Dodgers Cubs NLCS Game Two

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Oct 15, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw walks back to the dugout after working out before game one of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw walks back to the dugout after working out before game one of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Dodgers look to earn a split in the first two games of the NLCS.

Last night’s game was going to be tough for the Dodgers to win. They had a chance to steal it late, but a questionable decision and two terrible sliders gave the Cubs five runs. Still, I have a bit more faith in the Dodgers in the series after last night’s game. They hit the ball hard against a lefty and had a much better approach than they did in any of the NLDS games. The Cubs are the favorites and should win the series, but if the Dodgers can steal one in Chicago, you have to feel good about their odds.

This is the game they could steal, as the Dodgers have their ace going. The Cubs also have their random ace on the hill today, so this should be another close game.

Dodgers Starter

Clayton Kershaw gets the start today. His last start came on Tuesday, and he threw a high-leverage bullpen session and got the save in game five on Thursday.

Kershaw is reportedly perfectly healthy and won’t be on any restrictions in today’s start.

Pedro Baez and Joe Blanton threw a ton of pitches last night, but the rest of the bullpen got some much-needed rest. Hopefully, a deep start by Kershaw can give them some more today. Kenley Jansen was reportedly available yesterday despite throwing 51 pitches on Tuesday, but it’s probably a good thing he wasn’t used.

Kershaw’s first career start at Wrigley came in 2010, and he tossed six shutout innings. Since then, he’s allowed three runs in two other outings, giving him a total of 18 innings and six runs. He’s struck out nine batters in each of his last two outings.

Cubs Starter

Kyle Hendricks gets the start for Chicago. Hendricks benefitted from Kershaw’s injury, as his 2.13 ERA led baseball. If Kershaw threw 13 more innings, he likely would have won the ERA crown (1.69 in 149 innings), so it will likely be a pitchers’ duel today.

Hendricks is definitely in the conversation for the Cy Young, but his peripherals aren’t as dominant as his ERA. Hendrick’s wasn’t as big a workhorse as other NL aces, and his 3.20 FIP isn’t exactly stellar. He definitely benefitted from his defense, with a .252 BABIP against him. Small ballpark+great defense definitely lended to that, as his ERA at Wrigley was 1.32.

One of those home starts came against the Dodgers, and Hendricks held them to eight innings of three hit, two run ball. As is the case with the Cubs, he was pitching from ahead early on in that game. The Cubs gave Hendricks four or more runs in 20 of his 30 starts, which seems like a nice way to pitch.

Dodgers Lineup

Hendricks throws with his right hand, so a normal lineup for the Dodgers. Yasmani Grandal is back behind the plate and Josh Reddick is back in left. Andrew Toles got the comeback started yesterday, and if he can bounce back after a rough series against the Nats, he can be a difference maker.

No Dodger has faced Hendricks more than eight times. Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez have each taken him deep once.

Cubs Lineup

Willson Contreras gets the start behind the plate against Kershaw. He was the Cubs’ top prospect, and came up with a monster season. In 79 games, Contreras slashed .282/.357/.488 with 12 homers in only 282 plate appearances. He’s not great defensively, but he gives the Cubs a bigger threat in the bottom of the order.

Against a lefty, Jason Heyward drops down in the lineup. At times, the Cubs have taken him completely out of the lineup against lefty starter, but his defense is too important in what should be a tight game.

Dexter Fowler has probably had the most career success against Kershaw of all hitters. A few hitters have a higher average against Kershaw, but in fewer plate appearances. Fowler’s 48 plate appearances against Kershaw is the ninth-most among active players, and he’s slashing .409/.458/.500 in his career against Kershaw. His 18 hits are the third-most for any player against Kershaw.

Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are the only Cubs that have taken Kershaw deep in the past, but they’re a combined 4-for-16 against him.

Next: Dodgers Drop Game One of NLCS

Other Stuff

First pitch is scheduled for 5:08 PST and will be shown on FS1. The teams travel tomorrow for games three through five in LA, also scheduled for 5:08 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

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