The rotation is far from set for Los Angeles, but here is (close) to what you can expect in the 2016 NLCS between the Dodgers and Cubs.
As we head into Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers (8:08 p.m., ET, on Saturday, Oct. 15), some questions have been answered regarding the series’ pitching matchups, while others have yet to be determined.
The two teams pitched mighty well in the regular season, as the Cubs finished first in team ERA (3.15) while the Dodgers were close behind in fifth place (3.70). The Cubs have done a much better job at staying healthy, but the rotation that has formed behind Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is no worse than what the team could’ve hoped for heading into the season. Now is the time to see which dynamic rotation will prevail in the best-of-seven series.
In Game 1, Cubs lefty ace Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA in regular season) will face Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda (16-11, 3.48 ERA). The Cubs had strategy in mind when throwing out Lester first, as it will ensure he gets the first crack at two starts against a Dodgers lineup that hit .214 against lefties in the regular season.
Lester torched the Dodgers this season (one run on seven hits and two walks in 15 innings, with 16 strikeouts), and pitched eight scoreless innings in his Game 1 victory over the Giants in the NLDS. He is locked in. Maeda did not pitch against the Cubs this season and struggled in his postseason debut against the Nationals in the NLDS (three innings, four runs on five hits and two walks).
In Game 2 on Sunday, the Cubs will start righty Kyle Hendricks (16-8, MLB-best 2.13 ERA), following a brief scare in the NLDS when a comebacker struck him on the right forearm. During the regular season, Hendricks pitched eight innings of two-run ball against the Dodgers in a Cubs win.
The opposing pitcher in Game 2 has not yet been confirmed, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has hinted that Kershaw will be ready to get the call. Despite throwing a total of 218 pitches in seven days, the Dodgers want Kershaw to pitch as early as possible in the NLCS to expedite his second start in the series. Kershaw did not face the Cubs this season due to injury.
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In Game 3, scheduled for Monday at Dodger Stadium, the pitching matchup is projected to be Cubs righty ace Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) against Dodgers lefty curveball specialist Rich Hill (3-2, 1.83 ERA). Arrieta threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits in a no-decision against the Dodgers this season. Hill did not face the Cubs this season.
Finally, John Lackey (11-8, 3.35 ERA) should get the call in Game 4 on Wednesday against (possibly) Dodgers rookie Julio Urias (5-2, 3.39 ERA). Lackey did not face the Dodgers this season, while Urias managed two starts against the Cubbies.
He was much better in his second start, in August at Dodger Stadium, getting the win on six innings of one-run ball, allowing six hits and two walks, striking out eight.
It should be a great series, featuring a star-studded Cubs staff against a Dodgers rotation that may feature Kershaw as much as humanly possible. Who do you think has the rotation edge in the 2016 NLCS?