The Dodgers look to force a game seven with a game six victory in Chicago.
After two horrible, ugly games, the Dodgers find themselves on the brink of elimination once again. They needed two straight wins against the Washington Nationals to advance to the NLCS, and obviously they did that. Now, they need two straight wins against the Chicago Cubs to advance to the World Series.
The Cubs are quite a bit better than the Nationals (and the Dodgers, if we’re being completely honest). However, the Dodgers have won two straight games many times this season, and if they’re going to do it here, they have the right pitchers going.
Clayton Kershaw gets the ball tonight for the Dodgers. In the NLDS, Kershaw got the game four start on short rest and turned in six innings of two-run ball. For some reason, Dave Roberts sent Kershaw back out for the seventh, where he allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases. All three of those inherited runners scored, leaving Kershaw with a misleading five earned runs in 6.1 innings.
It was a story all-too familiar, but the script was re-written a bit in his NLCS start in Chicago. Kershaw tossed six scoreless frames, but ran into trouble in the seventh. He escaped the threat, not before a very long fly out gave us all heart attacks, but turned in seven innings of two-hit ball, giving the Dodgers a split in Chicago.
The season is on the line and Kershaw is on the mound. The first part of that sentence should scare us, but the second part should put us at ease. Kershaw dominated these Cubs almost one week ago, and while the Cubs bats heated up in LA, Kershaw’s left arm could put them out. Of course, the Dodgers will still need another win to make today’s game meaningful, but worry about that when they get there.
Last Sunday, Kyle Hendricks took a tough loss opposite Kershaw. He struggled with command and the Dodgers had a great approach at the plate as they worked four walks in 5.1 innings off him, but he limited the damage. The only run of the game came off the bat of Adrian Gonzalez, who took a pitch down and away and deposited it into the left field bleachers for a solo homer.
That’s the gameplan. Sit on pitches there. Don’t try to do too much. Poke a single to left. The Dodgers have a very lefty-heavy lineup against righties, so if Hendricks gets calls low and away, it’s going to be a long night.
With a righty on the mound, a fairly normal lineup. The only change comes at the top, where Andrew Toles leads off rather than Chase Utley. Utley has been huge at times for the Dodgers, but he’s been pretty mediocre since June and hasn’t looked great at the plate. Toles hasn’t had as many long at bats, but he’s been hitting the ball well all season and his speed could actually be a threat at the top of the lineup.
Utley moves down to the eight spot and is still searching for his first hit of the series. This move is probably more about Utley’s struggles than Toles, but it’s still a smart move.
Jason Heyward and his struggling bat give way for Albert Almora in right field. The righty is undoubtably a better option at the plate against a lefty (especially the best one in the game), but with a game that will likely be close all the way, they might miss Heyward’s defense in right.
First pitch is scheduled for 5:08 PST and will be shown on FS1. If they win, game seven will be tomorrow at the same time. A loss, and their next game that counts will be in April.