By Jon Weisman
Chicago is giddy with enough excitement and anticipation to spread all over the city’s famous hot dogs, if they weren’t so particular about what you put on their hot dogs.
Wrigley Field is jumping. The streets around the old ballpark are rollicking. At once confident and paranoid, Chicago is a quaking nerve brought to life, and the roar at Game 6 of the National League Championship Series will be deafening beginning with tonight’s very first pitch.
And stepping into the batters’ box for that very first pitch will be none other than Andrew Toles.
The rookie outfielder’s amazing technicolor journey continued when Dave Roberts anointed him the leadoff hitter for the Dodgers in their biggest game of 2016.
“I thought about it on the flight (Friday) to Chicago and slept on it,” Roberts said, “just thinking about what I feel gives us the best chance to win today, and taking what Andrew’s done in the postseason — the at-bat quality.”
Chase Utley, who has been the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter against right-handed pitching, will bat eighth. Roberts said he had a good conversation today with Utley, who is 3 for 26 with three walks in the playoffs.
After delivering a .365 on-base percentage and .505 slugging percentage in his rookie half-season — which came after a year out of organized baseball — Toles is 7 for 19 in the 2016 playoffs with two doubles and a .435 on-base percentage. Roberts doesn’t think Toles gets affected by increased responsibility or pressure.
“If there was a (concern), then I wouldn’t have made that move,” Roberts said. “With Andrew, he’s a baseball player, so regardless if he hits coming off the bench or starts and hits eighth or first, I really don’t think it will affect his at-bat quality.”
This weekend is a firecracker waiting to be launched, and the Dodgers hope Toles is the one to do it.