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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Dodgers NLCS series preview

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It’s a rematch of last year, with the teams swapping spots as “favorite.”

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers were really, really good this year... except when they weren’t. They won 104 games, one more than the 2016 Cubs. Yet after losing to the Giants April 26, they were 10-12 and four games out of first place.

Then they went on an incredible run, culminating with a win over the Pirates August 25 which made them 91-36, 21 games ahead of the second-place Diamondbacks. That’s a .771 (!) winning percentage over 105 games (81-24) that would equate to 124 wins in a 162-game schedule. Wow.

And then... they were bad, horrifically bad. They lost five in a row, won one (by a 1-0 score), then lost 11 straight. That was the longest losing streak of 2017 — by anyone. If they do go on to win the World Series, that would set a record. The longest losing streak by any World Series winner during that team’s regular season is nine, by the 1953 Yankees.

Last year’s Cubs had a 5-15 run in the middle of the season. The Dodgers’ bad streak was worse: 1-16.

The Dodgers did go on to win four in a row after their 11-game skid, but then went a pedestrian 8-6 to wrap the season. While the Cubs were 19-10 after September 1, the Dodgers were 13-17.

So although the Dodgers’ overall mark looks pretty good, the Cubs were better after the All-Star break, 49-25 to the Dodgers’ 43-29.

These teams are likely a bit more evenly matched than you might think.

Fun fact

This is the third postseason series between the Cubs and Dodgers, the most playoff series they’ve had against any National League team, and matching the three World Series the franchise has played against the Tigers. The teams split the first two postseason matchups, L.A. winning the NLDS in 2008, the Cubs winning the NLCS last year. The Cubs are 4-5 all-time vs. the Dodgers in postseason play.

Fun fact 2

This is the first time teams have matched up in the LCS in either league two years in a row since the Phillies and Dodgers played back-to-back in the NLCS in 2008 and 2009.

Pitching matchups (regular-season statistics)

Saturday 10/14, Game 1: Jose Quintana, LHP (11-11, 4.15 ERA, 1.224 WHIP, 3.68 FIP) vs. Clayton Kershaw, LHP (18-4, 2.31 ERA, 0.949 WHIP, 3.07 FIP)

Sunday 10/15, Game 2: Jon Lester, LHP (13-8, 4.33 ERA, 1.323 WHIP, 4.10 FIP) vs. Rich Hill, LHP (12-8, 3.32 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, 3.72 FIP)

Tuesday 10/17, Game 3: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (7-5, 3.03 ERA, 1.189 WHIP, 3.88 FIP) or Jake Arrieta, RHP (14-10, 3.53 ERA, 1.218 WHIP, 4.16 FIP) vs. Yu Darvish, RHP (10-12, 3.86 ERA, 1.163 WHIP, 3.83 FIP)

Wednesday 10/18, Game 4: Arrieta or Hendricks vs. Alex Wood, LHP (16-3, 2.72 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 3.32 FIP)

Thursday 10/19, Game 5 (if necessary): TBD vs. TBD

Saturday 10/21, Game 6 (if necessary): TBD vs. TBD

Sunday 10/22, Game 7 (if necessary): TBD vs. TBD

Obviously, this is being posted before the Cubs have announced their starting rotation for the first few games of the NLCS. The pitchers listed above are an educated guess as to who will start. I’ll have a separate article later this morning once they do announce who’s starting, as well as another article with the full 25-man NLCS roster.

Also, Jose Quintana’s numbers above include his 18 starts with the White Sox. With the Cubs: 14 starts, 7-3, 3.74 ERA, 1.103 WHIP, 3.25 FIP.

Times (all games on TBS. Announcers: Brian Anderson, Ron Darling and Sam Ryan):

Saturday 10/14, Game 1 at Dodger Stadium: 7:08 p.m. CT

Sunday 10/15, Game 2 at Dodger Stadium: 6:38 p.m. CT

Tuesday 10/17, Game 3 at Wrigley Field: 8:01 p.m. CT

Wednesday 10/18, Game 4 at Wrigley Field: 8:01 p.m. CT (7:08 if ALCS complete)

Thursday 10/19, Game 5 at Wrigley Field (if necessary): 7:08 p.m. CT

Saturday 10/21, Game 6 at Dodger Stadium (if necessary): 3:08 p.m. CT (7:08 if ALCS complete)

Sunday 10/22, Game 7 at Dodger Stadium (if necessary): 7:08 p.m. CT

Good news for those of us who don’t care for Ernie Johnson’s play-by-play call on TBS: He’s heading back to cover the NBA for the network. Brian Anderson, who is the primary PBP voice of the Brewers on FSN Wisconsin, will call this series. Anderson’s very good and as a broadcaster for a N.L. Central team, he’s quite familiar with the Cubs. And if you’re concerned that he might be biased, just remember the words of Joe Buck, from his Twitter page:

I love all teams EXCEPT yours.

Prediction

In addition to the notes above, the Cubs’ starting pitching shut down a pretty good Nationals offense in the division series. The Cubs’ four starters allowed the Nats five earned runs in 26⅓ innings for a 1.69 ERA. The Nats scored 819 runs during the regular season, the Dodgers 770, so L.A.’s offense is just a tick below Washington’s, although the two teams were nearly equal in home runs (L.A. 221, Washington 215).

A factor which might or might not mean anything: Over the last 13 days, the Dodgers have played just three games, while the Cubs have played five. L.A.’s sweep of the Diamondbacks seemed like they were brushing a fly off their dinner plate, while the Cubs had to seemingly use every ounce of energy they had to vanquish the Nationals. Does the extra rest help or hurt? Does the fact that the Cubs had to extend the bullpen mean they’ll be gassed even for Game 1?

The Dodgers are a better team than they were last year with the addition of likely Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger, plus outfielder/infielder Chris Taylor, who had a fine year that’s gone almost unnoticed. The Cubs, just by W/L record, aren’t as good as last year, but their play since the All-Star break is very, very close to what they did in 2016. They have been battle-tested through multiple playoff series and seem to just have a knack of winning no matter how far they’re down. The “We Never Quit” mantra is really what they actually do. It’s wonderful to watch.

These teams know each other well from last year’s NLCS. Dodger Stadium won’t intimidate the Cubs, and they got shut out twice in last year’s NLCS and won it anyway.

The Cubs don’t have home-field advantage this year, so, as every such team does, they’ll be looking to grab that away with a win in one of the first two games.

The Cubs will win in seven and head back to the World Series.

Poll

The result of the Cubs/Dodgers NLCS will be...

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Cubs in four
    (15 votes)
  • 3%
    Cubs in five
    (20 votes)
  • 31%
    Cubs in six
    (159 votes)
  • 33%
    Cubs in seven
    (172 votes)
  • 3%
    Dodgers in four
    (17 votes)
  • 7%
    Dodgers in five
    (37 votes)
  • 14%
    Dodgers in six
    (75 votes)
  • 2%
    Dodgers in seven
    (11 votes)
506 votes total Vote Now