PHILADELPHIA — The Cubs still have plenty of time to line up their rotation so that Jake Arrieta can start the National League’s wild-card game.
The immediate response to the heavy rain that fell across Citizens Bank Park and wiped out Thursday's game is that Arrieta will start Game 1 in Friday’s doubleheader (4:05 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet) against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Cubs have positioned Kyle Hendricks for Game 2 and will go with Dan Haren on Saturday night, meaning the Sunday afternoon finale to this four-game series is listed as “to be determined” and could become a bullpen exercise.
The Cubs (80-58) will then go from the worst team in baseball to the playoff contender right in front of them. Jon Lester and Jason Hammel are scheduled to pitch in Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Arrieta would be up next on Wednesday at PNC Park.
The Cubs and Pirates appear to be on a collision course toward that wild-card game on Oct. 7, coming out of a division that should produce three playoff teams with 90-plus wins.
Lester — who won two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox and owns a 2.57 career ERA in the playoffs — endorsed the idea of Arrieta starting that win-or-else game: “The statement that I think he’s probably the best pitcher in baseball right now probably sums that one up.”
Arrieta — who has made 15 straight quality starts, sliced his ERA to 2.03 and put a no-hitter on his resume — will be going for his 19th win on Friday and making his Cy Young case.
“I know those are questions that are asked a lot — ERA, wins, innings, strikeouts,” Arrieta said. “But, honestly, those will work themselves out. What I worry about is the four days in between my start, what I can do to get better. How can I go into that start as prepared and as confident as possible?
“That’s my focus, because I know that on Day 5, when I go out there, I’ve covered all my bases. I know what my intentions are, and the results speak for themselves.
“At the end of the day, if I win 20 games, then that’s just a byproduct of the time I spend in between my starts.”