CHICAGO – A rain delay helped the Cubs in Game 7 of last year’s World Series.
A rainout Tuesday – in theory anyway – could have and probably should have hurt them in the National League Division Series.
But a strange decision by the Washington Nationals and manager Dusty Baker could end up helping the Cubs in the short term anyway.
Tuesday’s scheduled Game 4 of the NLDS was postponed about 40 minutes after the scheduled 4:38 p.m. start time.
The game will be made up at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Wrigley Field. If there is a Game 5, it will be played Thursday in Washington. The Cubs lead the best-of-five series two games to one.
The winner of the series will travel to Los Angeles to meet the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series beginning Saturday.
A now legendary pep talk by outfielder Jason Heyward helped the Cubs regroup in Game 7 of last year’s World Series, which they went on to win in 10 innings.
Tuesday’s rainout gave the Nationals a chance to go with Game 1 starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who stymied the Cubs on Friday before his defense betrayed him, leading to a 3-0 Cubs victory.
But Baker and the Nats will go with righty Tanner Roark, who was supposed to start Tuesday. The Cubs will stick with scheduled Game 4 starter Jake Arrieta, whom they say is healthy after nursing a sore hamstring for a month. USA Today reported that Strasburg turned down the Game 4 assignment, citing illness.
“We have full confidence in Tanner,” Baker said. “Stras is feeling under the weather, like a lot of my team is. This day actually comes as a plus.”
The Cubs seemed fully prepared to face Strasburg, even though manager Joe Maddon talked up Roark. But they also wanted to play Tuesday with a chance to close out the series.
“I tell you what, I like Roark, too,” Maddon said. “If you look at his body of work, his numbers against us are very good. I know. I get it, but Roark’s very impressive to me, also.
“They have this good pitching, period. We have to win one more game somehow. Based on [Monday’s] game, you want to get right back out there and play. You don’t want that to simmer down or cool down at all.”
If there is a Game 5, Maddon said Game 1 starter Kyle Hendricks is on track to start it even though no final decision has been made. Hendricks likely would match up with Strasburg again.
“I’ve talked about you have to beat the best to be the best,” Maddon said. “Whatever they choose to do, we have to be ready for it. You don’t run away from anything, so however it plays out, it’s going to play out that way.
“You’re going to face nothing but good pitching this time of the year. And, again, there’s nothing you can do to control any of these events, so why even waste one second worrying about it?”
After the game was called, Maddon was asked about the winner of the series possibly playing two games in two days and then having to fly across the country to play the Dodgers. Friday is a scheduled workout day at Dodger Stadium for the Dodgers and their NLCS opponent.
“Some people talk about, you have to play right up ’til the very end, and then you’re going to have an advantage because your team is kind of like into it,” Maddon said. “But then again, when you get a chance to rest and set things up, that’s always good, also.
“I don’t know. Both these teams, between us and Washington, I think whoever wins this series, we’ll be ready for that moment. Neither one will be concerned about that; you’ll just be happy to get there, actually.
“Of course it’s better to be in our position. Of course it is. There’s no way to deny that, but you’re dealt the hand, you play it, and you go on from there. Either way, man, I just want us to get there.”