SCHEDULE: Gm1 tonight at 7, Gm2 Sunday 6:30, Gm3 Tuesday 8pm,
Gm4 8pm Wednesday
THINK BLUE: True Blue LA
There can be little question that these are now the two preeminent NL teams, and anyone having designs on going to a World Series is going to have to go through one of them, if not both, for the foreseeable future. This is the second straight clash between the two at this stage, and it’s pretty easy to see it not being the last. Given the front offices and the resources each have, along with the age of their current rosters, baseball had better get used to a whole lot of blue in the NLCS.
So let’s tackle the big news first. The Dodgers best all-around player, arguably, Cory Seager has been left off the NLCS roster.
Seager has been batting back problems for the last part of the season, so the fact that he wasn’t healthy wasn’t a huge shock. To this degree though was something of one. That doesn’t mean he’s automatically done for this series. If the Dodgers were to have someone else get injured Seager could be called in. That player would then be ineligible for the World Series, which is probably to prevent some shenanigans. Still, you could see where the Dodgers would be able to handle not having Charlie Culberson or Joc Pedersen for the Series if it bought Cory Seager more time.
Seager is a huge blow to the Dodgers lineup. Culberson will have to slot in immediately, as he’s been the only other Dodger to take any time at short this season. Which means the Dodgers are going from a 127 wRC+ in that spot to a 41. It also provides something of a breather in the lineup, which didn’t really have one before. Either Bellinger or Turner would slot up to the #2 spot with the other in the #3 and Puig batting cleanup, you’d think. However they arrange it, it’s a gap that can’t be made up. With Grandson and Forsythe also possibly getting starts in the series, suddenly the lineup for the Dodgers doesn’t have much bottom. It’ll have more of one if Kike Hernandez and his Sex Panther bump Chris Taylor over to left and Austin Barnes gets more starts at second, but that erodes their bench depth too. It’s a real problem.
Still, if there’s a team that can overcome the loss of one of the best shortstops in the game, it’s the Dodgers. Because the rotation is capable of making it not matter. First up is only Olympus-resident Clayton Kershaw. Encouragingly for the Cubs they’ve gotten to Kershaw the last two times they’ve seen him, but you can’t count on that. The next three up are all capable of being utterly brilliant or pissing down their leg in Hill, Darvish, and Wood. And if any of them do, the Dodgers can roll out four or five fireballers before they even get to Kenley Jansen, when the game is effectively over. And without Seager, they just might have to play it that way.
So we’ll swing back to the Cubs, whose entire pitching staff is a mess. They’ll roll with Quintana tonight, who for the first time in his career will make a start a mere two days after a relief appearance. He didn’t throw a terrible amount of pitches, but that’s still warming up and coming in and then doing it again so soon after. After that… it pretty much has to be Lester. He’ll be on three days’ rest since appearing out of the pen in Game 4, which is another question mark. The Cubs certainly won’t risk Arrieta on three-days rest on an iffy hammy. Which makes you think if the Cubs steal Game 1 then they might be tempted to buy time with Lackey starting Sunday night, but we’ll just wait on that.
And that’s not even getting to the pen. We know pretty much that Joe Maddon will have lost faith in everyone, but that’s not going to be a way to run things now. Immortan Joe isn’t going to be able to rotate starters from a start to the pen between starts all series. The Cubs pen has done this all year, where they would be dodgy and then find it again. They’ve made a change in Rondon coming in for Justin Wilson, who Maddon basically discarded even though his las few appearances were actually decent. The Cubs probably need as many arms as they can get out there. Maddon has to basically treat the pen as if it’s a complete do-over, which it is. If Edwards is the 8th inning guy, he’s the 8th inning guy. Monty is your multi-inning guy. Rondon and Strop get their spots, along with Duensing. It’s not even clear if Davis could go tonight if needed, so this is going to be an adventure.
This is still a stern test. With Seager, this was probably a deeper lineup than the Nationals were rolling. The rotations are a push when fully rested, but the Dodgers probably shade it given the upheaval. The Dodgers have the superior pen. They are still favored. As the Cubs won’t have a fresh starter until Game 3, they could be in the same bind as Arizona was. And if they find themselves down 0-2, that’s going to make things awfully itchy. They can’t wait around for four games to hit this time.
IT’S TIME TO PLAY THE GAME