One team came into their NLDS clash as the underdog and emerged victorious while other is the National League’s lead dog going into postseason baseball. Who will emerge with the NL Pennant?
National League Championship Series
Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58, NL #1 seed) vs Chicago Cubs (92-70, NL #3 seed)
Game 1: Clayton Kershaw (LAD) vs John Lackey (CHC)
Game 2: TBD (LAD) vs TBD (CHC)
Game 3: TBD (LAD) vs TBD (CHC)
Game 4: TBD (LAD) vs TBD (CHC)
Games 5-7: Starters TBD *if necessary
So, we may as well not have even bothered mentioning pitching match ups, because at this moment they’re largely just speculation. John Lackey hasn’t even officially been announced as the game one starter for the Cubs, but it seems like the smart money at this point.
The Dodgers should be set up pretty perfectly for this series. After sweeping the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, they’ve been sitting on the shelf for a few days, waiting to see how things hashed out and all of their starters are available on full rest. Clayton Kershaw will start the opener for LA, looking to buck the perception that he’s a poor playoff performer. Over the course of 15 playoff starts, Kershaw is just 5-7 with a 4.63 ERA that’s a full two runs higher than his career number. He was shaky in his NLDS start too, giving up four runs (on four solo home runs), in 6.1 IP. While the remainder of the rotation hasn’t been set just yet, Yu Darvish, Rich Hill and maybe Alex Wood look to follow Kershaw in games 2-4.
On the offensive front, the Dodgers have plenty of thump. NL Rookie of the Year shoe-in Cody Bellinger came in second in the league with 39 home runs and the Dodgers hit 221 as a team, good for 4th most. Their line up does trot out a good bit of swing and miss though, as they finished in the bottom half of the league in both strike outs and team batting average.
Turning our attention back to the Cubs, the defending champs needed every single thing they had to finally eliminate the NL East champ Washington Nationals and come into the NLCS with what seems like a lot of mileage on their tires. They required the services of their top four starters (Lester, Hendricks, Arrieta and Quintana) just to survive the final two games. It looks as though veteran John Lackey is going to be forced into duty in game one and he had a fairly rough 2017, posting a 4.59 ERA and a 12-12 record. He does bring a wealth of playoff experience into the start though, so maybe he’ll be able to tap into that and get the Cubs off on the right foot.
On paper, this Cubs line up looks strikingly similar to the one who took home the crown last year, but many of those same players haven’t performed quite as well this season. Against the Nationals, Kris Bryant seemed to have Aaron Judge’s K problem and when Jason Heyward is taking key ABs with a quality lefty on the mound, your situation likely isn’t ideal. But this line up is still deep with talent and if they were to recapture a little of that 2016 magic, the Dodgers could be in for some long nights.
These are two deep and talented teams, but at the end of the day I think the Dodgers will take it. Too deep in the rotation, too much thump in the line up and when it gets to Kenley Jansen, the Cubs go will be going night-night.
Los Angeles wins 4-2, advances to World Series
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