Cubs brace for Kershaw, Dodgers
It is the last time the Dodgers and Cubs will meet in the regular season, but as the last two National League Championship Series have shown, a high-profile series in October is a possibility.
Thursday’s afternoon game at Dodger Stadium is also the end of a jammed-packed run that will see the Cubs and Dodgers face each other for the seventh time in 10 days. Each team has beaten the other three times after the Dodgers earned a 7-5 victory Wednesday.
Kershaw (1-4, 2.94 ERA) has already had two disabled list stints this season. He missed nearly four weeks in May with left biceps tendinitis, and after only five innings of his return from that injury, he hit the DL again with a lower back strain.
In his return Saturday at New York against the Mets, Kershaw gave up two runs on five hits over three innings, as he was held to 55 pitches. He was supposed to have a minor league rehab start that day, but a poor weather forecast for their Triple-A Oklahoma team led the Dodgers to shift gears.
While Kershaw is expected to get more leeway Thursday, he still figures to be on a pitch restriction that manager Dave Roberts will determine.
“I feel 100 percent,” Kershaw told ESPN this week. “It’s just a matter of building up pitch-count wise and just make sure we’re getting to that 110-, 120-pitch count limit.”
Kershaw is 5-3 with a 2.64 ERA in nine career starts against the Cubs.
Kershaw will square off against fellow left-hander Jose Quintana (6-6, 4.26) on Thursday. Quintana has not thrown 100 pitches in any of his last six starts and has completed six innings once in four June starts.
Quintana has not won a start since May 31 while posting a 4.15 ERA over 21 2/3 June innings. He has not given up an earned run in two career starts against the Dodgers, but is 0-1 against Los Angeles
The Cubs have scored 14 runs in two nights after hitting coach Chili Davis held a meeting with the offense. And while the improved offense was much needed, the Cubs are 1-1 in those two games since the meeting.
Now comes a matchup with Kershaw, who is never a pushover, whether he is coming off an injury or not.
“I’m still looking forward to, as we get more mature in the batter’s box, that we chase less,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I like homers just like everybody else does, but there are so many other ways to score. Industry-wide, that’s probably everybody’s biggest problem. I want power and I want that little dumper to the right side.”
For the Dodgers, it has been all about power in June. They hit three more home runs Wednesday and now have 51 in June, two short of the club record for a single month.
The Cubs are 1-6 on their eight-game road trip to Cincinnati and L.A. and are 3-9 in regular-season games at Dodger Stadium since the start of 2015.