Clayton Kershaw dominated the Chicago Cubs during Game 2 of the NLCS Sunday. Why this is a good time to put that, and more into perspective ahead of Game 3.
By now you know Clayton Kershaw, perhaps the greatest pitcher of his generation, completed his masterpiece on the way to blanking the Chicago Cubs 1-0 Sunday night. Something that hasn’t been done since Babe Ruth.
That guy was pretty good too, wasn’t he?
We also know that Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward and Addison Russell are ice-cold at the plate this postseason, combining for a 4-63 mark. Just bad. Or as Dieter Kurtenbach of Fox Sports put it, the alleged biggest problem for the Cubs has been exposed.
Biggest problem. Exposed. Have we reached enough hyperbole yet?
Now let’s go deeper beyond the surface. What Kershaw accomplished Sunday night should not surprise anyone. Forget his 2-6,4.59 ERA prior to the 2016 playoffs. Just as there’s more beyond the surface numbers that really delve into Kershaw’s postseason numbers — including 53% of inherited runners coming into score when Kershaw hands the ball to the bullpen — there’s more to last night’s 1-0 defeat.
For starters, Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks lasted 5.1 innings, allowing the one run, a homer off Adrian Gonzalez, walking four and striking out five. Hendricks wasn’t particularly sharp, but had gone into the sixth before handing the ball off and keeping his team right there. If the offense musters even one run, we’re probably having an altogether different conversation.
While Hendricks battled control, and maybe you can chalk some of that up to not have started in over a week, nerves and going up against Kershaw, or none of the above, he was able to get out of self-imposed danger and limiting any potential big inning.
The Cubs’ pitching has been as advertised with their 2.84 ERA through last night, while the Dodgers come in at 4.72, brings up the rear of teams left in the postseason. Their starters’ era is 5.51. To put it frankly, the Dodgers outside of Kershaw this postseason are 0-3 when he doesn’t appear in a game. While L.A. managed to go 50-35 this season without Kershaw, and were just 41-36 with him prior to his 2-month absence to a back injury, here’s what you need to know as we get set for Game 3:
- Rich Hill (3-2, 1.83 ERA) in six starts since coming over to the Dodgers in a trade with the Oakland A’s. However he’s failed to make it past five innings his last two regular season starts, and last saw the sixth inning on September 15th. He is 0-1 this postseason, having not last five innings so far.
- The Cubs were second among the NL in BA this season vs LHP (.267) and were also second in HR, RBI and first in on-base % vs lefties. Kershaw notwithstanding, Hill is not Kershaw. They also fared well against Bumgarner, scoring three off him, and Arrieta was the one that delivered that blow during Game 3.
- Julio Urias is tabbed to likely start Game 4, unless things change due to Hill’s blister issues, creating an all-hands on deck situation.
- Kenta Maeda doesn’t go deep into games. He hasn’t pitched five innings since September 21st, and hasn’t gone more than five since September 11th.
- Dodgers bullpen has a 3.81 ERA this postseason, giving up 12 runs and walking 16 batters. That falls among three relievers including closer Kenley Jansen who has a 4.91 ERA and has allowed four earned runs. He’s been nails since that October 10th disaster vs the Washington Nationals when he allowed four runs including a home run, but he’s not unbeatable.
It is worth mentioning one of those runs charged to Jansen scored via an inherited run off Ross Stripling. Joe Blanton (7-2, 2.48) was Dave Roberts trusted bullpen piece all season, but also makes up the other part of that bloated postseason ERA following the Miguel Montero grand slam and Dexter Fowler‘s home run.
The pressure absolutely is on the Cubs, as a 2-1 hole is less than ideal on the road, and likely facing Kershaw back home in Game 6, unless the narrative drastically changes, and so far nothing is off the table. Arrieta will return to the site where he most famously put together his own masterpiece, a no-hitter August 30th of last season. He threw just once against L.A. this season, going seven strong, allowing no runs and striking out eight.
We’ll soon find out how much stock to put into the Cubs slumping offense, or if the non-Kershaw factor lends credence to the Dodgers own playoff futility.
All we can do is patiently wait for 8:00pm tomorrow night, as Arrieta and the Cubs look to reclaim their place in the NLCS, while looking to jump on a pitcher in Hill who has thrown just 0.2 innings in his career against his former team, and though great while healthy, has dealt with blister issues this season.