Lineups are out for Game 1 of the NLCS between the Dodgers and Cubs, and with Jon Lester on the mound that means old friend David Ross is behind the plate for Chicago.
We’ve come a long way since Ross was a Dodger, hitting his first major league home run against Mark Grace of all people in 2002.
Ross will retire at the end of this season, his 15th in the big leagues, and will go down as one of the truly great backup catchers in baseball history.
His 205 plate appearances in 2016 are just his third season reaching 200 PA, and the first time since 2006-2007 with the Reds, topping out at 348 PA. He has hit .229/.316/.423 in his career, a 94 OPS+ and 94 wRC+, so basically a decade and a half of having a slightly below league average hitter as a backup catcher, which is worth his weight in gold, and then some.
Ross didn’t quite pull a David Ortiz, but he had a strong final regular season in 2016, hitting .229/.338/.446, a 109 OPS+ and 101 wRC+. He hit 10 home runs, the fourth time he has reached double-digits in his career.
The first came in 2003 with the Dodgers, hitting 10 homers in just 140 plate appearances while the 26-year-old Ross backed up Paul Lo Duca behind the plate.
Ross caught Lester in 18 of 21 starts with the Red Sox in 2014 before Lester was traded to Oakland, and since both signed with Chicago before the 2015 season Ross has started 61 of Lester’s 64 regular season starts, and this marks his fourth playoff start with Lester on the mound with the Cubs.
The 39-year-old Ross, hitting eighth in Game 1, became the oldest Cub to homer in the postseason with his shot in Game 4 against the Giants.
The Dodgers have some of the usual suspects in their lineup against the left-handed Lester, including Kiké Hernandez — just added to the roster — at second base.
Howie Kendrick gets the start in left field and Carlos Ruiz behind the plate, with Joc Pederson remaining in the lineup in center field.
In 16 games during the regular season with Hernandez and Kendrick in second base and left field, Hernandez was in left field 15 times. Manager Dave Roberts said on Saturday he decided their Game 1 positions by texting Kendrick and asking him where he wanted to play. Kendrick chose left field.
The last time the Dodgers won Game 1 of the NLCS was 1985. Fernando Valenzuela beat John Tudor and the Cardinals at home.
The last time the Cubs won Game 1 of the NLCS was 1984. Rick Sutcliffe beat Eric Show and the Padres in a 13-0 drubbing at Wrigley Field.