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High-flying rivals clash as Cubs meet Cards
Teams with two of the three best records in the major leagues will meet in the National League Division Series when the Chicago Cubs square off against the St. Louis Cardinals beginning Friday.
The Cubs (97-65) eliminated the team with the second-best record, the Pittsburgh Pirates (98-64), with a 4-0 victory Wednesday in the NL wild-card game.
The Cardinals (100-62) will play host to Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS on Friday and Saturday. The series moves to Wrigley Field for Game 3 on Monday and, if necessary, Game 4 on Tuesday. Game 5, if necessary, would be played at Busch Stadium on Oct. 15.
While the Cubs rode the sizzling right arm of ace Jake Arrieta to a win over Pirates on Wednesday, the Cardinals will have all of their pitchers well rested for the start of the series.
John Lackey, who owns World Series rings as a key member of the 2002 Anaheim Angels and the 2013 Boston Red Sox, will start Game 1 for St. Louis. The 36-year-old veteran posted a 13-10 record with a 2.77 ERA in 218 innings and 33 starts this year. He fared better at home (1.93 ERA) than on the road (3.82 ERA).
“He’s been as consistent as anybody in the league,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “The fact he’s been able to be on this stage, has had success on this stage, there are so many different things that he’s brought to this club this year that makes it a pretty obvious choice.”
Lackey is likely to be opposed Friday night by Chicago left-hander Jon Lester, another member of the 2013 Boston rotation.
Lester went 11-12 with a 3.34 ERA in 32 starts this year. He finished the season on a roll, going 3-2 with a 2.36 ERA in September.
Matheny has yet to name the rest of his rotation for the NLDS, but the contenders are Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia. Right-hander Adam Wainwright, an ace starter who missed almost all of the season with a torn left Achilles tendon, likely will make St. Louis’ roster as a reliever.
Right-handers Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks and Dan Haren are possibilities to fill out the Chicago rotation around Arrieta and Lester. Following his complete-game effort Wednesday, Arrieta is unlikely to appear before Game 3 against the Cardinals, and that figures to be his lone start of the series.
Arrieta, 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA in 33 regular-season starts, is riding a 31-inning scoreless streak.
The Cardinals won 11 of 19 meetings with the Cubs this season, though Chicago won two of three in each of the teams’ two September series.