Dodgers @ Cubs October 22, 2016: NLCS Game 6

Dodgers
Cubs
5 p.m.
Chicago
LF
Toles
CF 
Fowler
SS
Seager
3B
Bryant
3B
Turner
1B
Rizzo
1B
González
LF
Zobrist
RF
Reddick
2B
Baez
CF
Pederson
C
Contreras
C
Grandal SS Russell
2B
Utley
RF
Almora
P
Kershaw (L)
P
Hendricks (R)

For the second time this postseason, the Dodgers head into a potential elimination game down in the series. For the second time, the Dodgers are sending their very best to the mound to attempt to force a decisive series finale.

Clayton Kershaw was brilliant in Game 2 against the Cubs, holding Chicago’s lineup scoreless over seven innings on just two hits and a walk while striking out six. Unlike the last time Kershaw started with the Dodgers’ season on the line, he comes into tonight’s game fully rested (in fact, five days rested). If the Dodgers are going to be in a less-than-ideal situation vis-à-vis the series, at least they have this going in their favor.

The key difference between tonight’s Cubs lineup and the lineup the last time they saw Kershaw is that Jason Heyward, who has struggled mightily this postseason, is sitting in favor of Albert Almora Jr., a right-handed batter. Almora is hitless in his three NLCS at bats. He batted .277/.308/.455 in 117 regular season plate appearances, with a 114 wRC+ against lefties.

Of course, the Dodger batters have their work cut out for them with Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks was hardly perfect in Game 2, giving up three hits and walking four in five and two-thirds innings of work. He did allow just one run, which came on an Adrian González solo shot in the second inning. Still, Hendricks was lacking the signature sharpness that made him a likely Cy Young candidate this year. Naturally, how he looks today will be at least as important to the Dodgers’ hopes of staying alive as how Kershaw looks.

For the first time this postseason, Chase Utley will not bat leadoff against a right-handed pitcher. Instead, Andrew Toles is taking that spot, which seems like a really good move. Utley has managed just a .349 OPS through the playoffs, while the speedy Toles has gotten on base at a .435 clip. Both have come in relatively small sample sizes, but there’s something to be said for playing the hot hand.

After getting shut out in Games 2 and 3, the Cubs’ bats came alive in Games 4 and 5. They managed to inflict some serious damage off both the Dodgers’ starters and the Dodgers’ relievers. The Dodger bullpen, which has played such a significant role in getting the team this far, will likely be called upon at some point tonight, and likely with little margin for error.

If there’s a bright side to the rather crushing defeats the Cubs handed the Dodgers the past two games, it’s that Kenley Jansen, who’s gotten more work than just about any reliever this postseason (behind only Andrew Miller and Mike Montgomery in batters faced), hasn’t pitched since Tuesday, when he recorded four outs. Jansen should be well rested, and there’s a good chance he’ll once again play a big role for the Dodgers this weekend.

It’s okay to be scared. This is a scary situation for Dodger fans. But the 2016 Dodgers have proven time and again that they oughtn’t be given up on just because they’re in a tight spot.

Here’s hoping they have some more magic up their sleeves.

ThrowsRelieverSat 10/15Sun 10/16Mon 10/17Tue 10/18Wed 10/19Thur 10/20Fri 10/21
LAvilan--OFF-2421OFF
RBaez34-OFF-2727OFF
RBlanton28-OFF13-19OFF
LDayton3-OFF16-12OFF
RFields--OFF-910OFF
RJansen-18OFF21--OFF
RStripling10-OFF-2018OFF
LWood--OFF-32-OFF

About Sarah Wexler

Sarah Wexler

Sarah Wexler is a native Angeleno and longtime Dodger fan. She began blogging about baseball in 2012 on her Tumblr, New Grass On The Field, where she covered an array of topics but especially enjoyed exploring baseball history. She now writes for The Hardball Times, FanGraphs and Sporting News, and co-hosts a podcast, The Hardball Times Audio. She recently earned her master’s degree in Sports Management from Cal State Long Beach. She graduated from New York University in 2014 with a bachelor’s in History and a minor in American Studies. She’s an avid Springsteen fan, which is a big boost to her baseball writer cred.