The Dodgers awoke the beast that is the Cubs offense that has been MIA for all the postseason up until the past two games. The Dodgers find themselves in a 3-2 hole and on the road to close out the NLCS. The road to reach their first World Series since 1988 is all but ideal but that’s what separates good teams from great teams.
There’s still reason for optimism if you are the Dodgers because you have the best pitcher on the planet and this isn’t the first time the odds are stacked against the team this season. But I’ll shed light on some players/concepts that can motivate you for game 6 tonight.
Adrian Gonzalez said it best after the game 5 loss.
We can grab back that momentum with one name – Kershaw.
For the first time since game 1 of the NLDS Kershaw will be pitching on full rest, extra rest to be exact. Unfortunately for Kershaw like the past three seasons, the Dodgers are asking him to save their season as they face elimination again. It feels so similar to past October’s where the Dodgers find themselves behind in the series and rely on Kershaw to be the hero and carry them out of the hole. Only this year, it’s a little different.
Kershaw has been called upon in every high leverage situation and to this point has worked masterfully for Dave Roberts. Quite frankly, that’s what you expect out of your 200 million dollar ace and Kershaw has said he would be ready to pitch whenever the team called upon.
Kershaw’s postseason era may not be what you’d expect (3.72), but Kershaw has delivered when the Dodgers need him the most. Now the Dodgers need him to regain control of this series and silence the Cubs bats to force a game 7. Kershaw is undoubtedly the most talented pitcher in baseball and he’s had a better postseason than numbers would suggest. Kershaw isn’t one to shy away from the pressure, but it would sure be nice to see some runs on the board early for Kershaw tonight.
Late inning rallies.
It’s crazy to think the Dodgers made a trade over the offseason to acquire Aroldis Chapman to strengthen the bullpen. Now Chapman could potentially be registering the final out keeping the Dodgers away from the World Series. If that is the case, the Dodgers shouldn’t be so intimidated by Chapman’s 100 mph fastball.
The two times Chapman has come out this series the Dodgers have been able to drive in runs off him, even registering a blown save in game 1. Chapman was dominant all season, but the Dodgers have shown an ability to comeback. They’ve scored 9 runs off the Cubs bullpen this series including 4 off Chapman (2 earned runs, 2 inherited runners). If it wasn’t for an unlikely pinch-hit grand slam, the Dodgers would be in control of this series, in fact, it may even be over already.
But the key here is that the Dodgers have life if it comes to their last at-bats against Chapman. The team has had some good at-bats against one of the best closers in the league, something the Cubs can’t say.
If there’s a silver lining in these two losses, it’s the way the Dodgers lost. I know, it sounds bad, especially considering the Dodgers made 5 errors and were outscored 18-6. But all that damage was done without using our best weapon out of the bullpen. Jansen has been lights out this postseason and unlike Chapman, has dominated the Cubs in his two appearances going 3 1/3 with 5 strikeouts.
Jansen hasn’t pitched since game 3 so he comes into tonight well-rested and we can almost expect Roberts to let Jansen go more than one inning if needed. With Jansen at the back end of the bullpen and Kershaw on the mound today, it’s likely the Dodgers can see a repeat of game 2 where Kershaw and Jansen combined a shutout and only allowed 2 hits. Heck, I even had my aunt say she’d like to see Jansen start a game to throw a couple innings.
History is on our side.
As similar as this year feels for Dodger fans, Cubs fans would be hard pressed to say they are not having deja vu of the 2003 NLCS. In case you forgot the story of Steve Bartman, the Cubs were returning home with a 3-2 series lead and their young ace Mark Prior was on the mound looking to close the series and advance to the World Series. Check the 2003 highlights to see how it ended up.
Only 3 teams have ever advanced to the World Series after being shutout in back-to-back games in the NLCS. The Pressure is on the CUBS! This is the team’s second year in the postseason together and their team is composed of a core of young ballplayers. Last season they weren’t able to respond to the pressure and got eliminated at home against the Mets and now the Dodgers have the chance to do the same with their mixture of veterans and young players.
The situation is far from ideal, down in the series, away from home, riding a tough 2 game losing streak. But the Dodgers have the cards in place to survive this uphill battle. They’ll be throwing their top two pitchers on full rest and have their closer well rested. The team that played so well without Kershaw during the regular season needs to make an appearance.
We rely time and time again on Kershaw to bail us out and for once it’s time we help him out by taking smarter at-bats, being aggressive on the base paths and perfecting the fundamentals on defense. They have proven they could beat the Cubs in the postseason. They have proven to be able to win on the road in October. Now they just have to repeat it.