Posted on October 18, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Image via usatoday.com

After their 6-1 win in Game 3 Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers are just one game away from reaching the World Series. Yu Darvish out-pitched Kyle Hendricks, allowing the Dodgers to get their bats going and essentially cruise to their sixth straight postseason win. One more win and the Dodgers will reach the World Series for the first time in nearly 30 years. Meanwhile, the Cubs are one game away from seeing their world champion crown taken away. Of course, two years ago, the Cubs were swept in the NLCS by the Mets, so many of their players have been in this position before, although they don’t necessarily know how to get out of it.

All the Right Buttons

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is pushing all the right buttons in this series. Even with a 2-0 series lead, he made multiple lineup changes in Game 3, and they all seemed to pay off. Yasiel Puig was moved to the cleanup spot and went 2 for 5. Andre Ethier was inserted into the lineup and went 2 for 4 with a home run. Roberts strengthened his lineup offensively by moving Chris Taylor to shortstop, knowing he can bring in Charlie Culberson late for defense. The Dodgers skipper has also made the controversial pick to stick with Austin Barnes behind the plate, a move that has helped to fortify the team’s defense and pitching staff.

Pitching Matchup

Los Angeles will turn to Alex Wood to help clinch a trip to the World Series. Since the Dodgers didn’t need a fourth starter in the NLDS, Wood hasn’t pitched since the regular season, so he’s needed bullpen sessions and simulated games to stay sharp. This also be his first postseason start, although he does have four appearances in the playoffs as a reliever. Of course, Wood was brilliant during the regular season, going 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA. If he can just continue to pitch the way he did during the season, he’ll put the Dodgers in a good position to complete the sweep.

Meanwhile, the Cubs are hopeful that Jake Arrieta can help them avoid elimination. Arrieta was pulled after four innings during the NLDS against the Nationals. He took the loss in that game despite only giving up one unearned run on two hits. However, he also walked five in just four innings, prompting Joe Maddon to give him an early hook. Historically, Arrieta is 4-3 with a 3.33 ERA in eight playoff starts, so he’s capable of performing much better than he showed last time out. It’s also important to note that Arrieta will be a free agent this offseason, so win or lose, this could be his final start in front of the Wrigley Field fans. He’ll no doubt want to leave on a positive note.

X-Factor

It’s surprising to say, but Kris Bryant may be an X-factor in Game 4. He’s had a tough time getting going during the playoffs and is yet to hit a home run. In this NLCS, he’s just 3 for 12 without an extra-base hit. A year ago, a hit .304 with three doubles in the NLCS against the Dodgers. With the Dodgers starting mostly lefties, the Cubs have needed more out of him. Bryant is 3 for 8 with a double and a home run against Wood, and he’ll need to be a catalyst for Chicago if the Cubs are going to survive Game 4.

Prediction

It’s still tough to envision the Cubs getting swept, regardless of how well the Dodgers have played throughout the playoffs. Expect Arrieta to come through for the Cubs one last time and at least give the Cubs a Game 5 at Wrigley Field. Chicago wins 4-3.

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