The Rundown: Cubs to Face Mets in NLCS, Addison Russell Will Be Left Off Roster with Injury, Lester to Start Game 1

The opponent is set.

The Cubs are heading to New York to face the Mets in the NLCS.

As expected, the Zack Greinke/Jacob deGrom pitching matchup last night was a good one. Daniel Murphy, of all people, had a huge game (huge series, really), as he hit the go-ahead and eventual game-winning home run in the 6th inning off Greinke.

My thoughts on facing the Mets: I think the Cubs can shut down the Mets offense, but I worry about their staring pitching. They have three starters that can dominate on any given night, and a solid fourth option.

The Cubs went 7-0 this season against the Mets — definitely a highlight of the season — but don’t let that fool you. That was before the Mets acquired slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from Detroit, and they were without third baseman David Wright.

I have confidence that the Cubs can take the series, however. Especially if they can jump out to a 2-0 lead with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta on the hill.

The series kicks off Saturday at 7:00 Central. Can’t get here soon enough.

Russell being left off NLCS roster

With Addison Russell’s hamstring injury being called “moderate” by Joe Maddon yesterday, the young shortstop will be left off the Cubs’ NLCS roster.

It’s a big blow, but not one that should be insurmountable. Maddon confirmed that, like in Game 4 against the Cardinals, Javier Baez would be playing shortstop, as opposed to sliding Starlin Castro over.

Baez has looked good in the playoffs so far and probably offers more upside offensively than Russell. He had a couple of miscues defensively in Game 3, and that’s maybe the one thing you worry about. Hopefully it was a combination of nerves and entering in the middle of the game unexpectedly.

It sounds like Russell should be ready to go if the Cubs advance to the World Series. Let’s hope it comes to that.

As to who the Cubs will use as a replacement on the 25-man roster, I’d probably guess Jonathan Herrera as they don’t have a lot of other infield options. Or they could select an additional pitcher (or maybe even outfielder Quintin Berry) and then use Chris Coghlan as an emergency infielder.

Lester to start Game 1

Joe Maddon confirmed yesterday that it would indeed be Jon Lester starting Game 1 of the NLCS, with Jake Arrieta taking the mound in Game 2.

That’s an exciting 1-2 punch, and it’s nice that the Cubs are able to set up their rotation like this.

Maddon wouldn’t confirm his Game 3 and 4 starters — but did say the Cubs will be going with four starters and not using guys on short rest. I assume Kyle Hendricks will be taking the ball in Game 3.

Game 4 will be either Jason Hammel or Dan Haren. Hammel has just not been himself during the entire second half of the season. Haren had some nice starts at the end of the season, but he hasn’t exactly been Mr. Consistency since coming over to the Cubs at the trade deadline.

Starting pitching depth is my biggest worry for this Cubs team from here on out. The bullpen was able to get them through the St. Louis series.

They likely will be called upon again to play a big role, but it would be nice if a starter outside of Lester and Arrieta can step up with a deep-inning performance.

Other notes

* Anthony Rizzo is working on he Jose Bautista bat-flip. I predict he’ll be busting it out against the Mets:

Bryan O'Donnell

After graduating from Purdue, O'Donnell entered the publishing industry and now works as a copy editor for a nonprofit. When not watching, reading about, or writing about baseball, he's most likely over-analyzing music or current TV shows. He has a soft spot in his heart for both the beaches of Alabama and the mountains of Colorado. You may not know it to look at him, but he can run really, really fast. Follow him on Twitter at @bodonnell14.

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