On paper, this is a very bad matchup for the Cubs. Jake Arrieta and John Lackey have been inconsistent at best and have looked downright bad at times this season. And when you’ve got an offense that appears to be gathering steam, facing a team with the best run differential (+64) in all of baseball isn’t a great way to keep the train rolling.
The Dodgers aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, which means they’re relying on the strength of a staff that leads MLB in ERA (3.37) and FIP (3.27). Those numbers are bolstered by a pair of lefties in Alex Wood and Clayton Kershaw who sit in the top six in ERA for starters with at least 20 innings pitched. On the whole, these guys don’t walk many batters and they strike out quite a few, which means the Cubs will need to be aggressive…ly patient at the plate.
And though the pitching numbers below seem to favor the home team in a big way, the Cubs may well be able to hold their own. Arrieta loves to pitch in California and has only given up one earned run over his last 45 innings pitched in the Golden State. What a warrior. And John Lackey, who’s due to not give up two home runs this time, is going for the Cubs in the most favorable matchup of the weekend.
Jake Arrieta last 6 regular season starts in the state of California:
0.20 ERA, 45.0 IP, 15 Hits, 1 ER, 9 BB, 44 K, 0 HR#Cubs
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 26, 2017
The crown jewel of the series, of course, is Sunday’s finale between southpaws Kershaw and Jon Lester. The former is the best pitcher on the planet and probably the greatest of this generation, so you almost have to just hope he’s having an off night. The Cubs do hit lefties very well though, posting an .816 OPS and 113 wRC+ against them this season. The Dodgers, on the other hand, have really struggled against lefties over the past few seasons, which is why Lester’s most recent start was moved up to allow him to pitch here.
Other than Friday’s late-night affair, the games are on at imminently watchable times and should provide a very nice measuring stick of how the Cubs are playing. Well, as much as any three games can do that. Truth be told, I’d be fine with just taking one from the Dodgers and then moving on to pound the Padres. But taking two would really carry the momentum from the last week, so let’s go with that.
Game Time and Broadcast Info (all times CT)
Friday, May 26 at 9:10 on ABC-7
Saturday, May 27 at 6:15 on FOX
Sunday, May 28 at 3:10 on CSN Chicago
What to watch for
- Remember last year in the NLCS when the Dodgers tried to get all cute on the basepaths against Lester. I can’t remember if it was Kiké Hernandez or Joc Pederson, but someone was really dancing around out there like a complete jackass in an attempt to distract the Cubs starter. It didn’t work. Nor has it for anyone this season, as more runners have been thrown out stealing against Lester (8) than against any other pitcher in baseball. Willson Contreras is a big part of that too, of course. With noted base-stealer Dave Roberts helming the Dodgers, expect them to be aggressive early Sunday night.
- Anthony Rizzo has really been swinging a hot bat, so we’ll see if that continues against a pair of lefties this weekend. Believe it or not, he’s actually got a .273/.333/.636 career line against Kershaw, though that’s only from 11 at-bats.
- Given his struggles thus far, this could be a chance for Joe Maddon to give Kyle Schwarber a little rest while ensuring that Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, and Javy Baez plenty of playing time.
- Jon Lester has come close to going yard in each of his last couple starts, so what better way to get his first dinger than to hit it off of the best lefty in the business? Okay, that won’t happen, but it’s fun to think about.