By Todd Johnson
Beware of narratives. “History staring Cubs in the face” pretty much irrelevant to Contreras/Baez/Bryant/Lester. They’re just trying to win ~ Len Kasper
If you would’ve asked me earlier in the week who I wanted the Cubs to play, it was clearly the Washington Nationals. Without Strasburg and only Scherzer, I thought they would be a much better team to play. I started thinking about Harper and Murphy and Rendon and Werth and it got a little bit more challenging. I changed my mind. After LA’s 4-3 win, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pretty much emptied the can to advance to the NLCS. Over the past three days, Roberts has had Kershaw and Hill both pitch on three days rest, or less.
When the series begins tomorrow night, the Cubs have a distinct advantage. Their pitchers are well rested and ready. I don’t think you can discount that Kershaw has pitched three times in the past week on short rest. Throw in the fact that 36-year-old Rich Hill did it twice and it looks good for the Cubs.
On Wednesday, a full day before game 5, Clark and I talked about what we thought the Cubs would do. Clark originally thought that the Cubs would win in five games no matter who they played. I thought that if they played the Nationals, it would go six games, and if they played the Dodgers, it was definitely going to seven. After watching what Roberts did this week, Clark came correct. Cubs win in five.
The Cubs’ offense never really took off in the NLDS. They rely strictly on pitching, defense, and some timely hitting to get by the Giants. However, I think the hitting comes around in the series. Bryant and the other young right-handed hitters are going to be the stars in the series. Russell, Baez, and maybe even Almora, will all have their shots.
This series is also where Joe Maddon is going to shine as a manager. Knowing that the Dodgers starting staff is taxed, I think he’s going to find scenarios and matchups that he can insert Cubs to succeed in those situations. This could be in the bullpen, an at-bat, or a defensive situation. The Cubs depth and versatility will really shine through in a seven game series.
Right now, I don’t know if my confidence is a good thing or a bad thing. I feel extremely at ease about this whole series. I think a seven-game series allows for some mistakes to be made. Whereas, in a five game series, those mistakes are amplified. With four games at home, I think the first pennant since 1945 is going to be raised at Wrigley Field in about 7 days. If they do it at home, great. If they win the series in Los Angeles, even better.