's turn to try to spark that resilience once more.
"He's been doing what he does for so long that I don't think you'd rather have anybody else out there," first baseman Brandon Moss said. "He's just going to go out and pitch his game and we're going to try and score some runs behind him. He's been in so many big games and pitched so well."