Is this 2016? Because the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers are once again squaring off in the National League Championship Series.
These two teams reached this stage in two very different ways. The Dodgers steamrolled the Arizona Diamondbacks, ultimately sweeping the NLDS 3-0. The Cubs, on the other hand, just barely squeaked by the high-powered Washington Nationals in a five-game thriller.
Let’s start with the Los Angeles Dodger pitching, shall we? Los Angeles, as we all know, has some great arms that they can put out on the hill. LA has the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Rich Hill. Kershaw, however, hasn’t been stellar in the postseason in recent memory. In his one start against The Arizona Diamondbacks, he would get the win but also surrender four solo homers. Overall, Kershaw holds a career postseason ERA of 4.63 and a record of 5-7.
But don’t be fooled. Kershaw, as we all know, is capable of being the best pitcher in the game at any moment.
Now how about former Texas Ranger Yu Darvish? Darvish doesn’t have much postseason experience but in his one outing in the NLDS, looked sharp. In his one start, Darvish went five innings, striking out seven and allowing just one earned run. Then there’s Rich Hill, who pitched just one game this postseason but did not fair wella��lasting only four innings, striking out four and giving up two earned runs. If he battles like that against the Cubs, however, his club may just take that.
Of course, we still haven’t talked about the Chicago Cubs. There arms are no joke either. In the NLDS, Chicago’s starters single-handily kept them alive in the first four games of the series.
Starting with Kyle Hendricks, the righty went out for games 1 and 5 against the Nats. Hendricks looked good in the former, but not so much in the latter. Either way, Hendricks has been dominant overall in his postseason careera��going 2-1 with an ERA of 2.60 and WHIP of just 1.13.
Next we have Jon Lester, who is one of the best postseason pitchers of this generation. He pitched a great Game 2 after a weak regular season to get his NLDS started. And as we continue to see, Lester always shines brightest on the biggest of stages.
JosA� Quintana is next up on the list. The lefty pitched well in Game 3 of the NLDS, showing that his nerves will not be an issue after missing the postseason so many seasons with the White Sox.
The big question mark, however, will be Jake Arrietaa��who’s looking to get another ring in what could be his final year in Chicago. Arrieta is coming off of a shaky performance in Game 4, which only lasted four innings. In it, Arrieta would walk five and suffer the loss.
Both teams have elite closers too, with the likes of Wade Davis and Kenley Jansen. And of course, both squads will hope they can use them in the ninth. But these rotations will be very crucial.
Now lets get to the offense. Both teams feature high-powered slugging groups. The Dodgers have shown that much up to this point. As for the Cubs, not so much. One of Chicago’s biggest assets has been nowhere to be found this postseasona��and that’s Kris Bryant. He has struggled to say the least, going 3-for-20, striking out 10 times (including four times in Game 4), notching only two RBI and simply not looking like the 2016 MVP Chicago fans have come to know and love.
Of course, Chicago’s offense would finally wake up in the Game 5 wina��by a score of 9-8a��over Washington. Still, something has not seemed right. Chicago had just two homers all series long (both in Game 2) and that’s not something they are accustomed to. For Chicago to have a chance, it’s going to take a turnaround from Bryant. And, an awakening of the long ball.
Los Angeles, on the other hand, had no problems with the bats. In the LDS, the Dodgers slugged three homersa��one of which came off the bat of Justin Turner, who was on a tear, batting .462, with 5 RBIa��including a solo dinger in Game 1.
Another problem Chicago will have to deal with is Cody Bellinger, who hit just under forty homers during the regular season. Bellinger, who is the front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year, struggled in his first sampling of postseason action. Bellinger would go 3-for-13 with six strikeouts. Though, he did collect a homer of his own.
But again, with Los Angeles much like Washington, you don’t get a break if you’re the Cubs. They have so many players that those such as Yasiel Puig and Corey Seager aren’t even the story right now.
Cubs/Dodgers should be a classic. There’s no other way to say it. So will the Cubbies reach the fall classic for a second straight year? Or, will the Dodgers finally be stars once again?