Hottovy: Lester will almost certainly get nod as Cubs' No. 3 starter in playoffs

Jon Lester has a 1.06 ERA in his past three starts after struggling for a stretch.

(670 The Score) The Cubs’ pitching rotation for their best-of-three wild-card round series next week is taking shape.

Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy admitted there’s no reasonable situation he could envision in which the Cubs wouldn’t give veteran left-hander Jon Lester the ball in a potential win-or-go-home Game 3 in the opening round of the expanded 16-team playoff format. Right-hander Alec Mills and right-hander Adbert Alzolay would be available to work out of the bullpen in that game or earlier in the series in such a situation.

“This is just from me, I don’t know how you go into a postseason and not trust a guy with the storied history and the guy who has been in the postseason and pitched some of the biggest games, if it’s Game 3 and … our season is on the line, I don’t know how you don’t trust Jon Lester with the ball in some of the biggest moments,” Hottovy said on the Mully & Haugh Show on Wednesday morning. “Regardless of how he’s pitched lately, just because of who he is. You add the fact that Jon is now, I believe, has given up two runs in his last 17 innings, he’s really throwing the ball well. What he has worked on over the last few weeks, just kind of simplifying things, getting back to being who he is and what makes him tick has shown on the field.

“Being honest with you guys right now, knowing that we have a Jon Lester on the team, I don’t know how you don’t use a guy like that in a Game 3 scenario.”

Hottovy’s comments echoed what manager David Ross had to share on the Laurence Holmes Show on Tuesday, when he emphasized that Lester’s long track record of success in the playoffs will be a big factor in the team’s decisions. Lester has a 2.51 ERA in 26 appearances in the playoffs in his career, including 22 starts. Lester has a 4.40 ERA in 11 starts this season but has been strong lately, posting a 1.06 ERA in his past three outings.

Right-hander Yu Darvish (2.22 ERA) and right-hander Kyle Hendricks (2.93 ERA) will start in some order for the Cubs in the first two games. The Cubs hold a 3.5-game lead with five days left in the regular season. If they clinch the NL Central crown as expected, they’ll host the wild-card round at Wrigley Field.

Alzolay threw four innings of one-run ball while striking out seven in the Cubs’ 3-2 loss to the Pirates on Tuesday evening. He has a 3.31 ERA in five appearances for the Cubs this season.

“This kid continues to impress when he gets opportunities,” Hottovy said.

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