I think this NLCS against the Marlins will be fun. Unlike the Braves, they can score without hitting the ball out of the park. They led the league in stolen bases, though they were only eighth in the league in runs (the Cubs were ninth). It’s a young team clearly coming off an exciting upset win over the Giants in the first round, and they will not make anything easy for the Cubs. The Cubs took four of six from the Marlins during the season.
While the Prior-Wood tandem has been tossed around all season as if they were a Schilling-Johnson-like dynamic duo, for most of the year Wood has been inconsistent. Even in the games where he pitched well and kept the other team in check, it took him so many pitches to get outs that he’d get pulled in the sixth or seventh inning. But it’s clear that, since late August, Wood is pitching at least as well as he ever has since the elbow injury. Without actually looking at the stats, I’d venture to say that with these two amazing performances against the Braves, he is pitching better than he ever has.
If Baker works the rotation the way I expect, Wood and Prior would pitch four times in a seven-game NLCS. Right off the bat, that’s four games where — at this point — you almost feel you can chalk up the victory as soon as they start throwing their warmup pitches. But let’s say the Cubs win only three of those, that means the Cubs would only need one breakout offensive game (which, for them, is five runs or more) or dominant pitching performance from Zambrano or Clement.
I like those odds. I also think the Cubs are lucky to have home-field advantage in the series, because Pro Player Stadium can be pretty unnerving when it’s full of bandwagoning South Floridians (though another Wrigley Field South is likely). That said, with the two-three-two format, a home split can be scary because it means having to win at least one in Miami.