Chicago Cubs can’t take Michael Wacha for granted; which hitter will step up?


Even with ace Jake Arrieta on the mound, the Chicago Cubs still have to figure out how to give him run support against St. Louis Cardinals starter Michael Wacha.

Believe it or not, but it isn’t a forgone conclusion that the Chicago Cubs will win Game 3 just because they have Jake Arrieta on the mound. Even if Arrieta pitches a gem, the Chicago Cubs hitters need to manufacture runs against a tough opposing pitcher in St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha. 

More from Chicago Cubs

After the Cubs tied up their best of five series with the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night, the series moves to Wrigley Field in Chicago, Ill. for Game 3 on Monday night. The Cubs will send out ace Jake Arrieta to start against St. Louis Cardinals right-handed pitcher Michael Wacha. With all the attention focused on Arrieta’s historic season, Wacha has been largely overshadowed despite the fact that he is a very good pitcher himself.

In 30 starts this season, Wacha accumulated a 17-7 record and a 3.38 ERA. He had a 1.213 WHIP and averaged 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings. However, against the Cubs, his numbers were significantly worse. In four starts against the Cubs, he had a 1-2 record and a 6.86 ERA. The Cubs slashed .301/.376/.542 in games against Wacha this season. He hasn’t lasted longer than six innings this season against the Cubs either. Additionally, Wacha’s ERA in away games (3.53) is slightly worse than his ERA in home games (3.18) which bodes well for the Cubs because Game 3 is at Wrigley.

However, the Cubs can’t afford to take Wacha for granted even though they have had success against him this season. In his three-year career, he has made six postseason appearances in which he accumulated a 3.48 ERA.

Thus far in the playoffs, the Cubs have been fortunate enough to get contributions from a new player in each game (excluding Game 1 of the NLDS in which they scored zero runs). In the wild-card game last Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, outfielders Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber went a combined 5-7 at the plate and accounted for all four runs in the game.

Oct 9, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber (12) lays down a bunt in the seventh inning of game one of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In the Cubs Game 2 win against the Cardinals on Saturday night, Jorge Soler was the hero. He went 2-2 at the plate with two walks and two RBIs. The beauty of the Chicago Cubs lineup is that they have enough depth for somebody new to step up when others are struggling. For example, the Cubs won the wild-card game and evened up the series against the Cardinals despite the fact that their three and four hitters Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were 0-21 in the playoffs thus far. When asked about these struggles, Rizzo said that the postseason isn’t about individual stats, rather it is about team wins.

"I’ve said it all year. It’s not about me, it’s not about Kris, it’s not about Jorge [Soler], it’s about the whole team doing what we can do to win. At the end of the day, as long as we win, it doesn’t matter. —Quote obtained by ESPN writer Jon Greenberg"

So who is going to step up on Monday night against the St. Louis Cardinals and Michael Wacha?

In 11 plate appearances against Wacha, Kris Bryant slashed .300/.364/.900 with one double, one triple and one home run. Anthony Rizzo also had success against Wacha during his career. In 22 plate appearances, Rizzo slashed .455/.478/.727 with two home runs. Perhaps both players can get back on track against a pitcher that they are familiar with and have had success against in the past.

Sep 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) and first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) celebrate defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4 at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In 2015, Wacha has been tougher on left-handed batters (.215 batting average against) than right-handed batters (.253 batting average against). Right-handed hitter Jorge Soler has two hits in five plate appearances against Wacha this season and may get the start on Monday because Wacha has struggled against right-handed hitters. Additionally, righty Starlin Castro is due for a breakout performance after only managing two hits thus far in the postseason. In 23 plate appearances against Wacha, Castro slashed .455/.478/.818 with two home runs and seven RBIs.

Despite the fact that Wacha has been tough on left-handed batters, Kyle Schwarber could earn the start anyway simply because he has been fantastic against right-handed pitchers the entire season. When he has faced a right-handed pitcher this season, Schwarber slashed .278/.396/.557 with 14 home runs and 32 RBIs.

The Chicago Cubs are fortunate to have arguably the best pitcher in the Major Leagues starting on Monday evening. However, the Cubs can’t go into this game with the mentality that it is a foregone conclusion that he leads them to a Game 3 win. The Cubs face a very tough right-handed pitcher in Michael Wacha who has postseason experience. The Cubs hitters need to bring it if they want to win this game. The matchup against Wacha is favorable to some of the Cubs big hitters in the middle of the lineup who have slumped in the playoffs thus far.

More from Da Windy City