Joe Maddon names Jon Lester Cubs' Game 1 starter for NLDS

ByJesse Rogers ESPN logo
Thursday, October 6, 2016

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon tabbed lefty Jon Lester his starter for Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Friday night, when the Cubs host the winner of Wednesday's wild-card contest between theSan Francisco GiantsandNew York Mets.

"He always embraces the moment. Good things tend to happen," Maddon said of Lester. "He really does rise to the occasion. Everything locks in and he tends to execute at a really high level."

Maddon announced his rotation for the series during a Tuesday workout, choosing Kyle Hendricks to pitch Game 2, while reigning NL CY Young winner Jake Arrieta will start Game 3 on the road. Righty John Lackey would pitch Game 4, if necessary.

Nobody would have predicted Hendricks as a Game 2 playoff starter when the season began, but Maddon had high praise for the right-hander.

"He did take a really big step forward. He deserves it," said Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations. "He had an amazing campaign."

Lester has a 1.74 home ERA while Hendricks led all qualified starters in that category with a 1.32 mark. Meanwhile, the road ERAs for Arrieta (3.59) and Lackey (4.37) were a little more pedestrian.

Friday will mark Lester's sixth division series start; the first four of his career came in the American League. He's 2-2 with a 2.06 ERA in his previous five division series starts, most recently losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 last season. The Cubs won the next three games to advance to the NLCS, where they lost to the Mets.

Maddon explained his overall thinking on putting the postseason rotation together.

"A lot of is based on recent productivity," he said. "The fact that Jon has nailed it, Kyle has nailed it. But they've also been very good at home where Jake's also been good on the road. And John Lackey doesn't care where he pitches.

"It kind of morphed into that over the last couple of weeks."