Chicago Cubs (3-2 SU, 2-3 RL, 2-3 O/U) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (3-0 SU, 3-0 RL, 3-0 O/U)
MLB: Sunday, October 15, 2017, Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California, 7:38 pm ET
Lines: Los Angeles -140, Chicago Cubs +130; Over/Under: 7.5
It’s the continuation of the National League Championship Series out in the City of Angels. The defending champions, the Chicago Cubs, play Game 2 of the best of seven set against the Los Angeles Dodgers Sunday night. Chicago survived a wild 9-8 win over the Nationals in the winner take all Game 5 of their NL Division Series Thursday night. Los Angeles has been off since taking a 3-1 win on the road to sweep the Diamondbacks in their NLDS Monday night. The pitching matchup for Saturday night’s Game 1 of the series saw Jose Quintana take the ball for the Cubs against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. First pitch in the game was set for 8:08 pm ET.
Chicago Cubs Look to Hang Tough Before Heading to Wrigley
Chicago definitely will be looking forward to the off-day Monday after the way the NLDS unfolded. The Cubs would like to head home with the series 1-1 or 2-0 in their favor but they’ll have their work cut out for them. One move the team made in setting the NLCS roster was the addition of Hector Rondon: to put him on the roster, the team removed Justin Wilson from the mix. It’s likely a move that makes sense, given how much work the bullpen had to put in over the last couple games of the series against the Nationals. Wilson only made one appearance in the NLDS, retiring the two hitters he faced in a 5-0 Cubs loss in Game 4. Hopefully, manager Joe Maddon has more faith in Rondon than he did in Wilson, who struggled to the tune of a 5.09 ERA with 19 walks in 17.2 innings after coming over from Detroit.
Jon Lester is expected to take the mound for his third appearance and second start of the postseason after 32 regular season starts. He was 13-8 with a 4.33 ERA, a 1.323 WHIP, 60 walks and 180 strikeouts over 180.2 innings of work. In the postseason, he has no record with a 1.86 ERA, a 0.62 WHIP, three walks and five strikeouts over 9.2 innings of work. Lester didn’t factor in the decision in his last appearance, which came in relief at home against the Nationals in Game 4 Wednesday. He threw 3.2 innings, allowing one run on one hit with one walk and three strikeouts in a 5-0 Chicago loss. Lester is 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP, four walks and 13 strikeouts over 17 innings in his last three starts. He makes his eighth career start against the Dodgers in this contest: he is 2-3 with a 3.89 ERA and a 1.104 WHIP over 41.1 innings. Lester is 1-2 with a 4.76 ERA and a 1.279 WHIP over 22.2 innings in four career starts at Dodger Stadium.
Los Angeles Dodgers Have Question Marks
Los Angeles is the better rested team but they were dealt a blow before the series started as well. Manager Dave Roberts had to make the tough decision to leave All-Star shortstop Corey Seager off the roster for the NLCS with a back injury. Up until Friday, Roberts was optimistic that Seager would be able to play but it became apparent that his health was bothering him to the point where suiting up was going to be a potential detriment, both to him and the team. In this stead, the Dodgers added Charlie Culberson to the roster: it will be Culberson, Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor sharing the load at short. That’s a pretty hefty blow to the Dodgers as Seager hit .295 with 22 homers and 77 RBI this season.
Rich Hill takes the hill to make his second postseason start for the Dodgers after making 25 regular season starts. He was 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA, a 1.091 WHIP, 49 walks and 166 strikeouts over 135.2 innings of action in the regular season. In the postseason, he recorded a no-decision in his lone outing, which came in Game 2 of the NLDS against Arizona last Saturday. Hill threw four innings, allowing two runs on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts over four innings in an eventual 8-5 Dodgers win. He is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP, six walks and 23 strikeouts over 17 innings in his last three starts. He makes his second career postseason start against the Cubs here: in his first one, which came in Game 3 of the 2016 NLCS, he picked up the win. Hill threw six shutout frames, allowing two hits with two walks and six strikeouts in a 6-0 Dodgers win. He made just one relief appearance against the Cubs in regular season action, allowing no runs on one hit in two-thirds of an inning of work. Hill is 9-6 with a 2.23 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP over 101 innings in 18 career starts at Dodger Stadium.
- Cubs are 5-1 in their last 6 games vs. a starter with a WHIP less than 1.15
- Cubs are 5-1 in their last 6 playoff road games
- Cubs are 4-1 in their last 5 road games
- Dodgers are 2-9 in their last 11 home games vs. a team with a winning record
While it’s fair to wonder how much Lester will have in the tank after throwing 55 pitches in relief in Game 4, one has to remember that he’s a proven commodity in the postseason. After all, you don’t earn three rings by accident: he’s 9-7 with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.005 WHIP in 24 appearances, 20 starts, in the postseason in his career. Hill has been good the last couple seasons but he’s injury prone and he can try to get too fine with his stuff. He threw 78 pitches to get through four innings against Arizona and the Cubs are a patient team who will grind at-bats to run up pitch counts. This is a tight one but give the edge to the Cubs in this one as Lester guts out enough to give Chicago the edge.
Pick: Chicago Cubs
Certainly, depending on how things unfold, you could see Maddon send John Lackey to the hill for an extended stretch of either of these contests after he was on the roster for the NLDS but didn’t make an appearance. That at least gives Maddon one well-rested arm that he can put to use if need be. Throw in Rondon and there’s a pair of fresh arms to use. Roberts is going to have to figure out how to juggle his lineup without Seager, who excelled as the #2 or 3 man in the order: he scored 85 runs in addition to his power and had good at-bats all season long. There has to be at least a little drop-off expected both at the dish and in the field with him missing.
The under is 5-0-1 in the Cubs’ last 6 Sunday games, 5-1 in their last 6 games vs. a starter with a WHIP less than 1.15 and 11-4 in their last 15 games against teams with a winning record. Los Angeles has seen the under go 5-0 in their last 5 vs. National League Central opponents and 5-1 in Hill’s last 6 starts with 7 or more days of rest. It’s hard to know what to expect in this one with the Cubs’ tired pitching and Hill tending to have short outings in the postseason: still, look for this one to stay under the total.