The Cubs have gone from DEFCON 1 to extreme euphoria in the matter of two nights thanks to the offensive revival of Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Dexter Fowler and the big-game pitching of Jon Lester.
Chicago winning the NLCS certainly feels like an inevitability, but the Dodgers aren’t dead yet. Why it’s too soon for Cubs fans to book their flights to Cleveland for the Fall Classic:
The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner is the guy responsible for putting the Cubs’ bats into a temporary funk in this series with seven scoreless innings at Wrigley Field in Game 2. And he will be on full rest for Saturday’s Game 6.
Nothing is a given in October, but the odds of beating Kershaw are certainly slimmer than the odds of suddenly solving him, especially now that he has shed his postseason stigma.
Another southpaw whose sorcery baffled the Cubs in his first start in this series (six scoreless innings in Game 3), Hill will be the man on the mound if the Dodgers can force a Game 7.
It’s easy to overlook him because of Kershaw’s dominance, but Hill had a 1.83 ERA in six regular-season starts with the Dodgers after posting a 2.25 mark with the A’s. And for what it’s worth – potentially many millions, actually – Hill is a free-agent-to-be.
While other members of the Dodgers’ bullpen have been pounded in the past two games – we’re looking at you, Pedro Baez – Jansen hasn’t been called upon. He hasn’t pitched since Tuesday’s Game 3 win, so he is ridiculously well-rested.
We know Jansen can go multiple innings effectively, and Dave Roberts will ask him to do just that given the way his other relievers have been exposed the past two games.
The Dodgers already know they can win at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs won an MLB-best 57 games during the regular season. Not only did LA win Game 2 at the Friendly Confines, it battled back to tie Game 1 in the eighth inning against Aroldis Chapman.
And don’t forget the Dodgers won the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS at Washington.
The Cubs were eliminated at home in their past two trips to the NLCS (2015, 2003), so their fans have seen this movie before (some of them saw it back in the days of silent films). In fact, the scene is eerily similar to 2003 when the Cubs came home with a 3-2 series lead against the Marlins before … well, you know.
Although those were different teams in different circumstances, the pressure to end the World Series drought is even greater this season. We’ve already seen what happens when this offense presses, and it’s not pretty.