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October madness? Here’s how MLB’s wild postseason will work
SportsPulse: 16 teams will play in this year’s unprecedented MLB postseason. Mackenzie Salmon explains how the format, the bubbles and everything in between will work this October.
In one of the Wild Card round’s most intriguing series, the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins meet at Wrigley Field, a matchup of teams who took very different routes to the postseason.
The young Marlins overcame an early COVID-19 outbreak to finish second in the National League East and get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Meanwhile, the Cubs are in the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, but this could be the last hurrah for its core group that won a World Series title in 2016.
Chicago’s offense – the big names in particular – struggled in 2020, ranking 27th in the majors with a .220 team batting average, but their postseason experience could give them the edge against a Miami team severely lacking in that department.
Here’s a closer look at the best-of-three series that begins Wednesday:
Wednesday, Game 1: Marlins (pitcher TBD) at Cubs (Kyle Hendricks, 6-5, 2.88 ERA), 2 p.m. ET, ABC
Thursday, Game 2: Marlins (TBD) at Cubs (Yu Darvish, 8-3, 2.01 ERA), 2 p.m. ET, ABC
Friday, Game 3 (if necessary): Marlins (TBD) at Cubs (Jon Lester, 3-3, 5.16 ERA), 2 p.m. ET, ABC
Three things to watch
Craig Kimbrel under pressure: The Cubs reliever has struggled with injuries and inconsistency since signing with the team last June, but looks to have found his form down the stretch. Kimbrel didn’t give up a run in his last eight appearances of the regular season (with 13 strikeouts and no walks) and had a 1.42 ERA in his final 14 games after a few ugly outings to start the season.
Marlins pitching: It’s unclear how Miami will line up its rotation for the three-game series, but genuinely have arms capable of pitching them deep into October. Sandy Alcantara (acquired in Marcell Ozuna trade) only made seven starts this season due to COVID-19, but struck out 39 in 42 innings with a 3.00 ERA after an All-Star campaign in 2019. Sixto Sanchez (J.T. Realmuto trade) dazzled upon his promotion majors but got knocked around in his final two starts of the season.
Darvish’s demons: The last time we saw Yu Darvish in the postseason, he was getting pulled in the second inning of Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, the second time in the series he had failed to get six outs. Darvish was terrific in 2020 (8-3, 2.01 ERA) but will the past failures weigh on him in this short series?
Marlins in 3.