Wood has never started a postseason game; his playoff experience is limited to four relief appearances, two with the Braves in 2013 and two with the Dodgers in 2015 and 2016. He pitched two scoreless innings against the Cubs in Game 4 of last year's ...
Here are five things the Cubs need to do to beat the Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field (8 p.m., TBS).
1. Take advantage of Wood’s rust
Dodgers starter Alex Wood hasn’t pitched in three weeks. His last start was Sept. 26 against the Padres, a six-inning stint in which he allowed two earned runs and picked up the win to improve his record to 16-3 on the season. Wood has never started a postseason game; his playoff experience is limited to four relief appearances, two with the Braves in 2013 and two with the Dodgers in 2015 and 2016. He pitched two scoreless innings against the Cubs in Game 4 of last year’s NLCS, which the Dodgers lost 10-2.
2. Take advantage of the Jake advantage
The Cubs send Jake Arrieta to the mound, a proven big-game pitcher who won two games on the road in last year’s World Series. Arrieta is “a squirrel with a lot of nuts in the tree ... a big-game squirrel,” according to his agent Scott Boras. It’s looking like this could be Arrieta’s last game as a Cub; if so, his teammates need to find some inspiration in the moment and send him out as a winning squirrel.
3. Take advantage of home-field advantage
For much of Game 3, Wrigley Field was so quiet you could hear the ivy turning brown. The Cubs need to create some kind of spark — by scoring early and often, for example — to give the crowd a reason to get pumped up.
4. Take a walk
Cubs hitters have drawn just four walks in the first three games of the series while striking out 32 times. That’s a disastrous ratio and it needs to change dramatically in Game 4. Coaxing a freebie out of Alex Wood won’t be easy; he walked only 38 in his 152-plus innings during the regular season. Meanwhile, on the flip side, Dodgers hitters have walked 18 times in the series, an average of six free passes per game.
5. Take Wood deep
All the Cubs’ runs in the series — and when we say “all” we mean “four in three games" — have come via the home run. While Alex Wood only allowed 15 homers in his 25 regular-season starts, 13 of those homers came in his last 11 outings. During that span from July 21 to the end of the season, his ERA jumped from a ridiculous 1.56 to a merely outstanding 2.72. Is that a trend? The Cubs sure hope so.
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