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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Dodgers NLCS Preview

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It's back to action once more as the Cubs begin the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

The National League Division Series between the Dodgers and the Nationals came down to the wire, but in the end it was the Dodgers who edged it out with a 4-3 win in the deciding Game 5 on Thursday night in Washington. It was definitely an interesting game to watch as Kenley Jansen threw a career-high 51 pitches before getting pulled in the ninth... for Clayton Kershaw, who picked up his first career save. Kershaw made three appearances in the five-game series, including two starts, but wasn't nearly as effective as he was in the regular season, posting a 5.84 ERA and a 1.459 WHIP in the NLDS. The same was true of Rich Hill, who had a very impressive -- and very surprising -- regular season line for the Dodgers but had two early exits in the NLDS with a 6.43 ERA and a 1.857 WHIP.

Will the Cubs be able to take advantage of the Dodgers' pitching struggles? Will the Cubs' pitching be able to take advantage of the Dodgers' woeful hitting against lefties this season? Will Javier Baez continue his hot postseason run? Will Anthony Rizzo continue his turnaround that began in Game 4 against the Giants? Will this be the series where Addison Russell and Jason Heyward break out? Here's hoping that the answer to each of those questions is a resounding yes.

Three down... eight to go.

Regular season roundup

As Al mentioned in his recap of the season series between the two teams, the Cubs won four of seven matchups this season against the Dodgers, winning three out of four at Wrigley Field but only one out of three at Dodger Stadium. Three games in the series were decided by one run, with the Dodgers winning two out of those three contests. It was a low-scoring seven-game set during the regular season, with the Cubs edging the Dodgers out 19-16 in run production. The Cubs held the Dodgers to three runs or less in six of the seven games and to two runs or less in five of the seven. On the other side, the Cubs scored two runs or less in four of the seven games and were shut out twice.

Possible pitching matchups

Game 1: Kenta Maeda, RHP (16-11, 3.48 ERA, 1.139 WHIP, 3.58 FIP) vs. Jon Lester, LHP (19-5, 2.44 ERA, 1.016 WHIP, 3.41 FIP)

Game 2: Clayton Kershaw, LHP (12-4, 1.69 ERA, 0.725 WHIP, 1.80 FIP) vs. Kyle Hendricks, RHP (16-8, 2.13 ERA, 0.979 WHIP, 3.20 FIP)

Game 3: Jake Arrieta, RHP (18-8, 3.10 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, 3.52 FIP) vs. Julio Urias, LHP (5-2, 3.39 ERA, 1.455 WHIP, 3.17 FIP)

Game 4: John Lackey, RHP (11-8, 3.35 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 3.81 FIP) vs. Rich Hill, LHP (3-2, 1.83 ERA, 0.786 WHIP, 2.07 FIP)

Similar to last series, the only known starting rotation at this time is that of the Cubs. The Dodgers do have Maeda listed as their starter for Game 1 of the series on the MLB.com web site, but after that the remaining starters on Los Angeles' side are still all TBD.  Kershaw is likely to be ready for Game 2 despite pitching in relief on Thursday in the Dodgers' Game 5 win against the Nationals. Urias did not make a start in the NLDS and only appeared once in the series against the Nationals, pitching two innings of scoreless relief in Game 5.

Game Times (all games on Fox Sports 1):

Game 1: Saturday 10/15, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Game 2: Sunday 10/16, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Game 3: Tuesday 10/18, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Game 4: Wednesday 10/19, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Game 5 *: Thursday 10/20, 7:00 p.m. CT.

Game 6 *: Saturday 10/22, Time TBD.

Game 7 *: Sunday 10/23, Time TBD.

* if necessary

Prediction

Dodgers' pitching had a rough time in the Nationals series, and with the Cubs' success against lefties this season I'm hoping that the Dodgers' struggles will continue on in this set. I'm going to take Cubs in 6 this time, primarily because if it does happen that way Wrigley Field is going to go bonkers.

Up next

It'll be either the World Series starting on October 25 against the Blue Jays or the Indians... or it'll be the end of the 2016 season. Hopefully this is the year that the Cubs make that next step in the playoffs.