Cubs

Cardinals Game 4 starter John Lackey: Past experience is irrelevant

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Cardinals Game 4 starter John Lackey: Past experience is irrelevant

John Lackey’s elimination-game experience has apparently taught him he has no need for chit chat.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny announced late Monday night that the veteran pitcher would make his fourth career start with his team facing postseason elimination as Lackey faces the Cubs in Game 4 of the National League Divisional Series on Tuesday afternoon. With the Cardinals on the brink of elimination after an 8-6 loss Monday to the Cubs in Game 3, Matheny is opting for Lackey only three days after he last pitched. Friday’s Game 1 victor, Lackey is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA in his three previous elimination-game starts. But the veteran insists none of his experience means anything.

“What I’ve done in the past has nothing to do with tomorrow,” Lackey said. “No need to get all dramatic. There’s no time for that. It’s time to go to work.

[MORE: Jake Arrieta is human against Cardinals, but Cubs are that good]

“The past has nothing to do with tomorrow. Gotta go out and do it again.”

Lackey is correct: the past means little. He hasn’t been in a similar spot in almost six years. Many of the current Cubs hitters were still in their late teens when Lackey earned a no-decision in 6 2/3 innings (three runs allowed) against the New York Yankees as the Los Angeles Angels staved off elimination in Game 5 of the 2009 American League Championship Series.

But teammate Jason Heyward said it’s Lackey’s experience in those contests that has St. Louis confident it can rally from its 2-1 series deficit. After all, Lackey lifted the Angels to a Game 7 victory with five strong innings in the 2002 World Series. He also pitched well but took the loss after allowing two runs in seven innings in Game 4 of the 2008 ALDS.

“I’m confident in all of our pitchers,” Heyward said. “And I like Lack because he’s had a lot of experience doing this in the postseason, in season and we’re going to have fun doing this behind him.”

Lackey not only dominated the Cubs with 7 1/3 two-hit innings on Friday, he’s been one of Matheny’s go-to guys in a very strong rotation this season. He finished the regular season 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA in 33 starts. The veteran’s efficient effort Monday — he threw 86 pitches — made Matheny’s decision an easy one.

[MORE: Joe Maddon's playoff vision for Cubs comes to life at Wrigley]

“He's proven it all season long, guy we go to in big situations and (Tuesday) is a big situation and he's ready to go on short rest, and we were able to get him out a little bit earlier than what he's been accustomed to,” Matheny said. “He's had enough rest, and it's time to go.”

Lackey agrees as he noted that pitch counts “are out the window this time of year.” The right-hander would prefer the series was already over but reluctantly agreed he appreciates the opportunity to pitch in big spots.

“I don’t have time to think about all that right now, I’m trying to get ready and win a baseball game,” Lackey said. “I want to win championships. I want to be on a good team. Got a chance here still and want to try to keep it moving.”

Cubs recall David Bote from Triple-A with Anthony Rizzo's back ailing

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USA TODAY

Cubs recall David Bote from Triple-A with Anthony Rizzo's back ailing

David Bote's minor league stint didn't last long.

After demoting the 26-year-old to Triple-A Iowa on Monday, the Cubs recalled Bote on Sunday. In a corresponding move, the team placed Derek Holland (left wrist contusion) on the 10-day injured list.

Bote's return comes on the heels of Anthony Rizzo exiting Saturday's game due to mid-back tightness. Rizzo has dealt with back issues at various points in his career, missing four games in May this season with a similar ailment. 

The Cubs activated Steve Cishek off the injured list Tuesday, with the reliever filling Bote's vacancy on the 25-man roster. Thus, the Cubs had been playing with 14 pitchers and 11 position players for much of this week. Had they not recalled Bote, they Cubs would've had to play Sunday's game with just Victor Caratini and Tony Kemp available off the bench.

A similar situation occurred Saturday, as Rizzo exited the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. To save the Cubs from running out of position players, reliever Kyle Ryan took his at-bat in the sixth inning. Although he drew a walk, Ryan was thrown out attempting to take third base on a pitch that got away from Nationals catcher Yan Gomes.

Holland was hit by a comebacker in Tuesday's game against the Giants. Him landing on the injured list leaves Ryan as the lone lefty in the Cubs bullpen. The former holds a 5.74 ERA this season in 43 overall games between the Cubs and Giants, though that number is a more respectable 4.66 in 12 appearances with the Cubs.

Bote is hitting .257/.352/.429 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 106 games (268 at-bats) this season. 

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Anthony Rizzo leaves Cubs game with injury

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USA TODAY

Anthony Rizzo leaves Cubs game with injury

In the midst of a second straight tough game against the Nationals, the Cubs were dealt another dose of bad news when Anthony Rizzo was forced out of the contest due to injury.

The first baseman was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth inning with what the team called mid-back tightness. The Cubs did not have an update on his status immediately following the 7-2 loss.

Rizzo had walked the previous inning and was stranded on third base when a full-count pitch to Ian Happ was called a strike:

Rizzo made an error in each of the first two innings of the game, throwing a ball into left field when second base wasn't being covered and then dropping a throw from Javy Baez to begin the second inning.

Rizzo has dealt with back issues throughout his career, including a stint where he missed four games in mid-May.

Jonathan Lucroy hit for Rizzo in the fifth inning and doubled home the Cubs' second run of the game. He stayed in to catch while Victor Cartaini moved from behind the plate to first base.

The Cubs were already operating with a short bench since they currently have a nine-man bullpen and they had already utilized Happ off the bench earlier in the game (he was later ejected after the controversial call).