Both the Cubs and Rockies will find themselves in a win-or-go-home situation in tonight's National League Wild Card Game at Wrigley Field."I'm excited," Chicago's Daniel Murphy said. "Two-thirds of the league is home right now."Both teams would have preferred to have the day off to prepare for the NL Division
Both the Cubs and Rockies will find themselves in a win-or-go-home situation in tonight's National League Wild Card Game at Wrigley Field.
"I'm excited," Chicago's Daniel Murphy said. "Two-thirds of the league is home right now."
Both teams would have preferred to have the day off to prepare for the NL Division Series presented by Doosan, which will open on Thursday at Miller Park, but after losing their respective division tiebreaker games on Monday, they must rebound quickly to face each other.
• NL Wild Card Game presented by Hankook Tire: Tonight, 8:08 p.m. ET on ESPN
The Rockies were foiled by their 2018 nemesis -- the Dodgers -- in their tiebreaker on Monday, 5-2, but were quickly ready to hop on a plane and begin their postseason dream. It's the first time in the 26-season history of the franchise they've enjoyed the postseason two straight years.
:: NL Wild Card Game schedule and results ::
Colorado lost last year's Wild Card Game to the D-backs, 11-8, at Chase Field.
"We're going to the playoffs," Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon said. "It's an amazing opportunity. We worked really hard to get here. Today was unfortunate, but the fact of the matter is, we have a chance to win the World Series."
• Position-by-position breakdown
The Cubs and Rockies haven't played each other since early May, and split their season series, 3-3.
This is the Cubs' second NL Wild Card Game since Joe Maddon took over as manager in 2015. That year, Jacob Arrieta threw a shutout to beat the Pirates. The Cubs reached the NL Championship Series, but lost to the Mets and NLCS MVP Murphy, who was 9-for-17 with four home runs and six RBIs in the four-game sweep. Chicago is in this game after losing Monday's NL Central tiebreaker to the Brewers, 3-1.
The Rockies also have practice rebounding from disappointment at Dodger Stadium. They were swept in three games in Los Angeles Sept. 9-12, but won nine of their next 10 games to force Monday's tiebreaker and secure their postseason spot.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Tonight, 8 p.m. ET, on ESPN, with an alternate broadcast on ESPN that will focus heavily on analytics and Statcast™, featuring MLB.com's Mike Petriello.
What are the starting lineups?
Rockies: It will be Matt Holliday's first start since Sept. 22 at Arizona, against Patrick Corbin, the last lefty starter the Rockies faced during the regular season. Holliday does have more success against Lester in his career (7-for-15 with a double) than Carlos Gonzalez (2-for-14), but all three players have been in the league for a long time, and it's probably not a good idea to read too much into 12-to-15 at-bats spread out over the course of a decade. Plain and simple: The reason to play Holliday is that he has the platoon advantage against Lester.
- Charlie Blackmon, CF
- DJ LeMahieu, 2B
- Nolan Arenado, 3B
- Trevor Story, SS
- Matthew Holliday, LF
- Ian Desmond, 1B
- David Dahl, RF
- Chris Iannetta, C
- Kyle Freeland, P
Cubs: With the Cubs facing a lefty, David Bote gets the start at third base, with Kristopher Bryant moving to left field.
- Benjamin Zobrist, RF
- Kristopher Bryant, LF
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Javier Baez, SS
- Albert Almora Jr., CF
- Daniel Murphy, 2B
- Willson Contreras, C
- David Bote, 3B
- Jonathan Lester, P
CUBS ROSTER (ANNOUNCED)
Jesse Chavez, RHP
Steve Cishek, RHP
Jorge De La Rosa, LHP
Cole Hamels, LHP
Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Jonathan Lester, LHP
Alec Mills, RHP
Mike Montgomery, LHP
Randy Rosario, LHP
Pedro Strop, RHP
Justin Wilson, LHP
Thomas La Stella
Albert Almora Jr.
ROCKIES ROSTER (ANNOUNCED)
Who are the starting pitchers?
Rockies: Freeland (17-7, 2.85 ERA) will make his third career start against the Cubs. The 25-year-old lefty took the loss in his lone outing against them this season, holding the North Siders to three runs on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts in seven innings on April 30.
"I'm not going to change my mentality at all," Freeland said. "Anything that I did from April until now, it's going to be the same attitude. There's no reason to add any more pressure because of where you are, who you're playing, what's at stake or anything like that.
"I have my reports [from the April start]. I did a couple reports today just preparing for what could happen. They added a few guys to the Cubs. I went back, watched video, checked up on some guys to see if they made any adjustments. So I have my report ready."
Freeland will be pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his pro career, but he recalls doing it at the University of Evansville -- where he played after a standout career at Denver's Thomas Jefferson High School -- and doesn't expect undue fatigue.
Cubs: Lester (18-6, 3.32 ERA) will be making his 22nd postseason start. The left-hander has been the workhorse for the Cubs, and this season marks the fifth in a row in which he's made at least 32 starts. Lester, 7-4 with a 3.32 ERA at Wrigley Field, has started the first game of a postseason series 10 times and also made one Wild Card start for the Athletics on Sept. 30, 2014, against the Royals. He did not get a decision in that game, which went 12 innings. He did give up six earned runs over 7 1/3 innings.
"I don't know if there's anybody better in a situation like this," Murphy said.
What makes him so good in the postseason?
"It's just the way he prepares and the expectations he has on himself," Cole Hamels said. "He has a great work ethic, and you have to admire that. To be as fortunate as he was to be brought up in that type of atmosphere in Boston with those type of baseball expectations, it trains you, and it trains you for these moments."
On Monday, in the tiebreaker game against the Brewers, Maddon had Kyle Hendricks warming up in case the game went extra innings. Hamels will be the extra starter in the bullpen tonight.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Rockies: The bullpen should be in good shape. Black used Scott Oberg for an inning on Monday even though the Rockies were behind, but Oberg had been off for two days. He also used lefty Harrison Musgrave for two batters, but that should not preclude his availability. Chris Rusin, however, would be the primary lefty.
Oberg and the other righty lead-protection pitchers -- Seunghwan Oh, Adam Ottavino and closer Wade Davis (club-record 43 saves) -- are ready to go.
Cubs: Though the Cubs' bullpen finished the regular season with the best ERA in the NL, at 3.34, it's been shaky lately. Steve Cishek finished the regular season with a 4.15 ERA in September, C.J. Edwards a 5.14 ERA and Justin Wilson a 4.50 ERA.
The Cubs do not have a designated closer and are instead mixing and matching. Jesse Chavez has been the most consistent of the group and has not given up a run in his last 11 outings. He shut down the Brewers over two innings on Monday.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Cubs: Maddon said that the only reliever he is concerned about is Cishek, who pitched for the third straight day on Monday, although he only threw six pitches.
"All arms are on deck," Cishek said. "It's October baseball. I'm going to say I'm good to go no matter what. I know I'll have a chip on my shoulder. … I expect us to come out and play hard and give us another shot to continue on."
Any injuries of note?
Rockies: The Rockies have cleared their injury hurdles. Arenado, who had an injured right shoulder in August and looked compromised at times, and Story, who missed time in September with an injured right elbow, are not only healthy but swinging and throwing well.
Cubs: Reliever Pedro Strop has been out with a sore left hamstring since Sept. 13. There was a report late Monday saying that he he would be available for the NL Wild Card Game, but a team official told MLB.com that was unlikely. Strop has thrown off a mound twice since he was injured.
If they win, who would be the starting pitcher for Game 1 of the NLDS?
Rockies: That becomes an interesting question, since the best scenario was for the Rox to win the tiebreaker on Monday and save Freeland to start in his hometown. But if the Rockies beat the Cubs and head to Milwaukee, the best option is righty Antonio Senzatela (6-6, 4.38 ERA) on Thursday. Senzatela won his only start at Miller Park -- five scoreless innings, two hits, six strikeouts and three walks in his Major League debut on April 6, 2017.
Cubs: Hendricks (14-11, 3.44 ERA) would most likely open the NLDS. The right-hander is 2-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 10 postseason starts, including Game 1 of the NLDS last year against the Nationals, in which he threw seven shutout innings in a 3-0 win. This season, Hendricks set a career high in innings pitched (199) and has finished strong, going 4-1 with a 1.79 ERA in September.
Anything else fans might want to know?
There's no place like Wrigley Field for the Cubs, who finished the regular season with a 51-31 home record. The forecast calls for cloudy skies with temperatures in the 60s.
But the Rockies like ivy, too. They won 2-of-3 there from April 30 to May 2 and have won seven of their last 10 at Wrigley.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.