By Cat Garcia
The Chicago Cubs regular season came to a close on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, the Cubs coming away with a 7-4 victory over the Reds and finishing the season with 103 wins. The Cubs were the only major league club to finish the season reaching the 100-win mark.
As playoff season has officially arrived, Wrigley Field is set to open up shop again this Friday after the Cubs take a four-day respite before heading into the NLDS. The Cubs secured home field advantage throughout the division and championship series during the last week of September, and will host the first two games of the NLDS on Friday at 8:15 p.m. and Saturday at 7:08.
The team that the Cubs will be facing will be determined by the winner of the NL Wild Card game between the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets on Wednesday evening at Citi Field. The Mets squeaked their way into the playoffs with a victory on Sunday afternoon will send ace Noah Syndergaard to the mound to face Madison Bumgarner in the battle to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Playoff rosters do not need to be set until before Friday night’s match, and will likely not be determined until the league knows the outcome of Wednesday’s Wild Card match. However, during comments to the media on Tuesday, Cubs coach Joe Maddon said that 11 pitchers and 14 position players will likely be the set up for the NLDS roster.
“The boxes have been checked in the regular season, we won the division, we stayed relatively healthy, we’ve played well.” Maddon said on Sunday. ”… All this stuff we talked about in camp regarding embracing the target and dealing with the pressure, we’ve done all those things.”
The order of the rotation going into the playoffs will likely be the biggest question during this years playoffs. Last year, there was no question that Jake Arrieta would be starting pivotal games in playoff series, however, with Kyle Hendricks recently emerging as one of the sharpest pitchers in this staff of strong candidates, the tables have turned quite a bit since last season.
Jon Lester has proven that he can be the pitcher that the Cubs expected him to be upon signing in the winter of 2014, and not just on the mound. Lester comes to this club with a bounty of postseason experience, and is ready to help set the tone in the clubhouse that his younger teammates may need. “This season isn’t anything unless we do what we showed up at spring training to do – win a World Series,” Lester said earlier this week. “It’s go time, now we have to live up to the expectations and hype.”
• On the South Side, the White Sox season ended in a relatively quiet fashion as franchise ace Chris Sale took the mound one last time in 2016. However, Sale’s outing was a less than spectacular final act to his stellar season. Sale gave up five earned runs including two home runs during a short five innings of work. Sale finished the 2016 season with a 3.34 ERA, and is still strongly considered one of the top candidates for this year’s AL Cy Young Award.
The White Sox brass wasted no time in beginning to implement some much-needed change for 2017. With manager Robin Ventura’s contract set to expire at the end of the season, the White Sox announced on Monday that bench coach and former Cubs manager Rick Renteria would be taking over as the White Sox manager in 2017. Renteria is a strong managerial option and will hopefully be the beginning of much needed positive change for the south side in the coming seasons.