The NLCS begin with the Chicago Cubs heading into game 1 as big favorites, not just for their league-best regular season, but also for looking better than the Los Angeles Dodgers in their respective divisional series.
The name Clayton Kershaw isn’t coming up for once heading into a playoff game for the Dodgers, who might finally give their ace a complete, nine inning rest. The problem for them is the rest of the starting pitching, including Kenta Maeda, who struggled in his first ever major league playoff game. While the Cubs hitters have been whiffing quite a lot in this postseason, it can’t last forever. Jon Lester, on the other hand, looked fantastic in two appearances against the Dodgers this season, and is well rested after a brilliant performance against the Giants in the NLDS.
In the regular season: Two series. The Cubs won three out of four when playing at home, the Dodgers took two of three in Los Angeles.
Starting pitchers: Kenta Maeda will take the mound for the Dodgers. The 28-year old had a terrific debut season in the majors, but struggled in his postseason debut. He pitched for only 3 innings, giving up 5 hits and four runs in a 8-3 loss to the Washington Nationals. He hasn’t pitched against the Cubs this season, which means he’s facing the best team (by record) in Baseball almost going in blind.
Jon Lester is coming in completely different. He’s well rested, and had a terrific game against the San Francisco Giants. In a 1-0 win, Lester pitched 8 innings, allowing only 5 hits, no walks and struck out five batters. Lester pitched twice this season vs the Dodgers: One was a complete game, striking out 10 in a 2-1 win, allowing only four hits, and the second wasn’t bad start from him, not allowing any runs, but the Cubs still lost 1-0. The batting average for Dodgers hitters against Lester is only .174, without a single home run throughout their careers.
Hot bats: Two batters the Giants struggled with when facing the Cubs were Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. Both batted .375 through the series, both hitting a home run. Overall the Cubs struggled against San Francisco. The Dodgers consistency came from Justin Turner (.400, one home run) and Joc Pederson (.333, one home run). Overall, the Dodgers hitters fared better in their NLDS, but they faced inferior competition compared to what they’re up against now.