Dodgers' Hill eager for another crack at Cubs (Oct 15, 2017)
LOS ANGELES -- That missed opportunity for Rich Hill to start Game 7 in last year's National League Championship Series will be somewhat revisited Sunday at Dodger Stadium.
Hill was ready and waiting to start a winner-take-all game in the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs last year, but Clayton Kershaw was upended in Game 6 and the Cubs advanced to the World Series where they ended a 108-year championship drought.
And while Sunday's outing won't propel his team into the World Series, Hill could give the Dodgers a commanding 2-0 lead with the series shifting to Chicago on Tuesday. Hill was asked about facing the same Cubs team in this year's battle for the NL title.
"It's great," Hill said. "Anytime you get the opportunity to play and compete against the best, I think it's something that everybody who is a competitor wants to do. You want to challenge yourself against the best, and they're the defending champions, and that's the club that we wanted to play and the team that we want to beat to get to the next step, which is the World Series."
Cubs starter Jon Lester will be ready, waiting and not the least bit intimidated. Lester gets the call for Chicago knowing he was on the mound for two of the four victories against the Dodgers in last year's NLCS.
"I think it's just like anything this time of year, you have to try to hold back momentum as best you can," Lester said. "You can't let those guys string hits together, long at-bats, foul balls, stuff like that. So, if you're able to kind of control that, you see these guys feed off the energy, especially here at Dodgers Stadium. So, if you can kind of keep that down as best you can, I think it gives you a chance."
Lester was only named the Game 2 starter Saturday morning. He threw 51 pitches in Game 4 of the NL Division Series on Wednesday so he will come into the outing on just three days' rest. He also pitched in Game 2 of the NLDS in a game the Cubs lost to the Nationals.
"I'm not worried about it," Lester said "I mean, it's kind of just work in between (starts). You've just got to do it in the game as opposed to on the side. So, I don't think it's a problem. This time of year, you have to adjust and figure it out. We'll do that tomorrow."
Trailing by one game in the NLCS to the Dodgers is a familiar spot for the Cubs. They were down 2-1 in last year's NLCS only to reel off three consecutive victories, including that clincher against Kershaw.
Hill was the pitcher who put the Los Angeles on top in last year's NLCS. He cruised with six shutout innings in Game 3 as the Dodgers had handcuffed the Cubs' offense to that point.
While Hill prefers to not make comparisons year to year, he can't avoid looking back to last year's playoff outing against the Cubs to gain inspiration. But it does not sound like that inspiration will come from how he successfully attacked Chicago's lineup.
"What we gained in experience (from the 2016 NLCS) was huge to get to this point," Hill said. "So a lot of guys that were on that roster last year with the Dodgers are back again this year, and we're able to feed off of those experiences from last year and understand that where we got to, it wasn't such a failure. It was more of a learning point in moving forward."
Not only do the Cubs figure to be better rested for Game 2, after their charter flight was redirected to Albuquerque, N.M., early Friday morning when Jose Quintana's wife became ill, they might be playing with a little edge about them too.
The Cubs were less than pleased the Dodgers were awarded an insurance run in the seventh inning when replay officials in New York deemed catcher Willson Contreras violated the "home plate collision rule." Contreras had tagged out Charlie Culberson in time but he was ruled to have started blocking the plate with his left leg before he was in possession of the ball.
Chicago manager Joe Maddon argued and was ejected, and his reasoning for disputing the call seemed to be as much for the rule he disagreed with as the desire to show that his team should be more aggressive than passive.
"You've got to make a point at some point, man," Maddon said. "It's like, listen, I'm not going to just sit there and take that when I disagree with it 100 percent. And I let (umpire) Mike Winters know that. I let Mike know what my intent was. Listen, I could easily not say anything, absolutely. And I could easily just acquiesce. But if I'm doing that, I'm going against what I believe in, and I'm not going to do that."