NLCS Series Preview: Cubs and Dodgers, October 14 - October 22, 2017

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NLCS Series Preview: Cubs and Dodgers, October 14 – October 22, 2017

Chicago Cubs

I’ll tell you what, I’m sure not getting sick of writing up these Series Previews. In fact, I wouldn’t even mind if the Cubs forced me to write one more before the year is up.

All it’ll take is four measly wins against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They can manage that, right?

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (3-2) beat the Nationals to advance to the NLCS, but it took all five games. Their starters and bullpen are all taxed and they won’t have home field advantage in this one either.

The Los Angeles Dodgers (3-0), on the other hand, swept the Diamondbacks in their series, which means their starters and relievers are much better rested. We took a look at the NLCS odds earlier, and, as you can image, the Cubs are the obvious underdogs in this one.

Game Times and Broadcasts

Location: Dodger Stadium/Wrigley Field

Dodger Stadium

  • Saturday, October 14 at 7:00 CT on TBS, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, October 15 at 6:30 CT on TBS, 670 The Score

Wrigley Field (Check Tickets at StubHub Here)

  • Tuesday, October 17 at 8:00 CT on TBS, 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, October 18 at 8:00* CT on TBS, 670 The Score
  • (If necessary) Thursday, October 19 at 7:00 CT on TBS, 670 The Score

Dodger Stadium 

  • (If necessary) Saturday, October 21 at 3:00* CT on TBS, 670 The Score
  • (If necessary) Sunday, October 22 at 6:30 CT on TBS, 670 The Score

*Those games are 7:00 if the ALCS is over.

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs

Starters (order unannounced):

  • Jose Quintana (4.15 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 3.73 xFIP; 3.39 K/BB) – L
  • Jon Lester (4.33 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 3.85 xFIP; 3.00 K/BB) – L
  • Jake Arrieta (3.53 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 4.11 xFIP; 2.96 K/BB) – R
  • Kyle Hendricks (3.03 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 3.76 xFIP; 3.08 K/BB) – R
  • Game 5: We’ll see.
  • Game 6: We’ll see.
  • Game 7: We’ll see.

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Jon Jay, CF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Willson Contreras, C
  5. Ben Zobrist, LF
  6. Addison Russell, SS
  7. Jason Heyward, RF
  8. Javy Baez, 2B
  9. Pitcher

Los Angeles Dodgers

Starters (order announced):

  • Clayton Kershaw (2.31 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 2.84 xFIP; 6.73 K/BB) – L
  • Rich Hill (3.32 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 3.88 xFIP; 3.39 K/BB) – L
  • Yu Darvish (3.86 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 3.65 xFIP; 3.60 K/BB) – R
  • Alex Wood (2.72 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 3.34 xFIP; 3.97 K/BB) – L
  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Game 6: We’ll See.
  • Game 7: We’ll See.

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Chris Taylor, CF
  2. Corey Seager, SS
  3. Justin Turner, 3B
  4. Cody Bellinger, 1B
  5. Yasiel Puig, RF
  6. Curtis Granderson, LF
  7. Yasmani Grandal/Austin Barnes, C
  8. Logan Forsythe, 2B
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

The Chicago Cubs starting pitching in the NLDS was absolutely brilliant through the first three games:

Kyle Hendricks: 7.0 IP, 2H, 0ER, 3BB, 6K
Jon Lester: 6.0 IP, 2H, 1ER, 2BB, 2K
Jose Quintana: 5.2 IP, 2H, 0ER, 1BB, 7Ks

But with things on the line in Games Four (a tough road matchup looming) and Five (elimination), Joe Maddon played things tight with his starters, Arrieta and Hendricks, who both exited after just 4.0 innings. It’s fair to assume, however, with extra rest for the former and a non-elimination game for the latter (combined with facing the Dodgers without having just seen them a few days earlier), each will go deeper in his next start.

The bullpen … struggled. Let’s just leave it there for now. We can take a closer look as the NLCS goes on.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

Doesn’t it feel like Ben Zobrist had a big series? Well, despite scoring three runs, he didn’t knock any in and slashed just .235/.278/.353; 63 wRC+. Strange. I guess he came through at big moments.

You know who DID have a big series? Jon Jay. In 15 plate appearances, Jay slashed .273/.429/.455 with a 142 wRC+ and just a 13.3% strikeout rate. With so many lefties in the Dodgers rotation (we’ll get to that in a minute), his reverse-split bat will loom large.

You can also expect to see a TON of Albert Almora this series (he’ll probably start every non-Yu Darvish started game), and that’s good because 1. he crushes lefties and 2. he had a good series against the Nationals. He may have gotten only 7 plate appearances, but he recorded two hits (.333 AVG) and a walk (.429 OBP) while providing quality defense in center field.

And because you may see slightly less Jason Heyward this time around, Almora’s glove in center field will be much appreciated.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Pitching

Although the Cubs just had to fight their way through the likes of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and company, their test against top tier arms doesn’t end in Los Angeles.

Obviously, the Dodgers will throw Clayton Kershaw in Games One and Five (if necessary), and he’ll probably even be available out of the pen in Game Six/Seven if needed. But he’s not all they have.

On top of the best pitcher of this generation, the Dodgers have a I-can’t-believe-he’s-still-rocking-it Rich Hill (3.32 ERA, 30.1 K% this season), a oh-yeah-he’s-on-the-Dodgers-now Yu Darvish (3.44 ERA, 30.2 K%, 6.4 BB% with Dodgers this season), and a relatively healthy Alex Wood, who’s had a career year in Los Angeles (2.72 ERA, 3.4 fWAR).

They all strike a lot of guys out and walk very few …. and if you know anything about the Cubs hitters, it’s probably that they strike out a lot. So brace yourself.

And don’t forget about Kenley Jansen, the 3.5 fWAR RELIEVER, who paired an unbelievable 42.3 K% with an even more unbelievable 2.7 BB% this season. Oh, and he just loves going more than one inning. So, yeah. This should be a tough one.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Offense

And then, of course, there’s the Dodgers’ offense.

To be honest, despite having some very potent bats, the Dodgers’ lineup isn’t nearly as scary as the Nationals. In fact, their 4.75 runs scored per game this season ranked just 12th (!) in MLB, a full eight spots behind the Cubs.

Even still, they have guys like Justin Turner, who just may be the 2017 NL MVP, Cody Bellinger, who just may be the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year (he will), and Corey Seager, who nearly won both awards last year and is having another great year at the plate. Even their lesser known guys like Chris Taylor had a top 20 wRC+ in the NL this season, so this is far from an easy lineup.

In game one against the D-Backs, Justin Turner had a particularly big game, going 3-5 with a homer and 5 RBI and he added three more hits before the series was over.

Even Yasiel Puig isn’t the guy you remember getting demoted to Triple-A last year. In 2017 he slashed .263/.346/.487 (117 wRC+). The Cubs pitchers will not have an easy go at it.

But the Cubs have won as underdogs before and they can do it again. A second straight World Series trip is on the line.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami