They’re not great. Fortunately, the Cubs are planning on going with Jason Hammel and he’s not great either, so we should expect to put a few runs on the board. That said, there’s little doubt that Joe Maddon will be prepared to pull Hammel early and use his entire pen so we need to treat every Cubs base runner as the precious little gem that they are. To that end, as I see it, the Cards have 3 options for taking the ball in the bottom of the first.
1. Lance Lynn — Lynn has been penciled in (emphasis on the word “penciled”) as the game 4 starter pretty much since the series began but that has never been confirmed definitively by Matheny. Lynn’s struggles down the stretch have been well documented but that’s hardly the only thing Lynn has working against him. The biggest drawback to using Lynn in game 4 is the fact that he has severe platoon splits and the Cubs have the ability to stack the lineup with left-handed hitters. The table below shows Lynn’s splits for 2015 and for his career. Warning…it’s not pretty.
|vs. RHB — 2015||26.9||6.7||0.27||.276||2.23|
|vs. LHB — 2015||16.9||11.8||1.18||.350||5.02|
|vs. RHB — career||26.6||5.6||0.48||.279||2.45|
|vs. LHB — career||18.3||12.3||0.93||.341||4.58|
The Cubs have the ability to put Rizzo, Schwarber, Montero, Fowler, Coghlan, and maybe even LaStella in the lineup to take advantage of Lynn (though they’d probably use the right-handed hitting Soler instead of Coghlan). They’ll load the lineup with every Chicago lefty except Leon Durham and Chris Sale. In short, Lynn is a terrible match up for us and absolutely should not be an option for a full starting appearance against the Cubs. He would’ve been a much better option against the Pirates.
2. John Lackey — Lackey would be going on just 3 days’ rest and starters’ struggles on short rest in the playoffs have also been well documented. Lackey also has had some pretty severe platoon splits in 2015 but his career splits are not nearly so bad. On the positive end is the fact that Lackey threw just 86 pitches in Game 1 and probably wouldn’t be asked to go much longer than 5 or 6 innings in game 4. All arms would be on deck in the bullpen so we wouldn’t need to expect too much out of Lackey.
3. Bullpen game — Here’s where it gets interesting. We use Tyler Lyons as the designated starter with the idea that he is to get through the Cubs’ order 1 time. When we reach his spot in the batting order, we’re pinch-hitting and switching to the other one. The big advantage this offers us is that this would prevent any of the Cubs hitters from seeing a pitcher more than once, thus minimizing the problems with facing hitters multiple times through the order. We would, of course, also get a 9th hitter into the order by pinch-hitting every 9 hitters as well. We would go with Lyons for 2 innings, Lynn for 2-3 innings and then maybe matching up after that. In fact, depending on Jaime Garcia’s health, he might be able to be counted on for an inning or 2 as well. As potentially intriguing as this sounds, I don’t believe it’s the option Matheny will choose.
My guess is that Lackey takes the mound in game 4 with the idea of Garcia going on full rest at home in game 5 if we get there. If we get Lackey through 5 innings, we can use Lyons and Lynn to match up against their lefties and righties and then count on Maness, Siegrist, Rosenthal, and maybe Wainwright the rest of the way. Based on the fact that we had to go to the pen so early tonight, using Siegrist for 27 pitches and Wainwright for 24, the bullpen game is a bit risky. We just don’t know how good those 2 who will be and we can’t count on Lynn seeing a healthy dose of righties either. Using him for too many batters is just a non-starter so it really looks like Lackey is the team’s best option to get us back to St. Louis.
Edit: Unsurprisingly, Derrick Goold says that the Cardinals have decided on Lackey for game 4. It’s not a great option, but it’s probably the best one we have.