The Cubs will go to left-hander Jose Quintana for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, the club announced Saturday. John Lackey was also rumored to get the ball for Game 1, as Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta are still recovering from increased workloads in the Division Series. Manager Joe Maddon evidently saw something he liked in the lefty’s postseason debut last Monday, though he told reporters he expects it will be “incredibly difficult” to get a 2-0 head start in the series.
Quintana, 28, posted a 3.74 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 10.5 SO/9 in 84 1/3 innings with the Cubs following a midseason trade from the White Sox. He doesn’t have Lackey’s extensive playoff experience, but shone in his first postseason start during Game 3 of the NLDS, striking out seven batters and holding the Nationals to two hits and a run over 5 2/3 innings. He returned in Game 5 to pitch part of a scoreless seventh inning and earned a hold in the club’s 9-8 finish.
The Dodgers are scheduled to host the Cubs for Game 1 at 8:00 PM ET on Saturday. Fellow left-hander Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the Dodgers following his Game 1 performance in the NLDS, during which he clinched his fifth career postseason win with 6 1/3 innings of four-run, seven-strikeout ball against the Diamondbacks.
Nothing went right for the Blue Jays this weekend. The club was swept in a four-game series against the Athletics, including a 9-2 loss on Sunday. Not wanting to burn out his bullpen in a lopsided game — and perhaps thinking about the general entertainment value involved — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to send designated hitter Kendrys Morales out to pitch the ninth inning. And in typical baseball fashion, he saw better results than some of the dudes who do this all the time.
Morales, who actually pitched in Cuba nearly 20 years ago, worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. He induced three fly outs and topped out at 87.4 mph on his fastball, per Brooks Baseball. He received a standing ovation on the way back to the dugout. Morales hasn’t been hearing that sort of thing for his contributions with the bat recently.
Morales, 34, is batting just .163/.248/.279 with three home runs through 32 games this season. There’s been some understandable clamoring for top prospect Vladmir Guerrero, Jr. to cut into his at-bats. For his part, Morales has been doing everything he can to break out of his slumber at the plate, including ditching the glasses he started wearing during spring training. Hey, whatever works. Morales also had two of Toronto’s four hits on Sunday.
On the heels of Morales’ first MLB appearance on the mound, it feels rather appropriate that the Blue Jays will get their first look at Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani — at least as a hitter — beginning on Tuesday.