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Chicago Cubs’ balanced attack makes LA Dodgers the underdogs

first_imgHow will they score?The Cubs’ lineup was a two-man wrecking crew while beating the San Francisco Giants in the division series. Javy Baez and Kris Bryant both went 6 for 16 in the four games, and combined to drive in five of the team’s 17 runs. (Another four scored as a result of home runs by pitchers, so the Dodgers have that to worry about too.) Chicago’s offense is deeper than that, though. Anthony Rizzo batted .292 in the regular season with 32 home runs and 109 RBIs, a left-handed bash brother for the right-handed hitting Bryant. Another seven players hit at least 10 home runs.Injury updatesVeteran catcher Miguel Montero is dealing with back pain and could miss the series. Former Dodgers backstop David Ross, who is 39 years old and in his final season, could get the bulk of the playing time. Pitcher Kyle Hendricks was hit on his right forearm by a comeback in the NLDS, but that won’t prevent him from starting Game 2.Who could be their x-factorThe ninth spot in the Cubs’ batting order is not a free space in the middle of your bingo card. Chicago pitchers drove in 27 runs and got on base often enough to score 21 — both among the top three marks in the league. The home runs by Travis Wood and Jake Arrieta changed the series against the Giants, and give the Dodgers another cause for concern.Newcomers to watchBryant, Baez, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell and Wilson Contreras are all under 25. Each is already a known quantity, and has shown varying degrees of flair with a bat. Only Lackey, Ross and second baseman Ben Zobrist are over 35. This is a young team with proven talent, a rare combination.The mad geniusJoe Maddon is one of the two managers Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has hired; Dave Roberts is the other. Maddon and Friedman go back to 2006 in Tampa Bay. In fact, when Friedman left Tampa for Los Angeles, Maddon was able to opt out of his contract and manage the Cubs as a result. Whether or not that familiarity negates any of Maddon’s ingenuity remains to be seen, but count on the Cubs trying something unconventional if their preferred method of dominance — getting on base, hitting home runs, and stifling opponents with their pitching — doesn’t work. The Dodgers will begin the National League Championship Series as the underdog, but why? What makes the Cubbies the favorites to end a championship drought that’s lasted since the (first) Roosevelt administration?Starts with pitchingCubs pitchers posted a 3.15 earned-run average this season, 24 percent better than the major league average. For comparison’s sake, the 1993 Atlanta Braves’ ERA was 25 percent better than league average, and no other team has bettered that mark since the end of World War II.Jon Lester (2.44), Kyle Hendricks (2.13), Jake Arrieta (3.10) and John Lackey (3.35) will start the first four games of the series in that order. All have postseason experience; Lackey and Lester each have two World Series rings.Closer Aroldis Chapman can throw a baseball 105 mph with his left hand, and he used this skill to record 16 saves in 18 opportunities after he was acquired in a midseason trade with the New York Yankees. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw had just pitched the inning of his life Thursday night when he addressed reporters after Game 5 of the National League Division Series in Washington D.C. Soaked in champagne and drained of emotions, he still had enough left in the tank to make a subtly ironic statement about the Chicago Cubs.“They’re a solid team from what I understand,” he quipped.Chicago won 103 games in the regular season — eight more than any other club and more than any Cubs team since 1910. They have been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated three times this year, twice proclaiming them the prohibitive World Series favorites. Curses? Don’t mention it, Clayton. Somebody already did. Somewhere.last_img


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