SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Dodgers turn their attention to facing the Cubs in the National League Championship Series starting Saturday (8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on FS1), they'll discover perhaps an unexpected note in the scouting report.Many of these same Cubs pitchers who helped lead the staff to a
SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Dodgers turn their attention to facing the Cubs in the National League Championship Series starting Saturday (8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on FS1), they'll discover perhaps an unexpected note in the scouting report.
Many of these same Cubs pitchers who helped lead the staff to a Major League-best 3.15 ERA also have a knack for handling the bat. As was evidenced in Chicago's NL Division Series win over San Francisco, that seemingly minor detail can have game-changing effects.
Of the 17 runs the Cubs scored in the NLDS, six were driven in by pitchers.
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"I think that the mindset for us is we don't want to go up to the plate and just be a free out," said Jake Arrieta, who became the first pitcher to homer off Giants ace Madison Bumgarner with his three-run blast in Game 3 of the NLDS. "There's a lot of time and energy put into that to just help carry our weight. Being able to handle the bat really can put a lot of pressure on the other side."
That focus on being capable with the bat started back in Spring Training, largely under the guidance of pitching coach Chris Bosio.
"It's something we knew we were going to have to be better on, especially to be that team to play deep in the postseason," Bosio said before Chicago's 6-5 victory over San Francisco in Game 4 on Tuesday. "It's something that we know as an organization that we had to get better [at]. All that hard work from Day 1 in Spring Training is paying off."
Though their strikeout percentage (44) remained static from last year to this one, Cubs pitchers did see an uptick in production in every other offensive category.
Chicago's batting average jumped from .114 in 2015 to .157 this year, fourth best in the NL. And the Cubs ranked among the NL's top five teams in on-base percentage (.197), slugging percentage (.209), OPS (.406), hits (54) and total bases (72). Last year, they were below league average in all of those areas, with the exception of hits.
It's been a tangible reward for a group that has committed itself to taking batting practice almost every day this season.
"Our guys do put a lot of time in," manager Joe Maddon said. "They work at it. They take pride in it. And they know I'm not always going to call for a bunt. [I like to] give them a shot so they know we have confidence in them swinging the bat right there."
Capable personnel helps, too, as Maddon noted. Arrieta and Jason Hammel are among two of the best hitting pitchers in the league. In fact, Arrieta led the league in hits (17) and was one of four NL pitchers with multiple home runs. Travis Wood, before being moved to a relief role, presented a similar threat, as he reminded with a first-pitch home run to help Chicago to a win in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks largely contributed in a different manner. Both finished among the league leaders in sacrifice bunts. Lester laid down nine, while Hendricks had eight.
The damage these pitchers did in the NLDS was historic. Their six RBIs tied the 1958 Braves (World Series) and the '70 Orioles (American League Championship Series) for the most by a team's pitchers in a postseason series. They also became the first team since the '24 New York Giants to have two pitchers homer in the same postseason series.
Cubs pitchers finished the NLDS 3-for-9 (.333) with two homers and six RBIs. In comparison, the Giants as a team hit .252 with no home runs and 13 RBIs over four games.
"Run production is what we're all about," Bosio said. "Pitching and defense will win championships. But any time our pitchers can contribute in any way, whether it's getting down a bunt or big swing of the bat, we'll take it.
"We've been rewarded for our hard work."
Jenifer Langosch has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2007.