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Jon Lester gets the wild-card start for Chicago Cubs

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-10-02 07:55:15

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs will send October warrior Jon Lester to the mound for their do-or-die wild-card game on Tuesday night after squandering a chance to win their third straight division title, losing to the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central tiebreaker, 3-1, on Monday.

They will face the Rockies on Tuesday, after the Dodgers claimed the division over Colorado in the NL West tiebreaker on Monday.

"We won 95 games but it just wasn't good enough," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said after the game.

Lester has a career 2.55 ERA in 25 postseason games. He could be followed by starter Cole Hamels, considering the Cubs used six relievers in Monday's loss. With everything on the line, Hamels could get the nod after Lester.

"We're not looking at it as a disadvantage," Hamels said as the Brewers were celebrating in the visiting clubhouse. "There're a lot of teams that are home right now. They would love that one more opportunity to play a meaningful game. That's the way we have to look at it."

The Cubs say they'll be mentally ready. But will their offense show up? It's been missing for most of the second half and was shut down again on Monday by Milwaukee.

"It's just the consistent, hard contact has not been there, more than anything," manager Joe Maddon said. "I can't give you a solid reason. We need to find it, quickly.

"The capabilities are within the group. There's no doubt."

Some might argue with that notion. The second-half offensive woes opened the door for the Brewers to wrestle away the division in Game No. 163. The Cubs had been in first place since July 12.

"It's definitely a little different," Rizzo said of losing the division but still moving on. "That whole narrative switches tomorrow (Tuesday), if we win the ballgame. It's all hands on deck...We can't focus on anything beyond that."

The Cubs won the 2015 wild card game over Pittsburgh thanks in part to Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. Now it's Lester's turn.

He gave up six runs in 7.1 innings in the 2014 wild card game pitching for Oakland, by far his worst playoff performance. Other than that game, he's been solid in October, where he's won three World Series rings.

"It's Jonny Lester," Rizzo said. "He's pitched in a few big games before. He has a resume. We'll be leaning on him hard. We need to score some runs early so he can settle in.

"You're going to have two teams rebounding from a loss in a one game take all. Lucky for us we get to stay here. We don't have to travel."

There's the silver lining for the Cubs. They're at home and they've played in this win or go home game scenario before.

"We're not dead in the water," Maddon said. "We have another opportunity. I've been involved in wild card teams that have gone all the way. You've got to throw this away very quickly. They (Milwaukee) won the division, bully for them. We have to move on and get ready for tomorrow."

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