The National League Championship Series shifts to Wrigley Field in Chicago Tuesday, where the Los Angeles Dodgers will try to move within one victory of their first World Series berth since 1988.
Victories at Dodger Stadium Saturday and Sunday gave the Dodgers a two games to none lead in the series. Since the league championship series was expanded to a best-of-seven series in 1985, only three of the 28 teams that lost the first two games have come back to win the series — the 1985 Kansas City Royals, 1985 St. Louis Cardinals and 2004 Boston Red Sox, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I think up to this point we’ve done everything we can to put ourselves in a good position, but there is a long way to go,” Dodger manager Dave Roberts said on a conference call with reporters on Monday.
“The Cubs are not going to quit fighting and competing. Speaking for our team, our only focus is getting three and putting at-bats together and pitching well. It’s definitely noted how resilient that club is over there. They’re going to do everything they can to win a game and we’re going to do the same.”
This is the second consecutive season the Dodgers have been within two victories of the World Series. They had a 2-1 lead over Chicago in last year’s NLCS, then lost the next three games.
The Dodgers had identical lineups for their first eight batters Saturday and Sunday, facing left-handed starting pitchers. Roberts said “there might be a couple changes” in their lineup facing right-hander Kyle Hendricks, a former standout at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo.
“There’s going to be some conversations, digging into some match-ups and things like that,” Roberts said. “I’m sure we’re going to come up with something pretty good.”
Chicago manager Joe Maddon said he is “considering one or maybe two little” changes to his lineup that will face right-hander Yu Darvish.
“I have a ton of faith and trust in our guys, but if there’s something we could do maybe to tweak it a little bit, we may try to do that,” Maddon said on Monday.
“I haven’t decided completely yet. Honestly, I’m going through discussions with different guys, just looking at some information kind of stuff. What I like to do is the night before the game … I like to text out the lineups so the guys know in advance of tomorrow what’s going to happen, and I’ll do that later.”
The Cubs have been held to three runs or less in six of their seven postseason games, including both against the Dodgers.
They were limited to three hits Sunday, none after Jon Lester’s single with two outs in fifth. No Chicago hitter reached base Saturday after Albert Almora Jr.’s two-run homer in the fourth inning opened the scoring.
“We need to hit a couple balls hard consecutively,” Maddon said. “I think that’s what it comes down to. Then once we’re able to do that, we’ll gain our offensive mojo back. That’s all that’s going on.”
Darvish did not pitch against the Cubs in the regular season and Hendricks did not pitch against the Dodgers.
Darvish was 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA in 31 starts during the regular season, including a 4-3 record and 3.44 ERA in nine starts with the Dodgers after being acquired in a July 31 trade with the Texas Rangers.
Darvish was 6-9 with a 4.01 ERA in 22 starts with Texas and was selected to the American League all-star team for the fourth time in his career.
“He’s very good,” Maddon said.
“Most of the times when you’re able to get pitchers of that quality, two things have to occur — they’re off with their command a little bit and you get them early in the game. When you get guys like that settled in, it becomes increasingly difficult and more difficult to get them as the game is in progress so that’s the two things I’ll be looking for.”
Hendricks was 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 24 starts. He was on the disabled list from July 5-July 21 because of inflammation in his right hand.
Hendricks was the winning pitcher in Game 6 of last year’s NCLS, limiting the Dodgers to two hits in 7 1/3 innings in a 5-0 victory that gave the Cubs their first National League pennant since 1945.
“He’s had success against these guys in the past, especially in this building, so I feel really good about it,” Maddon said.
—City News Service