NLCS preview: How the Dodgers and Cubs match up

Greetings from Wrigley Field in Chicago, where the Dodgers will face the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday.

Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West champions) vs. Chicago Cubs (NL Central champions) in the National League Championship Series.

Here’s how they match up:




LF Howie Kendrick (.255, 8, 40): .186 career postseason hitter for Angels, .290 for Dodgers.

3B Justin Turner (.275, 27, 90): Reached base in 13 of 22 plate appearances in NLDS.

SS Corey Seager (.308, 26, 72): 3 for 5 in first inning in NLDS; 0 for 18 in all other innings.

RF Yasiel Puig (.263, 11, 45): No hits in NLDS, but three walks, same as he had in 27 games in May.


1B Adrian Gonzalez (.285, 18, 90): Hit .300 with 2 HR in only NLCS appearance (2013).

C Yasmani Grandal (.228, 27, 72): NLDS: 16 at-bats, six strikeouts, no extra-base hits.

2B Enrique Hernandez (.190, 7, 18): No one on NLDS roster has homered off Lester, but he has.

CF Joc Pederson (.246, 25, 68): Took until playoffs for Dodgers to let him play against lefties.

P Kenta Maeda (.123, 1, 4): Home run in first major league start, none since.


CF Dexter Fowler (.276, 13, 48): Six strikeouts and a .235 OBP in NLDS.

3B Kris Bryant (.292, 39, 102): Likely NL MVP hit .176 last October, .375 in this year’s NLDS.


1B Anthony Rizzo (.292, 32, 109): Career postseason average: .149 (47 AB).

LF Ben Zobrist (.272, 18, 76): Hit .320 with 2 HR for Royals in last year’s ALCS.

SS Addison Russell (.238, 21, 95): Hit .215 in September, .067 in NLDS.

RF Jason Heyward (.230, 7, 49): $184-million man didn’t start every game of NLDS.

2B Javier Baez (.273, 14, 59): His emergence at 2B has moved Ben Zobrist to OF.

C David Ross (.229, 10, 32): In his MLB debut – for Dodgers in 2002 – CF was Dave Roberts.

P Jon Lester (.102, 0, 6): Career postseason: 11 AB, 6 strikeouts, 0 hits.

ANALYSIS: The Cubs might have beaten up on the Reds and Pirates all summer, but solid pitching can stop their offense. The Cubs batted .200 in the NLDS, with a .247 OBP. The Dodgers’ lineup looks better against right-handers, and every Cubs starter except Lester is right-handed. Fowler can give the Cubs a base-stealing threat if he can get on base; the Dodgers don’t run too much or too well. Ultimately, this series could be determined by how many home runs each team gets from a top-heavy lineup. ADVANTAGE: Cubs.





RH Kenta Maeda (16-11, 3.48): Tiring? Last three starts: 0-3, 9.2 IP, 11.17 ERA.

LH Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69): One save turned him from “Mr. October?” to “Mr. October!”

LH Rich Hill (3-2, 1.83): Yet to survive five innings in three postseason starts.

LH Julio Urias (5-2, 3.39): Since All-Star break, he’s 5-0 with a 1.90 ERA.


LH Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44): Career postseason ERA: 2.63 (17 games).

RH Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13): Got a hit, and got hit by line drive, in his NLDS start.

RH Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10): Last time he started a 5 p.m. game at Dodger Stadium? No-hitter.

RH John Lackey (11-8, 3.35): Won title clinchers for Angels (2002) and Red Sox (2013).


The top two qualifiers for the major league ERA lead? Hendricks and Lester, with Arrieta 13th and Lackey 22nd. Lower the minimum to 100 innings, and the top two are Kershaw and Hill, with Hendricks third, Lester fifth and Cubs swingman Mike Montgomery sixth. The longer the starters go, the more creative the bullpen use can be — and, unlike the NLDS, the NLCS includes games on three consecutive days. ADVANTAGE: Cubs.




RH Kenley Jansen (1.83): 5 walks after All-Star break (32 games); 5 walks in NLDS (4 games).

RH Joe Blanton (2.48): Career ERA as starter: 4.47; as reliever: 3.24.

RH Pedro Baez (3.04): Most likely to be fined if pitch clock takes effect in 2017.

LH Grant Dayton (2.05): Right-handers slugged .333 off him, left-handers .233.

LH Luis Avilan (3.20): Lone active survivor of LA’s trade for Alex Wood and Mat Latos.

RH Josh Fields (2.79): Faced 4 batters in NLDS: walked 1, struck out 3.

RH Ross Stripling (3.96): Still hasn’t allowed a hit in San Francisco in his career.

LH Alex Wood  (3.73): Gave up one hit, one walk in four late-season relief innings.


LH Aroldis Chapman (1.55): Pitched in all four games of NLDS. Got 7 outs once this season.

RH Carl Edwards Jr. (3.75): Opponents hit .123 off him this season.

LH Mike Montgomery (2.82): Tied for AL lead with two shutouts last season; acquired from Mariners for a DH type.

RH Hector Rondon (3.53): Answer to: “Who was the closer before Cubs traded for Chapman?”

LH Travis Wood (2.95): In NLDS, became first reliever since 1924 to hit postseason HR.

LH Justin Grimm (4.10): Trade: Cubs got Edwards and Grimm, Rangers got 13 starts from Matt Garza.

RH Pedro Strop (2.85): Cubs got him and Jake Arrieta in same deal; four consecutive years under 3.00.

LH Rob Zastryzny (1.13): Left-handed Scrabble specialist: Rzepczynski in NLDS, Zastryzny in NLCS.


The Dodgers’ relievers pitched the most innings of any bullpen in the National League; the Cubs’ relievers pitched the fewest. The Cubs can force the Dodgers to face a left-hander in long relief (Montgomery/Wood), short relief (Grimm/Zastryzny) and closing (Chapman, and not just in the ninth inning.) The Dodgers could try Brett Anderson or Alex Wood in place of Dayton, who faced 12 batters and retired five in the NLDS.  ADVANTAGE: Dodgers.




OF Josh Reddick (.281, 10, 37): 1 RBI in August (21 games); 1 RBI in NLDS (5 games).

OF Andrew Toles (.314, 3, 16): Doubled in first at-bat this season — at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.

IF Chase Utley (.252, 14, 52): Flashed a rare smile during NLDS victory celebration.

OF Andre Ethier (.208, 1, 2): First postseason at-bat: PH for Greg Maddux (2006).

C Carlos Ruiz (.264, 3, 15): Regular season for Dodgers: 3 RBI (36 AB). NLDS: 3 RBI (4 AB).


OF Albert Almora Jr. (.277, 3, 14): When the Cubs need a defensive replacement, he’s the guy.

IF/OF Chris Coghlan (.252, 1, 16): Cubs traded him in February, traded for him in June.

C/OF Willson Contreras (.282, 12, 35): Four hits and a walk in seven NLDS plate appearances.

C Miguel Montero (.216, 8, 33): Once watched Dodgers celebrate in Chase Field pool. Didn’t care.

OF Jorge Soler (.238, 12, 31): Once considered a surer bet for stardom than Cuban countryman Puig.


“Bench” is a misnomer for the Dodgers, because they have semi-regulars that hit left-handed or right-handed at several positions.  The Dodgers’ reserves when a right-hander starts (most of the time) are not fearsome, and the Cubs have the better bets for a pinch-hit home run. ADVANTAGE: None.


PREDICTION: Since Manager Dave Roberts challenged the notion that the Dodgers were “completely abysmal” against left-handers, the Dodgers are 0-4 in games started by left-handers. Lester, one of the game’s best lefties, starts twice in the NLCS, and the Dodgers do not have the speed to counter his weakness at holding runners on base. Orel Hershiser followed his 1988 NLCS relief appearance with two complete games in the World Series. If Kershaw follows suit in his next series, the Dodgers win. Otherwise: CUBS IN SIX.

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin

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