Only four teams remain, and seven games will decide whether the Dodgers or Cubs represent the National League in the World Series.
Here we are, the final four. The Dodgers and Cubs each won their NLDS matchups with some late inning dramatics. The Dodgers, of course, used Clayton Kershaw for a save and Kenley Jansen for a seven out hold. The Cubs rallied against my favorite bullpen in baseball history to take down the Giants and avoid a game five against Johnny Cueto.
We should have known the path to the World Series would have to go through the Cubs. They won 103 games this year and won the NL Central by 17.5 games. That’s pretty good. Their lineup is ridiculous, and their already-talented pitching staff is aided by arguably the best defense in baseball. They’re rightfully the favorites in this series, but the Dodgers have the chance to keep them out of the World Series by winning four of the next seven games.
Kenta Maeda gets the ball for the Dodgers in game one. He’s been fading late in the season, as his final two starts in the regular season and his postseason start were rough.
Maeda allowed four runs in three innings in game three against the Nationals, all of which came in the third inning. He’s allowed three runs in one inning in each of his last three starts, so Kenta will definitely need to avoid the big inning if the Dodgers are going to steal game one.
Maeda starting game one guarantees that the Dodgers will use four starters in the NLCS, as there’s no way they’d ask him to throw game four on short rest. Kershaw is expected to get the game two start on regular rest with Rich Hill probably getting game three. That would point to Julio Urias getting game four, which hopefully isn’t a must-win game to avoid getting swept.
The Dodgers and Cubs played seven games this season and the Cubs won four of those. However, they didn’t see any of the Dodgers’ top three starters. Scott Kazmir, Alex Wood, Bud Norris, Mike Bolsinger and Brock Stewart started five of those seven games, and Urias started two of them.
LA’s pitching could face a problem in Chicago, as it’s called the Windy City for a reason.
Maeda isn’t necessarily a fly ball pitcher, but pretty much the whole Dodger bullpen is. A high-strikeout, high-fly ball bullpen in Chicago could be disastrous this weekend.
Jon Lester will start today after a phenomenal start in the NLDS. Lester held the Giants to five hits and no runs in eight innings, outdueling Johnny Cueto in game one.
Lester has a reputation for being a big game pitcher, and he’s been great in the postseason during his career. In 17 postseason appearances (15 starts), Lester owns a 2.63 ERA. It was a 1.56 ERA, but he got lit up in the Wild Card game two years ago as an Oakland A and had a rough postseason last year for the Cubs.
Of course, Lester throws with his left hand. He’s the Cubs only left-handed starter, but they have a pair of arms in the bullpen that have started games in the past in case a righty struggles. He started two of the games in the regular season against the Dodgers, and allowed one run in 15 innings.
They made two changes on their NLDS roster, as Austin Barnes and Charlie Culberson aren’t on the NLCS roster. Enrique Hernandez and Alex Wood have joined the squad. I’m still not sure I understand Andre Ethier‘s role, and losing Barnes makes it less likely that the Dodgers use Carlos Ruiz as a pinch hitter. Not a fan of that, as Ruiz had two huge hits in the NLDS.
Chase Utley sits again against a lefty. He didn’t start against Gio Gonzalez in game three against the Nats, and he won’t start against lester. Hernandez gets the start at second, which is ideal as it keeps Joc Pederson in center.
Ruiz gets his first start of the postseason. Yasmani Grandal is still the best catcher on this team and one of the best catchers in baseball, but he had a horrid series in Washington. He should start against righties, but Ruiz starting against lefties is better than A.J. Ellis.
Most of the Dodgers have struggled against Lester. Howie Kendrick has seven hits in 42 plate appearances, Ruiz and Justin Turner don’t have a hit in double-digit plate appearances against him. Hernandez is the only current Dodger to ever homer off Lester, so it makes sense that he’s in there today. .
David Ross is Lester’s personal catcher, so he’s obviously behind the plate today. The top four of the Cubs lineup is as good as any in baseball, but Addison Russell and Jason Heyward are in there for their defense. Javier Baez has been stinging the ball in the postseason, but he struggles to make contact at times. Ross has never been a great hitter, but he has enough pop to keep you on your toes.
First pitch is scheduled for 5:08 PST and will be shown on FS 1.