LOS ANGELES -- When Dodgers rookie left-hander Julio Urías makes history tonight by becoming the youngest pitcher to start a postseason game, across the field, one of the most accomplished postseason pitchers of this generation will be looking to enhance an already extensive October resume.John Lackey, the Cubs' chosen starter
LOS ANGELES -- When Dodgers rookie left-hander Julio Urías makes history tonight by becoming the youngest pitcher to start a postseason game, across the field, one of the most accomplished postseason pitchers of this generation will be looking to enhance an already extensive October resume.
John Lackey, the Cubs' chosen starter for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, has made more postseason starts than Urias has career appearances. Urias was 6 years old when Lackey first stepped onto the postseason stage in 2002, helping pitch the Angels to a World Series championship as a rookie right-hander. His Game 7 victory in that Fall Classic became the first by a rookie in 93 years.
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Lackey, who had just turned 24 then, is days away from turning 38 now. The age difference in tonight's pitching matchup -- 17 years, 294 days -- will be the fifth largest between starters in postseason history.
Though Lackey acknowledged that the naivety that comes with pitching in the postseason for the first time can be calming, given that "you don't know what you're getting into," he said there can also be an edge that comes with experience.
"Probably with the stuff outside the game," Lackey explained. "If you're pitching on a day where there are flyovers and the extra time in between innings, just knowing how to handle those sort of things and kind of slowing the moment down a little bit [helps]."
Wednesday's start will be Lackey's 22nd in the postseason, more than any other active pitcher. He's logged 131 1/3 postseason innings, going 8-5 with a 3.22 ERA. His team has advanced to the postseason nine times in 14 seasons, and this will be Lackey's sixth time taking the mound in an LCS game.
This outing will be a pivotal one, too, as the Cubs find themselves behind in a series for the first time this postseason. Teams that have fallen behind two games to one in a best-of-seven LCS have advanced to the World Series just 11 times in 49 tries.
This will be Lackey's third Game 4 start in a best-of-seven postseason series, but his first with his team trailing.
"You could always say, 'What you don't know obviously can't hurt you,'" Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "But in an experienced situation like with John right now, I know he's able to process it to the point where he's still youthful. He really understands what he's doing out there and how to manipulate and work against certain hitters. He knows how to utilize a hitter's aggressiveness against him. He knows who to stay away from in certain moments. He knows in advance of the lineup tomorrow what he wants to do with each guy."
• Maddon wants Urias' pickoff move on umps' radar
Lackey did not face the Dodgers this season, but he has matched up with them in October before. That came in 2014, when, as a member of the Cardinals, Lackey limited Los Angeles to one run over seven innings in a St. Louis win.
Few current Dodgers have had success against Lackey, and none have gone deep off him (114 combined plate appearances). He's been most susceptible to Adrián González, who has seven hits in 23 at-bats against the veteran right-hander.
But like Urias, Lackey's work has been limited as of late, and with that could come concerns with command. When he takes the mound Wednesday, Lackey will have pitched just once in a three-week span. That outing, a start against the Giants in Game 4 of the NL Division Series, lasted four innings. He allowed three runs on seven hits.
"Pitching once every two weeks the last couple times is not ideal sometimes," Lackey said. "But it is what it is. I'm going to go out there, get after it, and try to execute some pitches. I've been in several [postseasons], but I had a long break in between World Series, so you realize how special they are and how hard it is to get there and how meaningful those games are for sure.
"They're tough to get to, and they're tough to win."
Jenifer Langosch has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2007.