Cubs v. Dodgers: Duel for the Pennant
Do you miss 2016? Do you want to relive the last year for at least five days? Then you should watch this year's NLCS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs and the Dodgers faced off in the NLCS last year, and the Cubs took the series in six games. This is the worst thing imaginable for me, a Giants fan. The first thing I was taught about baseball was to hate the Dodgers, and to this day, and for the rest of my days, I will hate the Dodgers. My dislike of the Cubs began last season in the NLDS. They beat the Giants in four games, and not only was I pissed off about how the season ended for the Giants, but I also came to detest all the Cubs fans that I saw in the stands in San Francisco and I began to actively root against the Cubs. This series is sad for me because these are two of the three teams in professional sports that I actively root against, and they are playing each other.
The Dodgers advanced through the NLDS by sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks, who won the Wild Card game. After winning the most games in Major League Baseball in the regular season, the Dodgers are World Series favorites among many, but not me, I think that while they are a good team, with a bevy of good pieces, that they lack a postseason pedigree. They have not been to a World Series since 1988, and many of their key players do not play well in October, most notably being Clayton Kershaw. In the NLDS, Kershaw did win his start against the Dbacks, but gave up four home runs, which I think is a bad sign heading into the great lineup of the Chicago Cubs. In his career, Kershaw has dominated many teams, but only three teams have a batting average above .245, and one of them is the Cubs, with a .245 batting average (the other two teams are the White Sox with .263 and the Blue Jays with .308). I think that Kershaw is the key to this series, they have other starters that are capable of putting them in a position to win games, but Kershaw will set the tone in game one, and if he fails to live up to expectations, then the team will lose. The Dodgers have a very good offense, but the problem is that the Cubs have a pitching staff that is full of guys who have been deep and succeeded in October. I think this series will come down to the starting pitching, and whether or not the front end of the Dodgers rotation (most notably Kershaw), and how they will live up to the pressure of being the clear favorite and having all eyes on them.
The Cubs made it through the NLDS by beating the Nationals in five games. The series was incredible, and it was very telling. In the three games started by the aces of the Nationals (Scherzer and Strasburg), while the starters were in, the Cubs were held to seven hits in 20.1 innings while striking out 29 times. This shows that the Cubs can be neutralized by great starting pitching, which the Dodgers happen to have, but they have a tendency to be shaky in the playoffs. The Cubs also made it to the World Series last year, which means that their pitchers have a lot of innings on their shoulders after last years run and 162 games. I think that the Cubs do have experience, and that is extremely important when it comes to October, and they know how to win against dominant offenses and dominant pitching, so you cannot count them out. The Cubs aren’t going to get swept, they thrive off of being doubted and being the underdog, especially during the last few years.
When it's all said and done, I think the Dodgers are going to win this series in six games. I do not think that Kershaw is going to pitch like his regular season self, and will lose both of the games he starts, but I think that the other starters will have his back and pick him up. I think that while the Cubs have a lot of postseason experience and a potent offense, I think that the star power of the Dodgers rotation will prove too much for the Cubs to handle.