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NLCS Preview: Grudge Match

It’s time for a grudge match. History was made last year. Will it made in 2017? Whatever happens, expect to see some incredible baseball. 

Dodger Stadium by Shinya Suzuki is licensed under CC BY SA-2.0

NLCS Preview: Grudge Match

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Well, I didn’t see that coming. To recap: I predicted that the L.A. Dodgers would win the series in 4 games. But I had this gut feeling that the Diamondbacks would prove to be too difficult, as they had during the regular season, and would win in 5. It was the same type of feeling I had about the Yankees beating the Indians. Clearly, my gut was wrong in this case. The Dodgers steamrolled the Diamondbacks. They did it on their strengths, which include their offense, their defense, and their pitching. And by virtue of Chicago winning one of the craziest baseball games I’ve ever seen, a rematch of last year’s NLCS is set.

Did everyone see the performance Cody Bellinger turned in in Game 3? If that 1st baseman shows up to the NLCS, instead of the Cody from Games 1 and 2, then look out. And if Puig keeps playing at Postseason MVP levels like he currently is, then the Cubs are in lots of trouble.

Due to the fact that basically every pitcher on the Cubs roster had to pitch in one of the last 2 games, their staff is running on fumes and Joe Maddon has some tough decisions ahead of him. On the other side of the diamond, the Dodgers are well rested and didn’t even need a great performance from Kershaw to win Game 1 of the NLDS. If he has a good game, and Yu Darvish can continue to be Ace#2, then I don’t see how the Cubs can win 4 games. But these are the Cubs who always seem to find a way to win. If they can somehow force a Game 7, then all bets are off. In fact, if it goes 7, the Cubs probably continue their quest to repeat in the World Series.

However, my prediction is the Dodgers finally get to the Promised Land in 6 Games.

This is a grudge match of epic proportion. While the Washington Nationals have been in the playoff picture the last two years, it’s been the Cubs and Dodgers who have seen the most heartbreak and success in recent years. A Cubs fan recently said to me, “Some people go to Disney World every year. We go to the NLCS.” After a few deep breaths, I came to the realization that he was in an odd way, correct. This will now be the Cubs third consecutive trip to the NLCS, effectively making them the gatekeepers to the Fall Classic.

In 2015 when the Cubs faced a young resilient Mets team, they were the heavy favorite. No one saw the 4 game sweep coming, even seasoned Mets fans still scratch their heads over how that happened (DANIEL “SECOND COMING” MURPHY IS HOW). But what that Mets team did to get to that NLCS is the blueprint the Cubs need to follow, and the one the Dodgers need to avoid. The 2015 New York Mets and the 2016 Chicago Cubs took 1 game from Clayton Kershaw, kept Kenley Jansen off the field and beat the other members of the staff.

Everyone talked highly of Rich Hill’s Game 3 performance against Chicago last year, in fact, it’s the one that earned him his huge contract. The biggest accomplishment from that game was Hill won back Game 1 Kenta Maeda and Joe Blanton lost, to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. They would never lead in the series again. Poor starting pitching led to their demise, and they’ve made moves to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

We saw how the Cubs hitters responded to tough pitching in the NLDS against Washington. That rotation is as tough as they come, and LA’s is no different. Against the Dodgers big Aces (Kershaw and Darvish) the Cubs are batting .237 and .195, respectively. That’s not great. That’s a touch better than they hit the Nationals pitchers going into the NLDS and look what happened there. All the Dodgers have to do is put Kershaw and Darvish in position to win both of their starts and that’s the 4 wins you need to get to the World Series. This gives you 3 games to lose if you choose. That’s some serious wiggle room. However, with Hill, Maeda and Wood as possible starters, those three games are not going to be easy wins like they were in 2015.

The Dodgers in 6 games follows that timeline. It feels almost conservative, but then again this is the Cubs. This is October. This is baseball. Anything could happen. It’s going to be LA’ s job to make sure that “anything” is in their favor.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm is a professional Sound Engineer/Designer, and amateur photographer, writer, musician who recently relocated from California to Rochester, NY. Born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit has made Andrew an avid fan of all things Detroit but nothing more so than his beloved Detroit Tigers. Every year he tells himself he won't drink the Lions Kool-Aid, and every year winds up heartbroken come January. A Spartan by heart, and a Golden Grizzly by degree, you can catch his (almost) weekly Hot Takes every Hump Day here at The Turf.

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