The Dodgers and Cubs enter tonight’s Game 3 with the series tied one game apiece. So far through two games, both clubs have shown exactly why they’ve been successful all year, and why they’re the two last teams standing in the National League.
We take a look here at what both teams have shown so far this series that makes them so good in each area.
What makes the Cubs so good? Pretty much everything
So it turns out there was a reason the Chicago Cubs won 103 games in the regular season and had the best record in the game. They’re pretty good at baseball. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but nonetheless, the Cubs have impressed so far in the playoffs, and not only in this series, but the NLDS as well. Every facet of their game is solid, and it’s already showed through the first two games with the Dodgers.
- Starting pitching: Coming off of a great 2016 regular season, Jon Lester may be on a short list of Cy Young candidates this year. The Dodgers hit some balls hard off him in Game 1, but they weren’t able to manage much scorning, getting only one run in six innings. Kyle Hendricks is also a Cy Young candidate, and all he did this year was lead the league in ERA, posting a 2.13 mark. He kept the Dodgers hitters off-balance all night in Game 2, with the exception of one swing by Adrian Gonzalez. Next up in Game 3 for Chicago is only the Cy Young Award winner from last year, Jake Arrieta. Following him will likely be veteran John Lackey. The Cubs definitely have a formidable group here, and scoring a lot of runs against them may not be very easy.
- Bullpen: Aroldis Chapman is probably the best closer in the game, and when he’s on, he’s almost impossible to hit (don’t tell that to Adrian Gonzalez though). Behind Chapman is a talented group that includes Hector Rondon, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, and a plethora of lefties that Joe Maddon can go to. The Dodgers got to them in Game 1, scoring twice in the top of the 8th, but the Cubs bullpen shut them down in Game 2, allowing no hits in 3 2/3 innings. It’s definitely a solid group of relievers, especially at the end with Chapman.
- Offense: The Cubs have a very good lineup, top to bottom, and have the likely MVP this year in Kris Bryant. They battered Kenta Maeda around early on in Game 1, and then really unloaded on Joe Blanton late in the game, scoring 5 runs in the 8th inning, including a grand slam and a solo home run. Clayton Kershaw was able to shut them down in Game 2, but that’s because he’s Clayton Kershaw, and he can shut down any lineup when he’s dealing. Still though, going forward, the Dodgers pitchers will have their hands full with a very dangerous lineup.
- Defense: Did you see Dexter Fowler’s plays in center field this series? That’s the kind of defense the Cubs have had all year, and it’s why they’re considered the best defensive group in baseball. They’re solid at every position, and have perhaps the best defensive outfielder in the game, with Jason Heyward. They have great range, and have shown why they rank near the top in practically every defensive metric this season.
The Dodgers have a talented group that just won’t quit
Yeah, the Cubs are pretty good. BUT… so are the Dodgers. With all that positive stuff said about the Cubs, this series is still tied at 1-1, and going back to Los Angeles, the Dodgers have to feel good about how they’ve competed so far.
They’ve showed exactly why they’re the NL Division champs, and have showcased the grit and determination that’s got them this far.
- Starting pitching: The Dodgers starting pitching in Game 1 wasn’t great, as Kenta Maeda continued his recent struggles. But in Game 2, they turned to the best pitcher in the game to tie the series. Clayton Kershaw has had a pretty remarkable post season thus far, and has quieted, if not completely silenced his October critics. His Game 2 performance may have been one of the best playoffs starts in his career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Going down 0-2 to a team like Chicago could have spelled doom for the Dodgers, but instead, they go back home with the series tied and momentum on their side.
- The Dodgers rotation may not have the overall depth of Chicago’s, but Kershaw is still the ace of all aces. When he pitches like he did on Sunday night, there’s no one better, and he can take a team on his back. Rich Hill is next up, and he hasn’t had a dominate performance in the playoffs yet, so he may be due. He’ll be followed by Julio Urias and likely Maeda for games 4 & 5. If the Dodgers can manage to take 2 of 3 in Los Angeles, they’d have Kershaw coming back for Game 6, in a potential series clinching opportunity. And that would certainly be nice.
- Bullpen: Like the Cubs, the Dodgers too have a good bullpen. In fact, going strictly by the numbers, the Dodgers had a better bullpen this year, leading all MLB in ERA. Game 1, however, wasn’t a great showing, as Joe Blanton got shelled for five ER, including a go-ahead grand slam by Miguel Montero. In Game 2, after seven strong innings from Kershaw, Dave Robert went straight to Kenley Jansen, who made quick work of the Cub’s hitters, throwing only 18 pitches as he breezed through all six batters.
- The Kershaw/Jansen combo (or Jansen/Kershaw in some cases) has been lights out so far this post season, just as like it was during the regular season. These guys, along with Adrian Gonzalez, are the main reason the Dodgers got out of Chi-Town with a series spilt.
- Offense: The offense will need to do better, no question. They had some tough breaks in Game 1, and hit some balls really good off Jon Lester that were unfortunately right at defenders. That happens, and there’s really nothing you can do about it. But Game 2 was a different story. Kyle Hendricks shut the offense down with the exception of Gonzalez’s homer, and the Dodgers were fortunate to have Kershaw pitching like he was. They’re hitting with RISP (and runners on in general) continues to be a problem, as they left eight more men on base in Game 2. Going forward, they’ll have to be better in that category if they expect to advance.
- Defense: The Dodgers may not be the Cubs when it comes to defense, but overall, they have a decent unit. Of course, with as much platooning as they do, it really depends on who’s playing that day. For instance, an outfield of Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, and Andrew Toles, would be a lot more desirable defensively then Kike Hernandez, Josh Reddick, and Howie Kendrick. But that all rotates from game to game, and the Dodgers remain a good, but not great, group of defenders. A couple of plays that stand out in this series so far is Howie Kendrick’s mis-play in left field during Game 1, and Yasmani Grandal’s drop of a routine pop up in Game 2. Luckily for the Dodgers, neither affected the overall outcome of the game all too much.
In the next 3-4 games, one of these teams will advance to the World Series, and both have showed why they’re in that position. It’s only been two games but we’ve seen each club showcase their strengths, whether it be a dominate starter and closer taking over a game, or a deep lineup and great defense that steals the show. Going forward, it should be a great matchup between two very good teams.