The 2004 Red Sox proved that a 3-0 series deficit isn’t insurmountable. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts remembers a thing or two about that series. Less than 24 hours after the 13-year anniversary of Roberts’ iconic steal off Mariano Rivera, which sparked that comeback for the ages, the defending World Series champion Cubs embarked on a similar journey led by Jake Arrieta. The 31-year-old righty tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball and got just enough run support—thanks to a pair of solo home runs by Javier Baez and a 491-foot moonshot from Willson Contreras—to keep their season alive.
Chicago will try to send the series back to Los Angeles when southpaws Jose Quintana and Clayton Kershaw square off in a rematch of Game 1. For the Cubs, it’s all hands on deck in a proverbial “must-win” scenario. As Matt Damon’s character narrates during the final poker game in Rounders: “In a heads-up match, the size of your stack is almost as important as the quality of your cards.” With a 3-1 series lead, the Dodgers have already chopped out the Cubs’ legs in the early hands. Now, they just have to lean on them until they fall over.
PECOTA odds of winning: 54% Dodgers, 46% Cubs
Projected Starting Lineups
|Dodgers vs. Quintana (L)||Cubs vs. Kershaw (L)|
|Chris Taylor (R), CF||Albert Almora (R), CF|
|Justin Turner (R), 3B||Kyle Schwarber (L), LF|
|Cody Bellinger (L), 1B||Kris Bryant (R), 3B|
|Yasiel Puig, (R), RF||Anthony Rizzo (L), 1B|
|Logan Forsythe (R), 2B||Willson Contreras (R), C|
|Enrique Hernandez (R), LF||Addison Russell (R), SS|
|Austin Barnes (R), C||Javier Baez (R), 2B|
|Charlie Culberson (R), SS||Ben Zobrist (S), RF|
|Clayton Kershaw (L), SP||Jose Quintana (L), SP|
The Dodgers’ bullpen pushed its postseason scoreless streak to an unfathomable 20 innings thanks to 3 1/3 shutout frames from the combination of Ross Stripling, Tony Watson, Kenta Maeda, Tony Cingrani, and Josh Fields in Game 4. With setup man Brandon Morrow and closer Kenley Jansen fully rested, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Roberts turn it over to the bullpen very early.
With Quintana on the hill, Roberts will be also forced to re-shuffle the bottom of the order by inserting the lefty-mashing Hernandez along with righty bats Forsythe and Culberson. The versatility of Hernandez and Taylor gives Roberts a plethora of options when Chicago eventually turns to the bullpen.
Unsurprisingly, Joe says Wade Davis won’t be available tomorrow. Says they need offense to step up.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) October 19, 2017
Conversely, the Cubs’ bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster in this series. The central question in this game: who steps into the closer role if there is a save situation. Wade Davis is unavailable after a herculean effort in which he threw 48 pitches to record the final six outs of Game 4 last night. That leaves some combination of Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop, Brian Duensing, Hector Rondon, and Carl Edwards Jr. as the only non-John Lackey options left for Joe Maddon.
All of the pressure is on the Cubs tonight. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are in an enviable position. If they fail to secure their first pennant in nearly 30 years with their future Hall of Fame ace on the mound and a bullpen that has been flawless through four games in the series, they will still have two more chances in Los Angeles later this week.
Despite being on the road, PECOTA has the Dodgers as the slight favorites in Game 5. Chicago has won five consecutive postseason games when facing elimination dating back to last year’s World Series, so this series isn’t over yet. However, if they’re going to keep their season alive and turn the momentum in their favor, they must get to Kershaw early.