I may have predicted the Dodgers over the Cubs in six games, but I didn’t think it would quite go this smoothly with Los Angeles short Corey Seager and Clayton Kershaw looking very human in Game 1. Nevertheless, we’re facing down the barrel of a crucial Game 3 for the Cubs, but not because it’s impossible to come back from a three-game deficit. Rather, the odds shift dramatically against Chicago with each mounting loss.
In many ways, this is exactly the game that the Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish for. Darvish isn’t designed to be the stopper, the starter, or the ace of this staff. That’s still Kershaw’s job. Darvish is the guy who’s supposed to go out and give this team a fighting chance against any opponent the league can throw against the Dodgers, including the ace of the defending world champions. Kyle Hendricks likely gives the Cubs the best chance to win of any possible starter the team could throw at L.A., but Darvish gives the Dodgers an equalizer. Hopefully that means we’ll get another close game.
PECOTA odds of winning: 56% Cubs, 44% Dodgers
Projected Starting Lineups
|Dodgers vs. Hendricks (R)||Cubs vs. Darvish (R)|
|Chris Taylor (R), SS||Ben Zobrist (S), 2B|
|Cody Bellinger (L), 1B||Kyle Schwarber (L), LF|
|Justin Turner (R), 3B||Kris Bryant (R), 3B|
|Yasiel Puig (R), RF||Anthony Rizzo (L), 1B|
|Andre Ethier (L), LF||Willson Contreras (R), C|
|Chase Utley (L), 2B||Jon Jay (L), CF|
|Austin Barnes (R), C||Addison Russell (R), SS|
|Joc Pederson (L), CF||Jason Heyward (L), RF|
|Yu Darvish (R), P||Kyle Hendricks (R), P|
Carl Edwards Jr. looked back to form in Game 2, and … well … Wade Davis is rested? All joking aside, the Cubs probably have a full load in their bullpen, plus the potential for Jose Quintana to jump in and throw an inning in case of emergency. (And if this team is up by a run in a high-leverage situation late, it’s an emergency.)
Joe Maddon is shaking up the Cubs’ lineup in the biggest way yet, benching Javier Baez, moving Zobrist and Schwarber to the top of the batting order, and sliding Bryant and Rizzo down one spot apiece. Ian Happ continues to be nailed to the bench for unknown reasons.
On the Los Angeles side, Dave Roberts is also making some big changes. Charlie Culberson moves to the bench, as Taylor takes over at shortstop and Pederson rejoins the lineup in center field. Ethier, not Curtis Granderson, draws the start in left field.
On the bullpen side, Brandon Morrow had the heaviest use on Sunday–but it was just 18 pitches–and while he and Kenley Jansen would be throwing three out of four days, I’d be shocked if they weren’t gassed up and raring to go. If Darvish falters early, Ross Stripling has yet to make an appearance during the LCS, so maybe he’s the first dude up.
I mean, this is the Cubs’ shot. At home, Hendricks on the mound. If they’re going to make this a series, now’s the time. They haven’t been miles away from victory in Games 1 and 2, so to say they’re completely outclassed is just not accurate. If PECOTA wasn’t on my side, I’d be picking the Cubbies anyway. I think they’ll recognize that they’re a loss away from being a loss away from being lost and away for 2017. A two-game deficit? Not the end of the world. A three-game deficit? That’s a bit more of an unlikely comeback. The aces might be a close to even match in this one, but I think that the Cubs may have a very slight lineup advantage–no matter how it shakes out for the Dodgers–and I’ll side with PECOTA that Chicago makes it interesting tonight.