By Joel Norman, Originally published on Sports Heaven
One team had all week to prepare.
The other had a day.
The Cubs haven’t played since Tuesday when they eliminated the San Francisco Giants with a dramatic four-run ninth inning rally.
Similarly, the Dodgers advanced thanks to an impressive late rally. Trailing 3-0 to the Washington Nationals in Game 5 Thursday night, Los Angeles struck for four runs in the seventh inning to take and hold on to the lead.
On paper, the Chicago Cubs are the better team in this matchup. That isn’t saying a lot because the Cubs have been the favorite against every one of their opponents in the regular season and postseason.
That’s because the Cubs do everything perfectly.
There is no need to re-explain why the Cubs are the favorite in this series.
Since the Cubs have the best mix of hitting, fielding, and pitching in baseball, how do the Dodgers stop the Cubs?
Despite collecting three saves in the National League Division Series, Aroldis Chapman showed how human he was in Game 3. Called on in the eighth in hopes of getting a six out save, Chapman gave up two hits and allowed a run to score, giving the Giants the lead. He started by striking out Hunter Pence but surrendered back-to-back run-scoring hits to Conor Gillaspie and Brandon Crawford before exiting.
However, getting Chapman to blow a save will require a prayer. In 3.1 innings of relief in the NLDS, Chapman struck out seven batters and allowed three hits, but two of them came in Game 3.
If any team is equipped to challenge Chapman and the Cubs’ bullpen, it’s the Dodgers. Los Angeles not only rallied to victory in Game 5 of the NLDS, but also Game 4. Tied with the Nationals, 5-5, in the eighth, the Dodgers sent seven men to the plate and scored the go-ahead run on a Chase Utley single.
In Game 5, Los Angeles sent eight men to the plate against six different Washington pitchers.
The Dodgers did not score in the seventh inning or later in any of the first three games of the NLDS and went 1-2 in that stretch.
Chapman only blew three saves in the regular season before doing so on Monday. However, two of his three regular-season blown saves came after the Cubs acquired him from the New York Yankees. Chapman is not impenetrable or perfect.
Cubs starting pitchers were not perfect on the mound in the NLDS.
Kyle Hendricks was pitching ok in Game 2 until he exited after getting hit in the fourth inning after getting hit by a come backer. He’d given up two runs on four hits and Chicago only lead San Francisco 3-2. Though the Cubs were without their best pitcher, it didn’t matter. Travis Wood came in and got the win by pitching 1.1 scoreless innings before handing it over to the bullpen, which did not allow a run either.
In Game 4, John Lackey only gave the Cubs four innings and gave up three runs on seven hits. Nonetheless, Chicago kept the game close and eventually got the win.
The bullpen has been a strength for the Cubs in particular, but all of the pitchers combined to make a difference at the plate as well.
Get this: Cubs pitchers combined to drive in six of 11 team runs in Games 2 and 3. That came on a two-run single by Hendricks and a solo home run by Wood in Game 2. Jake Arrieta added a three-run homer in Game 3. The pitcher’s spot was not an easy out for the Giants in the NLDS.
Similarly, the Dodgers need a little help from their pitchers. Asking for two home runs, let alone one, is too much. However, Los Angeles pitchers need to make productive outs, whether that be from sacrifice bunts or sacrifice fly outs. A couple RBI knocks wouldn’t hurt either, but can’t be expected.
Even if the Dodgers can rally and get help from their pitchers, they still won’t beat the Cubs. Chicago showed it was human against San Francisco, but is World Series-bound and will do just enough to top Los Angeles.