Previewing the Cubs wildcard game

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October is great for baseball. Every game becomes an under-the-lights game. It’s tense, every ball and strike provides relief or discouragement. Although for the Chicago Cubs, that feeling started a few weeks ago. Regardless of their loss of the division race to the Milwaukee Brewers in a 3-1 tiebreaker yesterday, the Cubs are yet again in the postseason. Although it is the fourth year in a row, being in contention should never be taken for granted with a ballclub that went 108 years without securing glory.

Before you talk about winning it all, you have to see what is in front of you. The Cubs face off against the Colorado Rockies tonight in a one-game win-or-go-home match to determine who plays the Brewers in the National League Divisional Series (NLDS). The two teams split the season series 3-3, and haven’t played since May. The Rockies lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday in their own tiebreaker.

Game time: 7:05, ESPN

Records: Cubs 95-68 Rockies 91-72

Head to Head: 3-3

Nate Burleyson

The stats seem to favor the Rockies just a tad more. They hit a lot more home runs than the Cubs but they have a skewed stat there playing in Colorado. The same home runs there won’t get over the ivy in Wrigley tonight. The most jarring statistic to me is the Cubs leaving the most runners on base per game in the MLB. It’s good to know they are getting runners there, but you can’t leave anything to be desired in a one-game series.

People love to talk about having the hot hand going into the postseason.

Cubs in their last 25 have gone 14-11, only scoring more than seven runs three times. In that same period, the Rockies have gone 16-9, dropping six of those games against the Dodgers. They have scored more than seven runs six times. The Rockies surely are hotter on the bats than the Cubs. But maybe we need to go a little deeper if we want to understand how being “hot” increases playoff success.

In 2017 the eventual champion Houston Astros were 8-2 in their last ten going into the playoffs.

In 2016 the eventual champion Chicago Cubs were 7-3 in their last ten going into the playoffs.

In 2015 the eventual champion Kansas City Royals won five straight going into the playoffs.

In 2014 the eventual champion San Francisco Giants were 4-6 in their last ten going into the playoffs.

I personally do not believe in momentum. I think it is very over exaggerated when talking about teams. Sometimes on a given night, one team is just flat out better than the other. Most of the time, that is backed up by what happened in the last 162 games. You can crunch the numbers and see that these teams are pretty even. There isn’t a lot of major factors or mismatches that will change this game. It will come down to whoever plays better tonight. At the end of the day, doesn’t it feel nice to be in the playoffs?