Beating the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS on the road was one thing. Beating the Cubs four times in a best-of-7 series is quite another. However, if the Dodgers have any hope of pulling off this upset, they’ll need the five biggest stars from Thursday’s win over the Nationals to lead the way again in the NLCS. And here they are:
Contrary to what many now believe, the lefty can’t pitch every day from here on out. Assuming he starts on “normal” rest in Game 2, Kershaw will make two starts if the NLCS goes at least six games. And he presumably would then be available for relief in Game 7.
Given the uncertain state of the Dodgers’ rotation and what figures to be an overworked bullpen, Kershaw must give them every ounce of ace stuff he has when he is on out there. Still, the Cubs hitters could wear out the ace in a way overuse hasn’t.
He had perhaps the biggest at-bat on Thursday night that didn’t result in a run when he accelerated Max Scherzer’s exit in Game 5 of the NLDS, forcing the Nationals’ ace to throw him 13 pitches in a fourth-inning walk. At that point, Scherzer hadn’t allowed a hit and had been cruising. Later, Turner’s two-run triple proved to be the game-winner.
Such deep and productive at-bats will be critical against the Cubs’ trio of aces as well. He must be the veteran hitter the Dodgers lean on because of his pop and his 1.295 OPS in 12 postseason games.
Fifty-one pitches over 2.1 scoreless innings, when he was basically reduced to fumes before Kershaw came to the rescue. Wow. Not bad for a guy who hadn’t thrown more than 30 pitches in any appearance all season. And just when you think you’ve seen the dude do it all, he lays down a sacrifice bunt.
Obviously, manager Dave Roberts is unlikely to ask him to repeat that marathon outing, but Jansen has to dominate the late innings – whether it be the seventh, eighth or ninth against the Cubs.
His first-pitch homer in the seventh inning, on the heels of the gift of an out when Jayson Werth was nabbed at home plate in the previous inning, provided the 1-2 punch that completely swing the momentum against the Nationals. Plus, Pederson also drew a big walk in the eighth.
With the Dodgers getting very little production from their other outfielders, Pederson’s power could prove pivotal against Chicago.
One of the most overlooked performers in Game 5 and all season, Blanton has reinvented himself as a lights-out late-inning reliever. Except he was called upon in the third inning against the Nationals, retiring all four batters he faced before giving way to Julio Urias. Blanton pitched four times in the NLDS, finishing with five scoreless innings and five strikeouts.
He must be equally effective against an even deeper and more dangerous Cubs lineup, regardless of which outs he is asked to get.