Cubs

Clinch squad? Here's the Cubs' starting lineup for Game 4 of the NLDS

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Clinch squad? Here's the Cubs' starting lineup for Game 4 of the NLDS

Will this be the group that fuels a Game 4 clincher and kicks off a clubhouse celebration Tuesday night at Wrigley Field?

The Cubs announced Joe Maddon's starting lineup for Game 4 of the NLDS, where a win would advance the North Siders to their third straight NLCS and bring an end to the Washington Nationals' season.

Here's how it stacks up:

1. Jon Jay, CF
2. Kris Bryant, 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Willson Contreras, C
5. Ben Zobrist, RF
6. Kyle Schwarber, LF
7. Addison Russell, SS
8. Javy Baez, 2B
9. Jake Arrieta, P

The lineup looks much like it did for Game 3, with the exception of Baez's reinsertion. Baez is 0-for-6 with a walk in this series.

Jason Heyward, who is a startling 0-for-18 in his career against Nationals starter Tanner Roark, does not start. Schwarber is back in left field after his defensive disaster in Game 3, but his .497 slugging percentage against right-handed pitching during the regular season means his bat is too valuable to sit. Zobrist also remains firmly planted in the No. 5 spot in the batting order, where he was Monday. Despite plenty of calls for his postseason benching, Zobrist came up with a huge hit to end Max Scherzer's no-hit bid in Game 3.

The Cubs haven't had too much success against Roark in the past. Only two Cubs have more than one career hit against Roark: Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. Rizzo has four hits in 18 plate appearances, two of those being home runs. Bryant has been great against Roark, 5-for-11 with a homer.

Unsurprisingly, there will be a big focus on Arrieta, who will make his first start since a brief three-inning outing against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 26. Arrieta, like Nationals ace and Game 3 starter Max Scherzer, is battling a hamstring issue. He logged just 10.1 innings of work during the month of September while bothered by the injury.

Arrieta's lone start against the Nationals this season was the now-infamous 6-1 loss in which the Nationals stole seven bases — four alone from Trea Turner — prompting the postgame comments from Miguel Montero, who was off the team the following day.

Arrieta is looking to take the baton and continue what has been a trend of fantastic starting pitching for the Cubs in this series. The Cubs are the first team ever to have three consecutive starts of five-plus innings with one or zero runs allowed and two or fewer hits allowed in the same postseason series. Kyle Hendricks allowed no runs and two hits in Game 1, Jon Lester allowed one earned run and two hits in Game 2, and Jose Quintana allowed zero earned runs and two hits in Game 3.

Former Cubs skipper Dusty Baker will send this starting lineup out against Arrieta:

1. Trea Turner, SS
2. Jayson Werth, LF
3. Bryce Harper, RF
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
5. Daniel Murphy, 2B
6. Anthony Rendon, 3B
7. Matt Wieters, C
8. Michael Taylor, CF
9. Tanner Roark, P

While the starting eight position players are the same as Games 1, 2 and 3, Baker has moved around where those guys are batting. Werth gets moved up to the No. 2 spot, while Harper, Zimmerman, Murphy and Rendon get bumped down, Rendon is moved down from third to sixth.

The Nationals have had a ton of trouble hitting Cubs pitching, as chronicled above. They're just 11-for-91 in the series, and three players — Zimmerman, Harper and Taylor — account for seven of those hits. Zimmerman and Taylor are the only players with NLDS batting averages above .200.

Harper, Murphy and Rendon have had success against Arrieta during their careers, with a combined 14 hits in 53 plate appearances. Murphy, Werth and Adam Lind are the three Nationals with home runs against Arrieta.

Obviously, it's worth keeping an eye on Turner, who stole four of the seven bases in that game against Arrieta back in June. He's 0-for-12 in the series so far, but should he get on base, he could change things immediately with his speed.

Roark is an Illinois native, from Wilmington, and a University of Illinois alum. A former Cubs fan, he's had success pitching at Wrigley Field: 3-1 with a 3.52 ERA in five games (four starts).

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

In the latest CubsTalk Podcast, Kelly Crull and David Kaplan look ahead to Thanksgiving and discuss the official coaching hires for the Cubs.

They also talk about where the Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, whether Alex Cobb could factor into the rotation plans and Kap goes off on the 11:30 a.m. Opening Day start time.

Check out the entire podcast here: