The last couple weeks have been a heck of ride. The Cubs took three of four and put the Giant's even year narrative to rest. Madison Bumgarner showed that he is human after all by giving up a three run homer to Jake Arrieta. Javier Baez does something unimaginably great and completely unexpected every single game. Needless to say, it's been a lot of fun, but there's a lot of work still to be done.
The Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers are now two games into the National Championship Series and it's all knotted up one game apiece with the next three games all being played out in Chavez Ravine. I wouldn't call this my ideal situation, but the Cubs are in a pretty good shape. The Cubs took game one on a heroic swing of the bat by Miguel Montero. Wrigley erupted in sheer joy. Game 2 was dominated by the pitchers with Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen shutting the Cubs out 1-0.
Here's the matchups for the next three games out in LA:
The last time Jake Arrieta pitched in Dodger Stadium, he threw a no-hitter. It was beautiful. Arrieta's 2016 season has been an up and down go of it for a while now, but the combination of the Dodger's struggling bats and the generally poor hitting conditions at night in LA should help Arrieta return to his 2015 form. Rich Hill had a great 2016, and it's nice to see the former Cub resurrect his career the way he has over the last two seasons. That said, Hill was hit hard and had trouble locating in his two starts against the Nationals this postseason (0-1 6.43 ERA in 7.0 IP with 5.1 BB9). If Hill's control is off he will have a short night, but if he's on he could strike out 15 Cubs. Control has been Arrieta's biggest undoing too. Both teams have solid BB%, with the Cubs at 10.4% (1st overall) and the Dodgers at 8.5% (10th overall). Both teams will take a lot of pitches forcing the two starters to earn their outs.Game 4: Wednesday, October 19
This is such a fun matchup. The grizzled, 37 year old veteran, John Lackey, with almost double the innings pitched in the postseason than his opponents regular season career total (131.1 to 77.0), and 20 year old uber-prospect, Julio Urias, locking up. Lackey wasn't good in his previous start in the division series vs. San Francisco (4 in. 7 hits with 4 ER), but he is going to go out there Wednesday night with a huge chip on his shoulder. Urias will be making the biggest start of his career and looked good in his 2 innings of relief in game five against the Nationals. Both starters will have little margin for error as the managers will be ready to take them out at any sign of trouble. Urias made his second big league start against the Cubs earlier this season, and the results weren't good with Urias giving up 5 runs over 5.0 innings, but he's improved steadily over the course of the season.Game 5: Thursday, October 20
I don't think it's been announced yet, but it's definitely going to be Clayton Kershaw on the hill for LA. Kershaw, the best pitcher of the last decade, will be coming off the best postseason start of his career. Jon Lester, an ace in his own right who is deserving of the 2016 NL Cy Young award, will be just a footnote in many of the previews for the game. Kershaw's legend grows with every start. The Cubs will put better swings on Kershaw his next time out and will definitely get some runs against him this time. Lester wasn't at his sharpest in game one but was steady enough to give up only 1 run over 6 innings. Lester will be even better in his second time out against the Dodgers.
I think the Cubs will win two of the three games out in LA. Games three and four could easily go either way, but I think the Cubs will win game three and lose game four. As "fun" as it is to see Kershaw dominate in the playoff, Lester will out duel him in game five. Realistically, I could see the Cubs taking all three, but these games are too wild and enjoyable for the series to only go five games.
Update (10/18/2016 10:40 PM): Cubs lose a laugher, 6 to 0. It can't get much worse than being shut out in two straight games. The bats were down right silent all night. Oh well, it was fated to be. On to the next one.
These playoff feel different than any of the Cubs playoff I've seen before. This team has a killer instinct and knows what it takes to win each and every game. They won't always win, winning every game just wouldn't be baseball reality, but this team can win any game. Consider this, the Cubs are 4-2 in the 2016 playoff. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell are a combined 2/45 (.044). Unexpected heroes like pitchers Travis Wood, Kyle Hendricks, and Jake Arrieta and unlikely guys like Miguel Montero have picked up some major slack. Rizzo and Russell are too good not to start hitting again at some point in this postseason. These guys will leave their marks on the 2016 season. When they do, sit back and enjoy.
It's hard to win a league championship series, it's even more difficult to win a World Series. This Cubs team is primed to do both. The Cubs will pull together and win the NLCS in six games.* Javier Baez and Kris Bryant will continue to lead the offense and the pitching staff will continue to pitch like they have all season long. The Cubs all-around game will prove to be the undoing of the Dodgers.
* - This may not actually happen, the Cubs could lose. That'd be disappointing, but the 2017 Cubs will be an even better team so they should be able to win the NLCS then.
Published on 10/17/2016 5:38:50 PM