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).