Playoff Reset: Cubs vs. Giants NLDS Game 4

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The Game: Chicago Cubs @ San Francisco Giants, NLDS Game 4
The Time: 8:30 PM EDT
The Place: AT&T Park, San Francisco
The Channel: FS1
The StartersJohn Lackey (Cubs) vs. Matt Moore (Giants)

The Upshot:

Did you stay up for last night’s exciting affair? Ain’t gonna lie, I didn’t. Bill was covering it and I’m an old man morning person, so I woke up to see that (a) Aroldis Chapman allowed back-to-back hits to lefties and blew a save; and (b) Joe Panik drove in the winning run in the 13th inning. Baseball, man. You can’t predict anything about it other than the Giants hanging tougher than you’d think they’d hang given the circumstances.

Still, they have to do it again. And then one more time if they want to stay alive. It’s hard to see them doing that. Even if the games are coin flips from here on out, the Cubs have a 75% chance of advancing, and I don’t think we have coin flips yet. The long Game 3 taxed the Giants’ bullpen just as much as the Cubs and the Giants had less of an asset base from which to pay that tax in the first place. And, of course, they don’t have Madison Bumgarner to save them anymore (not that he did much to save them yesterday).

Tonight the Giants have to get past John Lackey (11-8, 3.35), who has been through this playoff rodeo a few times. Indeed, it’ll be his 21st playoff start, which is the most among active pitchers. You may remember that one of his earliest ones came in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series when Lackey, then a rookie, beat the Giants to give the Angels their only World Series title. That doesn’t matter now, but what else is a game preview for than dropping bits of history? How about this history: the last time he faced the Giants in the postseason he got beat up, losing to them in Game 3 of the 2014 NLCS while pitching for the Cardinals. He was a different John Lackey that year than he has been this year, however. He’s a lot better at the moment.

The Giants will counter with Matt Moore (13-12, 4.08 ERA), who pitched better down the stretch than his overall 2016 numbers suggest. Heck, he pitched better down the stretch than his down-the-stretch numbers even suggest, allowing two or fewer runs in six of his last eight starts. His September numbers were inflated by two disaster starts sprinkled in. At any rate, Bruce Bochy considered him to be his Game 2 starter before ultimately deciding on Jeff Samardzija.

All of the fundamentals still favor Chicago. They have better pitchers available in the series’ final two games, if indeed it goes two games. They have the better offense. They have the better defense. All they don’t have going for them is the fact that, in baseball, especially in a short series, sometimes none of that matters a dang bit.

Report: Cardinals, Contreras agree to 5-year contract

willson contreras
Katie Stratman/USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO —Willson Contreras is going to St. Louis to replace Yadier Molina at catcher, agreeing to an $87.5 million, five-year contract with the Cardinals on Wednesday.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the move to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending a physical.

The addition of Contreras fills a major void for St. Louis, which won the NL Central this season with a 93-69 record. Molina retired after spending his entire 19-year career with the Cardinals, making 10 All-Star teams and winning nine Gold Gloves.

Contreras was one of the Chicago Cubs’ last holdovers from their 2016 World Series championship. He made his big league debt that year and helped the franchise to its first title since 1908.

The fiery, strong-armed catcher hit .243 with 22 homers and 55 RBIs in 113 games in his last season with his first major league team. He was on the market this summer – leading to an emotional day at Wrigley Field for what looked like his final home game with Chicago – but he remained with the team after the trade deadline.

The 30-year-old Contreras received a $19.65 million qualifying offer from Chicago, but he turned down the proposal.

Contreras was the best option in a thin market for free agent catchers that also included Christian Vazquez and Gary Sanchez.

Contreras also has played first base, third base and the corner outfield spots in the majors. The three-time All-Star made 39 starts at designated hitter this year.

The Venezuela native is a .256 hitter with 117 homers and 365 RBIs in 734 career games over seven seasons. He hit a career-best 24 homers in 2019 and drove in a career-high 74 runs in 2017.