The Los Angeles Dodgers were handed their first loss of the postseason in a 3-2 contest against the Chicago Cubs. Now, the Dodgers turn to their ace in game five.
Well, it couldn’t be perfect, could it? Up until Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers were on cruise control throughout the postseason. Riding a dominant bullpen and key situational hitting, Los Angeles came into game four of the NLCS with the chance to win the NL Pennant undefeated. Now, Los Angeles goes back to the drawing board for game five.
The nerves and panic are already starting to creep in, you can sense it in LA. Although the majority of the fanbase remains optimistic, the constant 3-1 World Series reminders come to mind. The countless heartbreaks come to mind. Wouldn’t it be the most “Dodgers” way possible to blow a 3-0 lead in the NLCS?
Yes, it would. While the chances are still very slim, the chance is there. Los Angeles looked to eliminate the Cubs in game four to squander any momentum. Now, the momentum is on their side.
Except, it really isn’t.
The Cubs did not dominate this game. Chicago was led by three solo home runs, one from Willson Contreras and two from Javier Baez. Baez, who was hitless up until tonight, hit two good pitches into the seats. Take those good swings away and the Dodgers win this game 2-1.
The bullpen still did great, and quite frankly, the entire blame can be pointed to the bottom of the order. Manager Dave Roberts made an interesting decision to start Andre Ethier, Curtis Granderson, Chase Utley and Yasmani Grandal in the same lineup. Whether it was a gut feeling, or a nod to the veterans, it resulted in a rather stagnant offense.
However, the Boys in Blue turn the ball over to their ace in game five, Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is entering this game on his typical four days rest; for once. In his last outing, Kershaw was cruising until an Albert Almora Jr. home run put the Cubs up 2-0. Overall, Kershaw went five innings allowing four hits and two runs.
The same playoff demons that have haunted Kershaw his entire career still hang above his head, at least in the media’s eye. Kershaw has not been terrible this postseason, but he certainly hasn’t been Clayton Kershaw. Five home runs in two games pitched will do that to you.
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Kershaw has the unique opportunity in game five to silence any doubters and any critics that he previously had. The cards are stacked in Kershaw’s favor, and now, he just needs to execute as the best pitcher on planet Earth.
In last year’s NLCS Kershaw pitched two games in Wrigley Field. One was an absolute gem, and at the time, seemed to be the final step in securing postseason comfort. The next game, well, Kershaw struggled to get past an explosive Cubs lineup that defeated the Dodgers that night to move on to the World Series.
However, what is important here is the former. Last offseason was funky. Kershaw pitched three times in the NLDS, including a game four start and a game five relief appearance. Then, the Dodgers ace went on to start game two of the NLCS on two days rest. Although, with a short outing in game five, it was more regular with a bullpen session in between.
That night Kershaw blanked the Chicago bats. With literally no room for error, as the Dodgers won 1-0 on an Adrian Gonzalez solo home run, Kershaw delivered seven scoreless frames allowing just two hits and striking out six. Kershaw gave us the kind of performance we expect. Not the Kershaw that followed with seven total runs (five earned) in his next start.
This season Kershaw was 9-1 with a 1.74 ERA on four days rest. The Cubs did rough Kershaw up in May, so their confidence may be at an all-time high.
However, game five gives Kershaw the perfect proving grounds to finally silence his postseason doubters. And what better way to do it than pitching your team into their first World Series since 1988.