Cubs @ Dodgers October 14, 2017: NLCS Game 1

Photo: Stacie Wheeler

It’s been a few days since the Dodgers decidedly swept the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. Now that we’ve had ample time to celebrate and savor the series win, it’s time to get serious as the Dodgers kick of a series against the defending world champs.

Dustin provided an in-depth series preview earlier today, if you want to know what to look for throughout the NLCS.

Cubs
Dodgers
5:08 PM TBS
Los Angeles
RF
 Jay
CF
Taylor
3B
 Bryant
3B
Turner
1B
 Rizzo
1B
Bellinger
C
 Contreras
LF
Hernandez
CF
Almora
2B
Forsythe
SS
Russell
C
Barnes
LF
Schwarber RF Puig
2B
Baez
SS
Culberson
P
Quintana(L)
P
Kershaw(L)

Last year the Dodgers started Kenta Maeda in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cubs after the NLDS was stretched out to five games. This time around, in the rematch, the Dodgers have the luxury of starting their formidable ace Clayton Kershaw in the series opener along with having home-field advantage.

Kershaw (18-4, 2.31 ERA, 3.07 FIP) and (5-7, 4.63 ERA in the postseason) had mixed results last year with one good start in Game 2 and one poor start in Game 6 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Kersh was his dominant self in Game 2 of the 2016 NLCS, a 1-0 shutout. In fact, he was perfect through 4 2/3 innings, which tied Sandy Koufax for the longest perfect start in Dodger postseason history. It looked as if Kershaw and all of us could finally bury the annoying postseason narrative and the rehashed shortcomings when it comes to pitching in October, but unfortunately everything fell apart in Game 6. He allowed five runs in four innings, and the Cubs went on to capture the NL pennant and eventual World Series victory. It was extremely frustrating considering that Kershaw, the best pitcher on the plant, was on the mound once again when the Dodgers’ World Series bid ended for a third time in four years.

The good news is that this time Kershaw isn’t pitching on short rest, and he’s in fact going to the mound on Saturday evening with seven days of rest. The Dodgers finally will have their ideal starting rotation lined up for the series, a disadvantage they had in previous postseason series in recent years.

Kershaw did allow those two home runs in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the NLDS vs. the D-backs (and four homers overall), but then again he should have never been out there in the seventh to begin with. It was a decision that fell directly on Dave Roberts. Doc will need to pull Kershaw if need be should he tire or falter, regardless if Kershaw argues otherwise. This dynamic is something that has been detrimental to game outcomes in the past.

Mike (who?) broke down Kershaw’s late-inning troubles in postseason games. With plenty of options to go to for those late innings, including a re-imagined Kenta Maeda, there’s no reason for Roberts to push his luck against the Cubbies in later innings should Kershaw show signs of decreased effectiveness.

Joe Maddon starts Jose Quintana (11-11, 4.15 ERA, 3.68 FIP) for Game 1. His first career postseason start in Game 3 went well, and he only allowed one earned run in 5 2/3 innings against the Nats. Quintana threw in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals, but he made just 12 pitches. We’ll see if that has any residual effects on him in the NLCS series opener, because starting pitching has been quite volatile this postseason. Just ask Robbie Ray.

Overall against the Dodgers, Quintana is 0-1. All five runs he allowed in his two starts against L.A., both at Dodger Stadium, were unearned. Logan Forsythe has found a lot of success against the Chicago left-hander, and he’s hitting .455 with five hits including three doubles and a home run in 11 at-bats against him. Logie Bear starts at second, batting fifth.

——

The bad news that soured Saturday morning for the Dodgers was of course Corey Seager‘s exclusion from the 25-man active NLCS roster. I almost felt my ribs vicariously crack when I heard. Seager hasn’t been able to work out in recent days due to a back injury he suffered in the NLDS.

He’s received treatment and is day-to-day.

Obviously this is a big blow to the Dodgers, and they’ll have to shuffle the infield and outfield configuration around in his absence. Charlie Culberson will start at shortstop for Game 1, batting eighth. Justin Turner moves up to second in the batting order, followed by Cody Bellinger and Enrique Hernandez in the cleanup slot. Austin Barnes is behind the plate.

——

Last time around, the Dodgers fizzled out disappointingly in Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS, ending their season on the precipice of a World Series berth. I believe things are going to be different this year, considering this Dodgers team is a much better one than last season. If there’s any indication on how the Boys In Blue will play by their aggressiveness in the NLDS, they won’t go softly into the night.

About Stacie Wheeler

Stacie Wheeler

Stacie Wheeler, born and raised in So Cal, has been writing about the Dodgers since 2010. She wrote daily as the Co-Editor of Lasorda’s Lair for five long years, and she has also written for Dodgers Nation and Dodger Blue 1958. She currently contributes to The Hardball Times. Stacie graduated from the University Of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in Cinema-Television. You can also watch her videos on her YouTube channel, DishingUpTheDodgers.