Posted on October 17, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Los Angeles Dodgers Justin Turner

Image via espn.com

You can’t say that the NLCS hasn’t been a competitive and compelling series, yet the Los Angeles Dodgers lead 2-0 as the series moves back to Chicago for Game 3 on Tuesday night. The Dodgers have come up with three massive home runs at the right time to beat the Cubs in each of the first two games. Now the reigning world champions find themselves on the ropes, with manager Joe Maddon taking much of the blame for how he’s handled his bullpen. If the Cubs can’t find a way to win Game 3, their crown could be as good as gone.

Power of Puig

Yasiel Puig has arguably been the most impactful player the Dodgers have had during the postseason. After his home run in Game 1 of the series, the Cubs walked Puig three times in Game 2. It was obvious that Chicago pitchers were staying away from him out of both fear and respect. Thus far, Puig has excelled hitting down in the order, helping to give the Dodgers tremendous depth in their lineup. However, it may be time to move him up in the order, perhaps in front of Justin Turner or Cody Bellinger to force the Cubs to give him pitches to hit. Either way, Puig remains a huge concern for Chicago and a player who will continue to be an impact player the rest of the season.

Pitching Matchup

In a virtual must-win game, the Cubs will turn to Kyle Hendricks, who has been their ace the past two postseasons. Hendricks had some trouble his last time out against the Nationals, giving up a pair of home runs. But he still struck out seven over four innings and managed to give the Cubs a fighting chance in a decisive Game 5. Despite that rough outing, he still owns a 2.60 ERA in nine postseason starts, so there’s every chance that he’ll be able to bounce back against the Dodgers in Game 3.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers will send Yu Darvish to the mound in Game 3. Darvish was excellent in his start against the Diamondbacks during the NLDS, striking out seven over five innings while allowing just one run on two hits. While spending most of his career in the American League, Darvish has not seen many of Chicago’s young hitters more than a couple times in his career. However, if he can shut down Arizona’s lineup, he’s capable of doing the same to the Cubs.

X-Factor

The biggest X-factor in Game 3 could be Chicago’s left-handed hitters. With lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill starting the first two games of the series, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward, and Kyle Schwarber are a combined 0 for 12. Facing a right-handed starter, even one as good as Darvish, should give that trio the opportunity to get going offensively. It may also be the only time the Cubs face a left-handed starter in the series unless they see Darvish again in a possible Game 7. The Cubs have to take advantage of this, meaning Rizzo, Heyward, and Schwarber could be the key to winging Game 3 and getting back in the series.

Prediction

The Dodgers have been good throughout the postseason, but the Cubs are too good to get swept or even go down 3-0. The return home will be good for Maddon’s team, who will get a gem from Hendricks and take some of the pressure off the bullpen. Chicago wins 5-2.

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