Oddly enough, it appears the Cubs were fortunate, at least weather-wise, that they didn’t have home field in the NLCS this year. It’s been pouring all day in the Chicago area with thunder and lightning and there’s a possibility of severe storms this evening. Sunday’s temperatures will be in the 40s by early evening. Meanwhile, by Tuesday, when the first game at Wrigley will be played, highs will be in the mid to upper 60s with game time temps likely near 60 with light winds, and zero chance of rain on any of the three possible home dates.
And in baseball terms, we find ourselves in the opposite position from where the Cubs were a year ago. The Dodgers are the team that had an historic regular season and the best record in baseball. The Cubs struggled at times before finding themselves in the second half; their 92-70 regular-season record was nearly identical to the 91-71 the Dodgers brought into the 2016 postseason.
And both the 2016 Dodgers and 2017 Cubs came from behind to beat the Nationals in a five-game division series, winning the final game of the series at Nationals Park.
So the Dodgers and Cubs have gone down parallel paths the last two seasons. Last year’s Cubs blew through the regular season, then had three tough postseason series before winning Game 7 of the World Series to become champions.
This year’s Cubs won a division series against a team that, on paper, was better. This year’s Dodgers crushed the Diamondbacks in a division series in which they trailed for only three total innings.
On paper? The Dodgers are the better team, no question. But the better team doesn’t always win a postseason series. Just ask the 2017 Cleveland Indians.
Here are today’s particulars.
Jay RF, Bryant 3B, Rizzo 1B, Contreras C, Almora CF, Russell SS, Schwarber LF, Baez 2B, Quintana P
Taylor CF, Turner 3B, Bellinger 1B, Hernandez LF, Forsythe 2B, Barnes C, Puig RF, Culberson SS, Kershaw P
Jose Quintana vs. Clayton Kershaw
Disregard Jose Quintana’s 12-pitch outing on Thursday. As has been said, it’s like he threw a normal side session between starts.
An advantage the Cubs might have with Q is that, as was the case with the Nats, the Dodgers are likely unfamiliar with him. He’s faced L.A. just twice in his career, and the last time was more than three years ago, June 2, 2014. As you can see, most of those Dodgers aren’t with the team anymore. The only current Dodger with any significant amount of time and success vs. Q is Logan Forsythe (5-for-11, three doubles, a home run).
So the Dodgers will be relying on scouting reports. Q threw well against the Nats, and including the two division series outings, since September 1 he has a 2.09 ERA and 0.931 WHIP in 38⅔ innings. That’s certainly the equal of anyone on the Dodgers staff.
For the second straight year, Clayton Kershaw spent some time on the DL with back trouble. When he was pitching, though, he was very, very good, good enough that he’ll probably get some Cy Young consideration.
However. His worst start of the 2017 season (by Game Score) came against the Cubs May 28 at Dodger Stadium. The Cubs pounded him for 11 hits and three home runs (Willson Contreras, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo). Kershaw’s postseason record isn’t anywhere near as good as his regular-season mark. He’s got a 4.63 ERA and has allowed 14 home runs in 95⅓ postseason innings. Why this is, I couldn’t begin to tell you.
The Cubs beat Kershaw decisively in NLCS Game 6 last year at Wrigley Field to go to the World Series. Kershaw’s one start this postseason wasn’t all that good: 6⅓ innings, five hits, four runs vs. the Diamondbacks. Four of the five hits were home runs.
Kershaw’s good, no question. But he is not invincible.
Today’s game is on TBS. Announcers: Brian Anderson, Ron Darling and Sam Ryan. Another note on the NLCS broadcasts via TBS:
For the first time, TBS's NLCS coverage will bring fans even closer to the sounds of the game through the use of microphones embedded into the grass on the playing field. Four RF microphones will be located in front of home plate, one each in front of, and behind, the pitcher's mound and one each in the grass behind the second baseman and shortstop.
MLB.com Gameday (classic mode) (Note: Going forward, I am going to link to the “classic” Gameday here because MLB.com broke the links I used to use to get to their “new” Gameday. If you click on this link, you can then click on “New Gameday” at the bottom of the page to get to the updated version. Note that the “classic” Gameday won’t load until just before game time.)
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The 2017 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used during 2016. Here's how it works.
You'll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).
At the same time, a StoryStream containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream "Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads" so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.
You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in the game's StoryStream as noted above.
The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.
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Discuss amongst yourselves.