Maddon would prefer to play 3-game wild-card series
PITTSBURGH -- Everybody knows the deal going in: Major League Baseball's wild-card playoff is a one-game, winner-take-all.
That doesn't mean everybody likes it.
"The only time you want a one-and-done is when you win that first game," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "That's when you love it. I always liked the idea of a best-of-three. I thought that would be the appropriate way to do it after a long season. So my stance has not changed on that."
The Pirates and Cubs have the second- and third-best records, respectively, in baseball this season. They also play in the same division with the first-place Cardinals. The winner of Wednesday night's wild-card playoff game between the Cubs and Pirates will face the Cardinals in the division series, meaning two of these three teams will be gone before the championship series.
On the other hand, If MLB had not added the second wild card in 2012, the Cubs this year would not be in the playoffs.
"I think this is pretty cool," said Cubs lefty Jon Lester, who pitched in the wild-card game last year for Oakland against Kansas City. Lester also had World Series-winning experience. "It's unique. It's different. You don't play a one-game series against anybody all year. Now you're playing to survive on to the next round.
"I think you could argue both sides of it. I think this adds a little more excitement, for the TV and the teams as far as pulling money in and ratings. It's probably pretty good for them. A three-game series would be cool, too.
"This is so unique. This is so different than anything you do all year. It just adds that excitement to it. It gets the viewers to watch these games and see what happens."
No doubt the PNC Park crowd will be plenty loud for Cubs-Pirates. Lester recalled what it was like last year in Kansas City, when the Royals beat the A's 9-8 in 12 innings.
"That was probably the loudest stadium I've ever been in, for that one game," he said. "If you have a three-game series, does that happen? I don't know. Does that bring the excitement to the fans and to that particular moment? We don't know."
He's a best-seller:
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said he was surprised to hear that his No. 17 Cubs jersey is the most popular seller among big-leaguers.
"That's a pretty big honor," he said. "I'm sure it's not like winning like MVP, but it shows me that I'm doing things the right way on the field and have been playing hard and people are respecting me for it. That's all I could ever ask. It's pretty cool."
Bryant said the season has been a thrill for him. He came up from Class AAA Iowa April 17 and wound up with 26 homers and 99 RBI. He's the odds-on favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year award.
"I can't really put into words, just going to spring training and then to Iowa and then back up here," he said. "It's gone by way too fast. I've had a lot of fun with it … It completely exceeded my expectations."
Scouting the opposition:
David Ross, the Cubs' backup catcher, gave a scouting report on Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole, who starts in the wild-card game.
"He's got good fastball, good off-speed pitches," Ross said. "He's around the zone. He's going to challenge you. He's going to come right at you.
"Gerrit's a really good pitcher, and our guy (Jake Arrieta) is, too. That's why you guys are here, to watch an amazing game and see the excitement that's going to come tomorrow night with those two guys on the hill."
When asked about all of the Cubs' young players, David Ross said: "Those guys are used to the spotlight. They're young heroes in Chicago already."