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The answer to the trivia question is “Jake Arrieta.”
The question is “Who was the winning pitcher the last time the Chicago Cubs won a postseason game?”
With the Los Angeles Dodgers in town for a three-game series — beginning with a split doubleheader Tuesday at Wrigley Field after Monday night’s game was postponed because of inclement weather — a reminder is in order of the different trajectories of the two storied franchises.
Arrieta’s postseason victory came in Game 4 of the 2017 National League Championship Series. It staved off a four-game sweep, though the Dodgers handed the Cubs an 11-1 loss in the clincher the next night at Wrigley.
The Cubs lost the wild-card game to the Colorado Rockies in 2018, missed the postseason in 2019 and were swept by the Miami Marlins in two games last October. The Dodgers, meanwhile, have won the NL West the last eight seasons and ended their World Series championship drought last fall.
So what can the Cubs do to be like the Dodgers?
“Honestly, it’s May 3 and I’m just worried about playing first base today and helping this team win,” Anthony Rizzo said, swatting away the question before the postponement. “I like our team. I like a lot, all the guys here. But we’ve got to win some baseball games.”
That goes without saying, but the Dodgers owners appear more committed to winning. The Cubs lopped payroll this winter by trading ace Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres, while the Dodgers signed free-agent starter Trevor Bauer to a three-year, $102 million deal.
When asked at the start of spring training if he felt a need to make trades to pare their $247 million payroll, Dodgers President Andrew Friedman said that wasn’t necessary.
“We feel really good about the team we have in place and we know that there are some added costs associated with it, which is not ideal, and it is a cost,” Friedman said. “But we feel like with where we are and the team we have that the reward kind of outweighs that. We’re at a level right now that’s not sustainable, but we don’t ever view our payroll at any one moment in time. We really view it over a three-, four-, five-year period.”
The Cubs, meanwhile, are struggling to stay relevant. They’ve lost seven of nine after going over the .500 mark at 11-10 on April 23, and they posted a 6.71 ERA on their 2-5 trip that ended Sunday. But the offense has picked it up since a dreadful start, scoring 12 or more runs four times in the last 15 games.
They were on the short end of a 13-12, 10-inning loss to the Reds on Sunday in Cincinnati, a game that featured a combined 10 home runs.
“It felt like a playoff game, to be honest with you,” manager David Ross said afterward.
But the Cubs aren’t close to looking like a playoff-caliber team after the first month of 2021. They entered Monday in last place in the National League Central, and Cubs starting pitchers were 8-12 with a major-league-worst 6.00 ERA.
The Dodgers started 13-2 and appeared on their way to another 100-win season, but they enter this series with 10 losses in 14 games.
“I know they’ve been scuffling a little bit, and they’re ready to get rolling, too, just like we are,” Rizzo said. “They’re the world champs. And it’s always fun playing the world champs.”
Perhaps, but not as fun as being the world champs.
Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner still sore after collision
After Monday’s game was postponed, the teams will play a split doubleheader Tuesday with seven-inning games at 1:20 and 6:40 p.m. Kyle Hendricks will start Game 1 for the Cubs, who did not announce a starter for the nightcap.
Before the postponement, Ross said center fielder Ian Happ was “better” Monday after his collision with Nico Hoerner on Sunday in Cincinnati, but Ross declined to say whether Happ would be available to play Monday night.
Neither Happ nor Hoerner was in Monday’s lineup. Kris Bryant was to play center field, while left fielder Joc Pederson returned from the injured list and was inserted in the leadoff spot.
Ross said team physicians were running Happ through a series of tests.
“Pretty sore,” he said. “Him and Nico both woke up with a lot of soreness.”
Ross wouldn’t say whether Happ would have to go into the concussion protocol or if he even might have a concussion at all. Happ was taken off the field on a cart after the outfield collision in which he appeared to get hit in the head.
Ross also did not give information on Hoerner’s status, other than being sore. Hoerner appeared to hurt his left ankle.
“A lot went on in that collision that makes a lot of different body parts sore,” Ross said.
There was no update on either player after the game was postponed.