Over their World Championship run in 2016, the Chicago Cubs overcame a 1-3 deficit in the World Series. In 2017, the Cubs NLCS foe has a 3-1 lead heading into the fifth game of the series.
The Dodgers have built this 3-1 lead with three dominating wins with a average margin of victory of 3.7 runs. Los Angeles’ pitching staff has been a huge reason for the team’s start in the series — the Dodgers are giving up 1.7 runs per game, even with the loss in game four. If LA is going to win game five, and it’s first National League championship since 1988, the pitching staff is going to have to continue shutting down the Cubs offense.
For game five, Los Angeles will be sending Clayton Kershaw to the bump. Keshaw is exactly the guy you want on the mound for this crucial game. As for Chicago, Jose Quintana will be taking the bump.
Kershaw is going to be a tough task for the Cubs offense tonight, especially since Chicago has been aggressive at the plate. The aggressiveness at the plate has caused the Cubs’ offense to not produce, which is a major reason for their lack of runs scored. Which is not how to attack LA’s pitching staff, the bullpen or the starters, and it’s not really how the Cubs have recently approached their at bats either.
Offensively, Los Angeles has taken the Cubs approach during the championship series. The Dodgers have walked 13 times in the four games which has increased the Cubs pitch count while also increasing the number of base runners; which is not what Chicago’s staff had done throughout the second half of the season. Chicago had been able to keep its opponents off balance, while racking up strikeouts, to help the team overcome the Brewers in the Central…but the Cubs haven’t able to do that during the NLCS against Los Angeles.
If Chicago is going to survive another day, or even win the series, it’s going to need see the offense return to its more patient approach. That way the Cubs will also extend Kershaw’s pitch count and potentially get him to make more mistakes than he normally does — which has been a recipe for success against the veteran in his previous playoff appearances. Getting Kershaw out of the game should provide some temporary relief if Chicago can do it early enough, the middle relievers in LA’s bullpen have been susceptible to meltdowns; if the Cubs can’t force the Kershaw out early and they get to the back end of the Dodgers’ bullpen…they’re in real trouble.
The big concern for Chicago manager Joe Maddon is the fact that he doesn’t have much left of his own bullpen. To save their season, the Cubs had closer Wade Davis throw 48 pitches in the last two innings of the game. Without Davis in the back of the pen, it gets shaky for Maddon’s squad heading into the fifth game.
Game five of the NLCS is going to come down to the bullpen that is in the best shape, which (at this time) belongs to the Dodgers.