Dodgers vs. Cubs: Game 4 Takeaways and Game 5 Preview

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14: Clayton Kershaw
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14: Clayton Kershaw /

The Dodgers lost their first game in the postseason last night in a close 3-2 game. The loss trims the Dodgers’ series lead to 3-1 and forces a game 5 at Chicago.

Game 5 will be a rematch of game 1, where the Dodgers send their ace Clayton Kershaw to put the Cubs away. The Cubs are countering with Jose Quintana. Before we get into a game 5 preview, let’s take a look at some key notes from game 4.

Alex Wood

Alex Wood made his first start since September 26th. For the exception of one big mistake to Contreas, he looked pretty good considering he had a three-week layoff. Wood’s final line was 4 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on four hits with seven strikeouts. Obviously what stands out is the three home runs he allowed. But when you rewatch the at-bats, Wood made two good pitches against Baez and Baez was somehow able to make contact the wind carried the ball over the ivy after that.

He was efficient with his pitches throwing 50 of his 70 pitches for strikes, which I was something I thought he could struggle with after a long layoff. Wood’s average fastball was right around 90-92 MPH, and that was right around his average during the regular season. All in all, it was a great start for Wood. I didn’t expect him to go more than five innings the way Roberts has utilized the bullpen, but Wood did a great job despite picking up the loss.

Lineup Changes

Dave Roberts rolled out a different lineup from what we saw in game 3. He replaced Pederson with Granderson and Barnes with Grandal. The move that sticks out is starting Granderson. Granderson went 0-4 with four strikeouts and was swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone in each of his at-bats. Granderson only has one hit this postseason in 15 AB and is only hitting .161 since being traded to the Dodgers. I understand what Roberts was trying to do by getting the experienced guy in the lineup. But Pederson was coming off of a game where he doubled and scored a run.

It’s easy to criticise this move after the fact but Granderson was hitting .351 with three home runs off Arrieta and had faced him in over 30 at-bats. I’m not sticking up for Granderson; I’m sticking up for Roberts. In fact, I think one key hit from Joc this postseason could win him back a spot on the World Series roster if the Dodgers advance.

Grandal did a solid job in place for Barnes. Grandal got on base three times via a walk and called a great game for Wood. After starting the previous six games, it looked like Barnes had taken over the catcher job. Roberts wanted to keep Grandal fresh and get him some at-bats. In hindsight, it doesn’t really make sense to remove a guy from the lineup that has been an essential part of the offense this postseason.

Tonight we’ll get a lineup we’re more accustom to seeing. The Cubs are starting a left-hander so that replaces Joc/Granderson with Kike at left, while Culberson will likely get the start at shortstop, moving Taylor back to center field.

Bullpen Use

It was interesting that Roberts didn’t call Morrow or Jansen’s number considering it was a close game. Obviously, these guys are the focal point of the bullpen when playing with the lead, and being that the Cubs led all game, it was a good time to give them a day off. The bullpen stepped up as they have all season and a scoreless 3 2/3 innings while only allowing 1 base runner.

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Cubs notes from game 4

Jake Arrieta was dominant pitching 6 2/3 innings and only allowing one run with nine strikeouts. He was working out of the stretch for most of the game and allowed five walks. He threw a season-high 111 pitches, but it was really the performance their club needed.

Wade Davis came out for a six out save. He also threw a season-high in pitches with 48 and labored to get through the 9th inning. Joe Maddon said that Davis would likely be unavailable in game 5 should the Cubs need their closer. Their bullpen has been the worst bullpen in the postseason, so this is good news for the Dodgers.

Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series on a bad reversal by the umpires. He was ejected for arguing a reversal on a called 3 strike on Granderson that ended up resulting in only one extra pitch for Davis. I can see Maddon’s argument here, Granderson clearly missed the ball, and the play should have stood as originally called. They say every pitch matters in October baseball, so Maddon clearly lets the umpires hear it.

The Cubs top of the lineup combined to go 1-15. Their big bats Rizzo and Byrant went 0-7 with four strikeouts. Those two are a combined 4 for 29 (.138) in the NLCS and 7 for 69 (.101) this postseason.

Game 5

Game 5 is another closeout game for the Dodgers. There’s nobody else the Dodgers rather send to the mound, and this could be the game Kershaw silents all his critics. Kershaw doesn’t have to pitch deep into the game for the Dodgers to win, he just needs to get the ball to Morrow with the lead. That falls on the offense as well.

The Cubs have scored first in every game this series, and the Dodgers have had to play catchup. It would be nice if the script were flipped so they can take the crowd out of the game early.

Quintana pitched okay for the Cubs in game 1. He had the lead for 1 inning before the Dodgers offense broke through. For the Dodgers offense, the gameplan should be more of the same. Continue to work the count and get runners on base to force Maddon to go to their bullpen early.

The Dodgers have averaged 162 pitches seen in games in the NLCS. For context, the Cubs have averaged 110 pitches seen per game. Roberts could put Turner back at the 2 spot in the lineup to try to get him 1 extra at-bat. I would like to see Puig staying in the clean-up spot despite his reverse splits against lefties. That gives Puig a potential extra at-bat and gives Bellinger more protection than Kike would.

Next: The Return of the Wild Horse

I feel it today. This is the moment Kershaw has been waiting for. The Dodgers are trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 1988. Kershaw was born in 1988 and could be the one to give the Dodgers their 22nd pennant. Follow up on Twitter for a Twitter cast of the game.