Ahh! What could be better than one Game 5? How about two? This one is a bit….well, unusual. What do we mean exactly? Read below.
RHP Kyle Hendricks (CHC) versus Undecided (WAS) — 8:08 p.m. ET, TBS
It’s sort of amazing that the season comes down to one final day for the Cubs, and it isn’t Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta starting. Now to be fair, it was “all hands on deck” in Wednesday’s game. And not only did Arrieta start, but Lester was leaned on heavily in relief. You can’t hold back for a Game 5 starter when Game 4 can send you packing.
To be sure, Hendricks is by no means an also-ran. He posted a 3.03 ERA this year that was actually better than what the two rotation cornerstones put up. Though, it was in just 139.2 innings. It wasn’t quite what he did last year in 190 innings—2.13 ERA, 3.20 FIP and stellar rates across the board—but it wasn’t far off, as his strikeout and walk rates were within throwing distance of last year. He did see a bump in homer rate—who didn’t?—and BABIP, but countered that a bit with nearly a two percent increase in grounders.
The fun thing here is that Hendricks isn’t entirely dissimilar from Tanner Roark, the original starter for Game 4 before… you know what? No. We don’t have time for that. Nevertheless, Roark is in the mix for this start, as is Gio Gonzalez as, you guessed it, the Nats will go all hands on deck in an effort to finally win a damn playoff series.
Roark took a big step back this year (4.67 ERA) from last (2.83), but when he’s right, he’s the poor man’s version of Hendricks. He gets grounders, a few strikeouts and is fairly good at limiting walks. He too saw a jump in homers and BABIP. But, was unable to evade regression as much as Hendricks was.
For all the chatter about Roark’s season numbers, his second-half numbers were pretty solid. He posted a 3.90 ERA and held opposing batters to a .292 wOBA. And as long as he doesn’t face any Cubs hitters three times, should be fine. His times through the order penalty starts to catch up there, as he allowed a split of .304-.306-.315-.617 in terms of how opposing batters fared each time through the order. The third time doesn’t seem all that bad, but it comes with a .446 slugging percentage. In a game bound to be tight, power is the one non-negotiable.
With that said, Gonzalez makes quite a bit more sense. He’d be on regular rest, and was terrific this season: 2.96 ERA, 188-79 K/BB in 201 innings and a BAA of .216.
Perhaps Dusty has a trick up his sleeve? The old bait-and-switch could work too, if Roark pitches an inning or two and then Gonzalez comes in. That’s especially useful if they piggyback that with Max Scherzer before going to the likes of Brandon Kintzler, Matt Albers and Sean Doolittle. Each manager will have their mettle tested. This will be a great matchup.