LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers side of the equation when it comes to starting pitching is pretty easy. They set up the NLCS how they wanted and will have had four days off before Game 1 of the NLCS. They are, not surprisingly, going with the exact same order in the NLCS, so it's Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood in that order.
On the Cubs' end, things are pretty complicated, given how much they had to use in the final two games of the NLDS.
Not only that, but the team plane had to stop in Albuquerque for a medical emergency for a family member of someone on the team before finally arriving in Los Angeles around the middle of the day Friday. Between the celebration, that situation and needing some sleep -- not to mention how difficult a decision it is -- it's easy to see why manager Joe Maddon hasn't set in stone his Game 1 starting pitcher.
"We haven't decided yet," Maddon said of his Game 1 starting pitcher. "Honestly, as soon as this is done, I've got to go back to the hotel. We got together with [club president] Theo [Epstein], [general manager] Jed [Hoyer], and all the coaches, and we'll decide at that point. We have not determined anything yet. Of course, John [Lackey] is in the running, Q [Jose Quintana] is in the running, all these guys. Those two guys are primarily in the running."
"So we'll go back, try to get information, and try to make our best decision. So I promise you, the white smoke, as soon as it occurs, you guys will know about it."
Under the circumstances, I don't think this is gamesmanship. I think the Cubs' brass might want to talk to Quintana to see how he's feeling Saturday morning and they legitimately want to try and map out the whole thing with a clear head.
Sorting out the entire rotation for the series is complicated.
Here's why (remember, "normal" rest is four days off):
- Jon Lester threw 55 pitches in 3 2/3 innings on Wednesday. Saturday would be on two days' rest, Sunday on three.
- Kyle Hendricks threw 81 pitches in four innings on Thursday. Even Sunday would only be two days' rest.
- Jake Arrieta threw 90 pitches on Wednesday and had terrible command.
- Quintana entered Game 5 on Thursday, but only threw 12 pitches. Pitchers do throw bullpen sessions between outings, but these were high-stress pitches. Of course, it was only 12 in addition to his warmups.
- Lackey didn't throw the entire NLDS and is a number five starter who had a 4.59 ERA and led the NL with 36 homers allowed this year. However, he had a 3.75 ERA in the second half and was nails in his last regular-season start -- the day the Cubs clinched the NL Central.
It's easy to see that Quintana and Lackey are starting the first two games. I'm just not seeing Lester in Game 2 while Hendricks and Arrieta are out for the first L.A. leg of the series.
If the Cubs do decide that Lester on short rest isn't the way they want to go, why not just go Lackey in Game 1 to give Quintana the extra day?
The setup -- planning for a possible seven-game series -- then could be something like this.
Game 1: Lackey
Game 2: Quintana
Game 3: Lester
Game 4: Hendricks
Game 5: Arrieta
Game 6: Quintana with a Lackey piggyback
Game 7: Lester with a Hendricks piggyback or vice versa
We'll find out Saturday who gets the ball in Game 1 for the Cubs and likely how the rest of the rotation shakes out. For Friday night, we're just left breaking it down. Without a game to watch, that's a good alternative. Talking baseball is never a bad thing.