The National League Championship Series begins Saturday night (7:08pm CDT) at Wrigley Field. Two of the oldest franchises in the game will square off for just the second time in postseason play. The Cubs and Dodgers met in the National League Division Series eight years ago (2008).
Joe Maddon and the Cubs finished the regular season with a Major League best 103 wins and a NL Central Division title. The Cubs eliminated the Giants in four games in the NLDS. The Dodgers won the NL West under rookie manager Dave Roberts. And Roberts beat Dusty Baker in Game 5 of the NLDS as the Dodgers won three of five from the Nationals.
The Cubs were 4-3 in the seven regular season games against the Dodgers. The Cubs won three of four at Wrigley (May 30-June 2) and lost two of three at Dodger Stadium (Aug. 26-28) late in the season.
The Cubs outscored the Dodgers 19-16 in the seven games.
Joe Maddon is sticking with the rotation he used against the Giants in the NLDS for the NLCS. Jon Lester starts Game 1 followed by Kyle Hendricks (Game 2), Jake Arrieta (Game 3) and John Lackey (Game 4).
Dave Roberts has not announced his rotation beyond Game 1 starter Kenta Maeda. Clayton Kershaw is expected to start Game 2 on Sunday at Wrigley but the Dodgers will not make that official until Saturday. Lefties Rich Hill and Julio Urias are expected to be named the Dodgers starters for games three and four.
With the Dodgers using three left-handed starters, if the series goes a full seven games the Cubs could face a southpaw in five of the seven games.
The Cubs did not see Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda or Rich Hill this year. In the seven games the Cubs played against the Dodgers in the regular season, Dave Roberts sent Scott Kazmir, Bud Norris, Alex Wood, Mike Bolsinger, Brock Stewart and Julio Urias (twice) to the hill.
The Cubs hit .267/.343/.477 against left-handed pitchers this season with a .807 OPS. The Dodgers struggled mightily against southpaws this season. The Dodgers had a .623 OPS and hit a Major League worst .214/.291/.333.
The Cubs and Dodgers are very similar in a lot of ways. As was the case with the NLDS, everything on paper points to this being an incredibly close series that many are predicting to go at least six games.
Joe Maddon’s Cubs will focus on the day at hand. In reality, the Cubs are looking for eight more wins this year. In order to be the best, one must beat the best. And the Cubs have a tough task ahead of them in the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Joe Maddon announced the Cubs starting rotation for the NLCS. And Maddon has his starters lined up the same way for the NLCS as he had for the division series against the Giants.
Maddon is going with Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks for the first two games at Wrigley. Jake Arrieta and John Lackey will start the first two games at Dodger Stadium.
Dave Roberts has not announced his starting rotation beyond Game 1 starter Kenta Maeda. Roberts is expected to have Maeda, Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Julio Urias start the first four games.
Cubs-Dodgers Probable Starters
- Game 1 – Saturday, Oct. 15 (Wrigley Field) – LHP Jon Lester vs. RHP Kenta Maeda
- Game 2 – Sunday, Oct. 16 (Wrigley Field) – RHP Kyle Hendricks vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw
- Game 3 – Tuesday, Oct. 18 (Dodger Stadium) – RHP Jake Arrieta vs. LHP Rich Hill
- Game 4 – Wednesday, Oct. 19 (Dodger Stadium) – RHP John Lackey vs. LHP Julio Urias
Cubs Starting Pitchers vs. Dodgers Hitters
Jon Lester allowed just five hits in eight shutout innings against the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. Lester settled down after the third inning and just played catch with David Ross.
In the regular season, Lester was 19-5 in 32 starts with a 2.44 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. And at Wrigley, Lester was 10-2 in 15 starts with a 1.74 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.
Jon Lester made two starts against the Dodgers this season. Lester was 1-0 with a 0.60 ERA and 0.60 WHIP. Lester beat the Dodgers 2-1 at Wrigley on June 1 after allowing one run (a leadoff homer by Kike Hernandez) on four hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts in a nine-inning, complete-game gem. Lester received a no decision on Aug. 28 at Dodger Stadium. Lester allowed three hits over six shutout innings. Lester walked two and struck out six in a game the Cubs lost 1-0.
Jon Lester is 2-2 in five career starts against the Dodgers with a 3.06 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. At Dodger Stadium, Lester is 1-1 in three starts with a 2.79 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.
The Dodgers will push Lester, especially early in Game 1. Lester and Ross will have to shut down the Dodgers running game and set a tone for the series.
Dodgers Career Numbers against Lester
- Howie Kendrick: 7-for-40 with four doubles and two walks
- Carlos Ruiz: 0-for-14 with one walk
- Justin Turner: 0-for-11 with one walk
- Chase Utley: 2-for-12
- Josh Reddick: 2-for-10
- Adrian Gonzalez: 1-for-8
- Corey Seager: 1-for-6 with one walk
- Yasmani Grandal: 1-for-5 with one double
- Andre Ethier: 2-for-4
- Yasiel Puig: 1-for-3 with one walk
- Joc Pederson: 0-for-3
- Charlie Culberson: 0-for-2
Dodgers Numbers against Lester in 2016
- Howie Kendrick: 0-for-6 with one walk
- Corey Seager: 1-for-6 with one walk
- Justin Turner: 0-for-7
- Joc Pederson: 0-for-3
- Carlos Ruiz: 0-for-3
- Charlie Culberson: 0-for-2
- Adrian Gonzalez: 1-for-2
- Yasmani Grandal: 0-for-2
- Yasiel Puig: 0-for-1
- Josh Reddick: 0-for-1
Kyle Hendricks had to leave his last start in the fourth inning after taking a line drive to his right forearm. Hendricks was not sharp and hit rather hard while he was in the game. Hendricks gave up two runs on four hits with no walks or strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings. If the Dodgers tee off on Hendricks the way the Giants did, look for Maddon to go to his pen early in Game 2 and possibly use a different game plan if Hendricks makes another start in the series.
Hendricks was 16-8 in 31 games, 30 starts, this season with a 2.13 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. And at Wrigley, Hendricks was 9-2 in 15 games, 14 starts, with a 1.32 ERA and 0.86 WHIP.
Kyle Hendricks faced the Dodgers once this season and allowed two runs on three hits with a walk and six strikeouts. Hendricks completed eight innings on June 2 at Wrigley in a 7-2 Cubs win.
Hendricks is 2-1 in three career starts against the Dodgers with a 3.15 ERA and 0.70 WHIP. Hendricks has allowed eight runs, seven earned, on 11 hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts in 20 innings. Hendricks has made one career start at Dodger Stadium, allowing two runs, one earned, on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts in seven innings (1.29 ERA, 0.71 WHIP).
Dodgers Career Numbers against Hendricks
- Justin Turner: 2-for-7 with one home run and one walk
- Adrian Gonzalez: 1-for-5 with one home run and one walk
- Yasmani Grandal: 0-for-4 with one walk
- Joc Pederson: 0-for-4 with one walk
- Yasiel Puig: 1-for-4
- Corey Seager: 0-for-2
- Chase Utley: 1-for-3
- Andre Ethier: 1-for-2
- Carlos Ruiz: 0-for-1 with one walk
Jake Arrieta had a good outing in Game 3 at AT&T Park. Arrieta not only put the Cubs in position to sweep the series on the mound, he launched a three-run homer off Madison Bumgarner that should have gone as the game-winner.
Arrieta gave up two runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts to the Giants in six innings.
Arrieta was 18-8 in 31 starts this season with a 3.10 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. And on the road, Arrieta was 11-3 in 15 starts with a 3.59 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.
Jake Arrieta received a no-decision on May 31 at Wrigley in his only start against the Dodgers this season. The Cubs eventually lost the game 5-0. Arrieta gave up just two hits over seven shutout innings while walking four and striking out eight.
Arrieta pitched his first no-hitter at Dodger Stadium in August 2015 and is 1-2 in four career starts against the Dodgers with a 3.24 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. And at Dodger Stadium, Arrieta is 1-1 in two starts with a 2.57 ERA and 0.86 WHIP.
Dodgers Career Numbers against Arrieta
- Adrian Gonzalez: 6-for-21 with one double, one home run and one walk
- Chase Utley: 0-for-13
- Carlos Ruiz: 3-for-9 with one double and two walks
- Josh Reddick: 4-for-9 with one home run
- Andre Ethier: 1-for-7 with one double and one walk
- Howie Kendrick: 1-for-6 with two walks
- Yasmani Grandal: 0-for-4 with two walks
- Joc Pederson: 0-for-6
- Charlie Culberson: 0-for-2 with one walk
- Yasiel Puig: 2-for-3 with one double
- Corey Seager: 1-for-3
- Justin Turner: 0-for-2
John Lackey had a rough outing against the Giants in Game 4 of the NLDS. And Lackey was gone after four innings. Joe Maddon attributed his poor start to rust and the fact it had been since Sept. 27 that he pitched in a game. Lackey gave up three runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
Lackey must pitch better in his next ‘Big Boy Game’ than he pitched in his first one of the season.
Lackey was 11-8 in 29 starts for the Cubs this season with a 3.35 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Outside of Wrigley, Lackey was 4-4 in 13 starts with a 4.37 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
John Lackey is 6-3 in 12 career games, 11 starts, against the Dodgers with a 1.75 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Lackey did not face the Dodgers this season and has only made one start against the Dodgers the last two seasons.
Dodgers Career Numbers against Lackey
- Adrian Gonzalez: 7-for-23 with one double and one walk
- Andre Ethier: 4-for-19 with one double and one walk
- Howie Kendrick: 5-for-21
- Chase Utley: 2-for-13 with one triple and two walks
- Carlos Ruiz: 3-for-13
- Yasiel Puig: 1-for-6 with one triple
- Josh Reddick: 0-for-4 with one walk
- Yasmani Grandal: 0-for-2 with one walk
- Joc Pederson: 0-for-2
- Justin Turner: 2-for-3
Cubs Hitters vs. Dodgers Starting Pitchers
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet. And he proved it during the five-game NLDS against the Nationals. Kershaw pitched in three of the five games, picking up a win and a save. The Dodgers won all three games he pitched.
Kershaw spent a large part of the season on the DL, making only 21 starts this season. Kershaw was 8-1 in 10 starts at Dodger Stadium with a 1.08 ERA and 0.57 WHIP. On the road, Kershaw was 4-3 in 11 starts with a 2.31 ERA and 0.88 WHIP.
For the season, Kershaw was 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA and 0.72 WHIP. Kershaw gave up 31 runs, 28 earned, on 97 hits with 11 walks and 172 strikeouts in 149 innings.
Kershaw made only five starts in the second half, four in September and one in October, and was 1-2 with a 1.29 ERA and 0.71 WHIP. Kershaw surrendered only six runs, four earned, on 18 hits with two walks and 27 strikeouts in his last 28 innings of the season.
The Cubs missed Kershaw this season, both at the series at Wrigley and at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw was 1-1 in two starts against the Cubs in 2015 with a 2.40 ERA and 0.67 WHIP.
For his career, Kershaw is 5-3 in eight starts against the Cubs with a 2.18 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. At Wrigley, 1-2 in three starts with a 3.00 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.
Cubs Career Numbers against Kershaw
- Dexter Fowler: 18-for-44 with two doubles, one triple and four walks
- Miguel Montero: 6-for-32 with three doubles
- David Ross: 2-for-14 with one walk
- Anthony Rizzo: 3-for-11 with one double and one home run
- Jason Heyward: 0-for-10
- Chris Coghlan: 1-for-8
- Kris Bryant: 1-for-5 with one home run and one walk
- Addison Russell: 0-for-6
- Tommy La Stella: 1-for-5
- Javier Baez: 0-for-3
- Travis Wood: 1-for-4
- Jorge Soler: 1-for-3 with one triple
- Ben Zobrist: 0-for-3
Kenta Maeda had a rough start against the Nationals in the NLDS. Maeda lasted only three innings and gave up four runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The Dodgers have lost each of the last three games he’s started and he’s not completed five innings since Sept. 21.
Maeda had a good first half before teams started figuring him out and he wore down. Maeda was 8-6 in his first 18 starts with a 2.95 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. After the break, Maeda was 8-5 in 14 starts with a 4.25 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.
Maeda made 32 starts this season and was 16-11 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. And in 17 road starts, Maeda posted a 9-6 record with a 3.74 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.
The Cubs did not face Maeda in his first season in Major League Baseball.
The Cubs front office knows Rich Hill much better than the players. The former Cubs’ lefty pitched for Theo Epstein in Boston during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. And the Cubs were rumored to be very interested in acquiring Hill from the A’s before the trade deadline.
The Cubs have done their homework on this version of Rich Hill.
Hill made 14 starts for the A’s and was 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Hill and Josh Reddick were dealt to the Dodgers at the deadline. After missing time with blister issues, Hill made only six starts for the Dodgers. Hill was 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. Hill allowed seven runs on 22 hits with five walks and 39 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings as a Dodger.
Hill was 2-1 in three starts at Dodger Stadium with a 0.53 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. Hill gave up one run on 12 hits with three walks and 18 strikeouts in 17 innings.
David Ross (1-for-13 with one double and one walk), Chris Coghlan (1-for-3 with one double), Ben Zobrist (1-for-2 with one walk) and Miguel Montero (0-for-1 with one walk) are the only four players that figure to be on the Cubs’ NLCS roster that have faced Rich Hill during their career.
Julio Urias is one of the best young pitchers in the majors. The teenager turned 20 on Aug. 12 and the lefty had a sensational season with the Dodgers.
Urias has not pitched into the sixth inning of any start since Sept. 2 and he has not completed more than 3 2/3 innings since Sept. 13. Urias has incredible stuff and has already shut the Cubs down once this season.
Urias’ second big league start came at Wrigley Field on June 2. Urias struggled and allowed six runs, five earned, on eight hits with one walk and four strikeouts in five innings. Urias showed steady improvement and by the time the Cubs faced him again on Aug. 27 at Dodger Stadium, the maturity and adjustments were obvious.
Urias beat the Cubs 3-2 after allowing one run on six hits with a walk and eight strikeouts in six innings.
Julio Urias was 1-1 in two starts against the Cubs with a 4.91 ERA and 1.55 WHIP.
In the majors this season, Urias was 5-2 in 18 games, 15 starts, with a 3.39 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. At Dodger Stadium, he was 3-0 in nine games, seven starts, with a 3.05 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.
Cubs Numbers against Urias
- Kris Bryant: 2-for-6 with one home run
- Dexter Fowler: 2-for-5 with one walk
- Anthony Rizzo: 2-for-5 with one walk
- Jorge Soler: 2-for-5 with one walk
- Addison Russell: 0-for-5
- Javier Baez: 2-for-4 with one home run
- Jason Heyward: 2-for-3 with one home run
- Ben Zobrist: 1-for-2
- Willson Contreras: 1-for-2
- Miguel Montero: 0-for-2
The Cubs and Dodgers have to announce the 25-man rosters by 10:00am CDT on Saturday morning. The Cubs are reportedly leaning toward a 12-man pitching staff (four starters, eight relievers) with 13 position players. Starting lineups for Game 1 will be released soon after.
It’s time for Try Not to Suck-tober to resume …