(Photo Credit: Rich Kane/UPI)
For some strange reason, many fans of the Dodgers weren’t overly optimistic about a positive outcome at the beginning of Game 1 on Saturday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. After all, the Boys in Blue must have been close to exhaustion after laying everything on the line in Game 5 of the NLDS just two days prior, without an opportunity for even a short layover at home. Plus, southpaw Jon Lester had been sensational as of late while the Dodgers’ opening offering, Japanese rookie Kenta Maeda, had recently been showing signs of a somewhat tired and weary right arm.
Needless to say, despite their notable struggles against left-handed pitching for all of 2016, the Dodgers fought hard and made a game of it thanks to several timely pieces of quality hitting, most specifically by Andre Ethier and the regular butter and eggs man, Adrian Gonzalez.
If it were not for an extremely slow-spinning, cement-mixing slide piece by reliever Joe Blanton with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, the outcome may have been different. Regardless, backed by stellar defense throughout the affair, the Cubs were the squad that showed most of the fortitude and grit this time around, taking charge of the series with an 8-4 victory.
Sunday’s Game 2 has quite the different feel, at least from the Dodgers’ perspective. Resident ace Clayton Kershaw will take the bump, and despite his recent recovery from a 10-week stint on the disabled list, coupled with three stressful outings in the NLDS, all signs indicate that the three-time Cy Young Award winner is healthy. As Thursday’s seven-pitch save in Game 5 came on a scheduled bullpen day, Kersh claimed that there wasn’t really much-added stress on his left arm.
Kershaw will be opposed by Cubs’ righty Kyle Hendricks, a California native who went to high school at Capistrano Valley in Mission Viejo. The 26-year-old Dartmouth grad went 16-8 for Chicago this season, sporting a 2.13 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP with 170 strikeouts and 44 walks in an even 190 innings of work.
Hendricks started one time against the Dodgers this year, earning the win while throwing eight full innings back in early June. He allowed two earned runs on three hits and a walk while striking out six batters on 101 pitches. The Cubs were victorious, 7-2.
In three career starts against Los Angeles, Hendricks has a 2-1 record with a 3.15 ERA, a .070 WHIP, 12 strikeouts and three walks in 20 full innings thrown.
Kershaw has started eight times against the Cubs in his career, posting a 5-3 record with a 2.18 ERA over 53-2/3 innings. The last time he faced Chicago was at home in August of 2015, when the Dodgers cruised to a 4-1 victory over Jason Hammel, backed by key extra-base hits off the bats of Ethier and Chase Utley. Kersh went eight innings in the contest, allowing one run on three hits and a walk while striking out 14 batters.
The Dodgers will presumably throw a different look at Hendricks the Cubs offensively, potentially running out a mostly left-handed hitting lineup, with the possible exception of third baseman Justin Turner. First pitch for Game 2 is slated for 5:08 p.m. Pacific time and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.