Levine: John Lackey Takes The Ball In Big Game, Just Like Cubs Envisioned

By Bruce Levine–

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) — The ball will be in hand of John Lackey on Tuesday night, just like the Cubs front office envisioned when they brought him to Chicago.

Lackey is the most experienced postseason pitcher active in the game. Tough as nails, he gets the ball on the road against the Giants with the Cubs leading 2-1 in the National League Divisional Series, and he has one objective in mind.

“We embraced all of the expectations since day one of spring training,” the 37-year-old Lackey said. “It starts with (manager Joe Maddon). He really has an atmosphere that is pretty loose. That helps everyone, but mostly our young guys play free and not nervous in order to really get after it.”

Lackey will need some help from an offense that has mostly contributed occasional long balls as run support in this series. Chicago has scored 11 runs in the three games, and all of its runs in a 6-5 loss in 13 innings in Game 3 came via the home run. That came three nights after a Javier Baez homer marked the only run scored in a Game 1 win for Chicago.

Lackey believes he can step it up a notch from an emotional perspective.

“Yeah, I guess there is something, there is that, for sure,” he said Monday. “I feel like some guys are better in big games for sure. Over the years, I found you are going to be a little more amped up. To fight that sometimes can be counterproductive. If you embrace it and use it, it can take you to another level.”

Having won two World Series clinchers in his career, Lackey is a direct person who earlier this season famously said, “I didn’t come here for a haircut.” His sole intention is winning a championship.

“From day one, we have been talking about winning the World Series,” Lackey said. “That’s the goal. We want to be the last one standing. That has not changed.”

Lackey will take an 8-5 postseason record into the contest against the Giants and left-hander Matt Moore. He’s pitched 127 1/3 innings in his postseason career, making 23 appearances and 20 starts, with a 3.11 ERA.

The Cubs have been held to a .202 batting average in this series, with the most notable slump coming from MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo, who’s 0-of-13 with no walks and three strikeouts. Addison Russell is also 1-of-12.

“It’s just baseball,” Rizzo said. “Obviously, I have not had the best three games to start off. I will get back tomorrow and play. Every run you can push across, you want to take advantage of. The Giants job is to get us out. Our’s is to hit it. So we just have to show up tonight.”

The Cubs have registered only five walks in 109 at-bats, which isn’t indicative of a patient team that scored 808 runs in the regular season.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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