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Cubs Wild Card Matchup Preview

Chicago Cubs Wild Card Series Preview

On Saturday, The Chicago Cubs clinched the NL Central. With the St. Louis Cardinals’ loss to the Milwaukee Brewers by a score of 3-0, this paved the way for the Cubs to win their first division title since 2017.

In an interesting and unfamiliar playoff format in 2020, the expansion of playoff teams (from five teams to eight teams) gives plenty of teams a shot at the World Series trophy. While the Cubs finished as the third-best record in the NL, they will square off against the six-seeded Miami Marlins.

Here is a deep dive into the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs three-game Wild Card Series.

Past History

The last time the Cubs and Marlins faced each other in the playoffs was 17 years ago, in 2003. That is also the last time that the Miami Marlins made the postseason. After their 17-year drought in the playoffs, the Miami Marlins are hungry to make a deep playoff run.

Moises Alou is interfered by a fan in Game 6 of the NLCS (Image Courtesy of NY Times)

In the 2003 NLCS, the three-seeded Chicago Cubs faced the fourth-seeded Florida Marlins. The Chicago Cubs were poised to make their first World Series appearance since 1945. They were out to a commanding 3-1 series lead and only needed to win one more game to advance.

However, that is when everything went wrong for the Cubs. Although Chicago lost game 5, they were excited to go back home with a 3-2 lead. That was before the infamous fan interference at Wrigley Field which cost the Cubs a clinching victory. The Cubs would eventually lose game 7 as well, blowing a 3-1 lead, and seeing their dreams crushed.

The Cubs will get their redemption in the playoffs to take down the Marlins. Although no Cubs players were on the 2003 team, Cubs fans are still salty about that series and look for revenge in their 2020 playoff matchup.

This will be their first meeting in 2020. Nonetheless, they played each other in 2019 and the Chicago Cubs won the season series 4-2.

Pitching Probables (9/30)

The Chicago Cubs open the series with a better pitching rotation. In a three-game series, the Chicago Cubs are going to pitch their aces.

In the first game of the series, the NL Cy Young Candidate, Yu Darvish, will take the mound for the Chicago Cubs. On the opposite side, the Marlins will give the rock to their best pitcher, Sandy Alcantara.

Darvish has been every bit of fantastic in 2020. He is 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA and 93 strikeouts. Darvish has been efficient all year long which is why his name is being brought up in Cy Young conversations.

This will mark his seventh postseason start, from his time with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 2019, Darvish faced the Marlins twice and wasn’t anything spectacular in those outings. His first outing he pitched 5 2/3 innings giving up two runs on four hits while walking four. In his second outing, he only went four innings, while only issuing one run on one hit. However, he walked six batters in that game.

Although Darvish wasn’t great last season against Miami, he is a man on a mission this year and has all the momentum going into the playoffs.

On the other side of the mound, the Marlins give the rock to Alcantara. After a 2019 season where he led the NL in losses (14), he has bounced back nicely in 2020. He is 3-2 with a 3.00 ERA in his seven starts this season.

As for Alcantara, he faced the Cubs twice last season. In his combined starts against the Cubs, he gave up eight combined runs on 11 hits.

Pitching Probables (9/31)

The Chicago Cubs will give Kyle Hendricks the mound in game two of the series.

He has plenty of playoff experience coming into this matchup. When Hendricks is pitching his best, he is almost untouchable.

Kyle Hendricks (Image Courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times)

This season, Hendricks is 6-5 with a 2.88 ERA and has only conceded eight walks all year long. This will mark Hendricks’ tenth postseason start.

In 2019, Hendricks pitched an absolute gem against the Miami Marlins. He pitched eight strong innings giving one run on five hits.

For the Miami Marlins, Pablo Lopez will take the mound in game two. Lopez has had a surprising season. In his 11 starts this season, he is 6-4 with a 3.61 ERA and a WHIP of 1.19.

An interesting matchup for both sides, if the Cubs and Marlins split the first two games of the series, a win or go home game three will occur.

Pitching Probables (10/1)

If needed, the Cubs and Marlins will play a third game in this Wild Card series.  The Cubs would give the mound to Jon Lester.

Lester turns up the heat come October. His 3-3 with a 5.16 ERA this season is unlike him. However, all that is erased when the postseason arrives.

If Lester pitches this postseason, this will mark his 23rd postseason start. In his 25 postseason appearances, his ERA is a mere 2.87. Come October, no one wants to face the southpaw.

For game three, the Marlins can go with Sixto Sanchez or Jose Urena. Both haven’t been all that this year, but can pitch some solid games.

The Marlins will probably depend on Sanchez to go for them if a game 3 occurs. Sanchez hasn’t pitched great as of late, but started the season off strong. Although he has allowed four-plus runs in two straight starts, his ERA in the month of August was just 2.25 ERA.

Featured Image Courtesy of the MLB

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