Rockies @ Cubs NL Wild Card Preview


The Rockies were shutout by Walker Buehler and couldn’t force him out of the game until there were already two out in the seventh inning and the Dodgers up 5–0. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story hit back-to-back solo home runs against Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning and then the Rockies went quietly.

German Marquez cruised once through the Dodgers’ lineup before running into trouble the second time, as is often the case. He didn’t make it out of the fifth but Bud Black anticipated the very scenario his team finds itself in tonight and didn’t blow through his bullpen. Colorado didn’t pitch the ninth inning as a the road team.

It did have to travel last night, though. The Cubs stayed right at home after doing even less on offense against Jhoulys Chacin and a wicked Brewers’ bullpen that used Josh Hader for the final two innings. Anthony Rizzo’s solo shot in the fifth inning was all Chicago got in a 3–1 defeat.

Monday was a hearty appetizer but the postseason officially begins tonight at 8:05 EST in Chicago.

Free Play

Joe Madden didn’t choose to throw Jose Quintana ahead of Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks in Game 163 because neither of his top two guys had enough rest. Lester will start this game on four days and he’s got to be good because Chicago’s bullpen really isn’t.

Kyle Freeland didn’t appear in the Rockies’ wild card defeat a year ago as a rookie so this is his postseason debut, on the road and on three days of rest. His only start against the Cubs this season came against Lester on April 30th, a game the Cubs won 3–2 at Coors Field.

Both guys throw left-handed and throw a lot of the same stuff. Lester has nine years and a whole lot more postseason experience on Freeland but there’s something to be said about a young kid getting his shot against the old guard in a fair fight. Colorado fans should feel a whole lot better going into this game than they did last year with Jon Gray on the mound in Arizona.

Neither team has a shutdown ‘pen but Colorado’s is better. Black didn’t throw Wade Davis, Adam Ottavino, Seunghwan Oh or Yency Almonte; and Scott Oberg only threw eight pitches last night. Maddon threw more guys but they all did their jobs so effectively that he’s got everybody available tonight, too.

Arenado and Story homering in the ninth last night might boost their confidence going into tonight. Lester can’t get cute with Ian Desmond or Chris Iannetta, either.

Kris Bryant hasn’t regained his power since returning from a shoulder injury a month ago but Ian Happ or David Bote are both dangerous footnotes. If this game turns into the pitchers duel it has the potential to be, it may come down to which right-handed power hitter can put one over. Tonight’s forecast calls for wind out to right field.

I expect this game to stay low early because both starting pitchers are 1) great and 2) understand the vulnerability of the bullpens behind them. At the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me if either guy ran into trouble, given the right-handed power both teams possess and the wind forecast. Freeland could get overwhelmed and may not have the length on three days of rest; Black will have a quick hook.

It’s in the middle and later innings when I could see runs come in bunches. I was hoping to play an under 4.0 in the first five innings but the ‘books are hanging a 3.5 with juice on the over, which is smart. Still, I’m confident in both starting pitchers and at least we get even money on that early under. Freeland could tank; Colorado’s right-handed power could bother Lester; there’s also a great chance it’s 1–0 after five.

Play: Under 3.5 (First 5 Innings)

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