The Chicago Cubs are ready to pull out the big guns and go toe-to-toe with the Bad Boys of the National League Central Division. The St. Louis Cardinals bring their smash mouth brand of baseball to Wrigley Field. The Cubs look to be prepped and ready to rock for Game 3 of the National League Divisional Series.
The Cubs owe a lot to Jake Arrieta. His dominant pitching performance, in the regular season, is part of the reason they’re hosting a playoff game. Game 3 is set for 6:07 p.m. EST. The Cubs are probably considering it a night game. According to a stat mentioned by ESPN, the Cubs hit 20 points higher and average more runs during night battles. Before the sun sets on Wrigley Field, they’ll get their share of hits.
But, what makes this game and series so special is the fact that the Cubs haven’t won a playoff game since the Steve Bartman incident in 2003. Jake Arrietta’s masterful performance against the Pirates ended the streak.
The Cubs didn’t make the playoffs the next three seasons. When the Cubs did return to the post season, they were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 and the Dodgers in 2008. The domino effect of Bartman lasted 12 long years.
Many Cubs fans thought the Bartman incident and the Curse of the Billy Goat were similar. During the 1945 World Series, tavern owner Billy Sianis and his pet goat were ejected from Wrigley Field. The Cubs lost that series to the Detroit Tigers and haven’t been back to the championship round since. The curse seems to be over. If it isn’t, the Cubs aren’t being affected by it. The only mojo on their heads seems to be a winning one.
Arrieta will take the mound against Michael Wacha in Game 3. The Cubs have had decent success against Wacha. Of the current players who have faced him, they have a.311 batting average and.365 on-base percentage. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro have rocked Wacha the hardest. Both have taken him out of the park twice. He has a 4.86 ERA against the Cubbies. Wacha had a good season a but a terrible September (7.88 ERA). In four starts against the Cubs, he was 1-2 with a 6.86 ERA.
Matt Carpenter may have something to say about the Cubs’ chances for an automatic victory. Carpenter owns the highest road OPS percentage (.876) on the Cardinals team. But, Carpenter is struggling so far in the NLDS. He has only one hit in seven at-bats. But, that one hit is a home run. Another factor working against Carpenter is Arrieta. The Cardinals’ third baseman is 0 for 16 against him.
“I swear, it feels like it’s déjà vu,” said Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter on Sunday, on the eve of this dramatic Game 3 showdown. “Just facing a different guy.”
The Chicago Cubs will be playing the role of David and the St. Louis Cardinals will be Goliath, in this year’s version of the National League Divisional Series.
The Chicago Cubs have given their fans a season to remember. A wild-card win, incredible pitching and hope for a return to the World Series. There’s only one thing that may keep the Cubs from rocking the Cards in Game 3. The Cardinals did beat Arrietta back in May. But, that was way before he realized he was Superman.
[Photo by Michael B. Thomas / Getty Images]