Posted on October 14, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Well, this looks familiar. In a repeat of last year’s NLCS, the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers will battle it out for the right to represent the National League in the World Series. The only difference will be that this time around the Dodgers will have home-field advantage. Los Angeles is viewed by many to be the favorite to win this year’s World Series, and so the reigning world champion Cubs may have their work cut out for them despite taking out the Dodgers in six games in last year’s NLCS.
The Rested and the Restless
It will be interesting to see if fatigue plays a role in this year’s NLCS, at least for the first couple of games. The Cubs had no travel day between Games 4 and 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals. Then after a long and exhausting Game 5, they had to fly across the country to Los Angeles for the first two games of the NLCS. It’s possible the Cubs could be a little tired at the start of the series.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers finished off the Diamondbacks in three games, giving them four days between games to rest and get their pitching staff lined up. Most teams wouldn’t want that much time off, but the Dodgers had four days off before starting their series with Arizona and it didn’t seem to be a problem.
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With so much time between series, the Dodgers had no problem lining up Clayton Kershaw to pitch Game 1 against the Cubs. Of course, Kershaw was less than flawless in Game 1 against the Diamondbacks, giving up four home runs despite getting the win. He’s also had an up and down playoff history, going 5-7 with a 4.63 ERA. That being said, he tossed seven shutout innings against the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS last year. Of course, he also took the loss in Game 6. Kershaw also got knocked around by the Cubs in May, allowing four runs on 11 hits and lasting just 4.1 innings, so it’s far from a guarantee that he’ll be dominant in Game 1.
As of Saturday morning, the Cubs are yet to name a Game 1 starter, although the decision appears to be either Jose Quintana or John Lackey. Quintana pitched well in Game 3 of the NLDS, allowing just one unearned run over 5.2 innings and striking out seven. He then pitched in relief Thursday in Game 5, so how fresh he is could be questionable. Lackey, meanwhile, didn’t pitch at all in five games against the Nationals. He also had a down year, going 12-12 with a 4.59 ERA. However, he has incredible postseason experience, if that’s what the Cubs covet in this situation. Lackey has 26 appearances, with 23 starts, going 8-6 with a 3.27 ERA in his postseason career.
Aside from learning Chicago’s starter, the biggest X-factor in this game could be Javier Baez. Joe Maddon has stuck with Baez for most of the postseason, in large part because he makes the Cubs stronger defensively. However, he is hitless in 14 at-bats this postseason. His defense should keep him in the lineup. He’s also 2 for 6 with a home run in his career against Kershaw. But the Cubs need Baez to get going offensively if they’re going to knock off Kershaw and the Dodgers in Game 1 and in this series.
The Cubs will have a little bit of fatigue and a little bit of a hangover after an emotional series against the Nationals. That’s not a good thing when facing Kershaw, who should be poised for one of his better postseason starts. There’s also the matter of the Dodgers offensively against a pitching staff that is scrambling to get set up. Los Angeles wins 7-2.