Urías, Dodgers Aiming to Gain Huge NLCS Advantage

(Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP)

Although it appears as if the Cubs are amid an unwelcomed offensive cold spell at the worst possible time, the Dodgers put together perhaps their best overall performance of the postseason in Game 3 on Tuesday, defeating Chicago 6-0 and taking a bit of control of the NLCS with two games still to be played in Los Angeles.

Veteran lefty Rich Hill allowed only two hits through six innings to beat last year’s Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Yasmani Grandal hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, and Justin Turner added a solo shot in the sixth inning to lead the Dodgers, who seemed to be firing on all cylinders in their first home game of the series.

Rookie outfielder Andrew Toles started off the scoring for Los Angeles after ripping a single to right in the third inning. Rookie shortstop Corey Seager drove in Toles, and ended his night and his recent cold spell by going 3-for-4 with three singles and one RBI. Closer Kenley Jansen threw 1-1/3 shutout innings to seal the victory for the Dodgers.

Los Angeles hopes to ride its current wave of momentum into Game 4 on Wednesday, as the squad will send 20-year-old rookie lefty Julio Urias to the bump. With the starting nod, Urías will become the youngest pitcher in MLB history to start a contest in the playoffs.

The Cubs will counter with 37-year-old righty John Lackey, who will be making his 22nd career postseason start, tied for sixth all-time in the record books. Lackey struggled in his last start against the Giants in Game 4 of the NLDS, lasting only four innings and 74 pitches while giving up seven hits and three runs.

Over 29 starts this season, Lackey posted an 11-8 record for Chicago, tallying a 3.35 ERA with 180 strikeouts and 53 walks in 188-1/3 innings of work. In 11 career starts against the Dodgers, Lackey owns a 6-3 record with a 1.75 ERA and 71 punch outs in 77 frames thrown. He last faced the Dodgers while with the Cardinals in May of 2015, when he threw seven shutout innings and earned the victory, surrendering only five hits and no walks while striking out nine.

Here’s a quick, concise scouting report from David Schoenfield of ESPN:

“Lackey’s stuff remains as good as ever even though he turns 38 in a few days, as he recorded a career-high strikeout rate of 24.1 percent. He comes at batters with a four-seam fastball, slider, curve and occasional changeup. The fastball sits 91-92 that he moves around all quadrants of the strike zone. The slider sits 82-84 with a late break that dives off the outside corner to righties. That’s certainly his go-to wipeout pitch, especially to righties, who hit .122 with a 37 percent strikeout rate against it. Of course, the Dodgers will stack the lineup with lefty swingers, so we’ll see more curveballs and changeups and fewer sliders.”

As for Urías, he pitched two innings in relief while earning the win during his most recent outing in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals. Even though the majority of the Dodgers’ bullpen is well rested, skipper Dave Roberts said that Urías’ pitch count won’t be an issue in Game 4, meaning if Los Angeles happens to be in control during the middle innings, look for the lefty to be stretched out a bit.

“I think that we’ve kind of monitored his usage throughout the regular season, but I think right now for me, it’s not necessarily the pitch count,” Roberts said. “A lot of it is the stressful innings, too. It’s going to be a big game. So if he’s throwing the baseball the way we expect, then I’m not afraid to push him to help us win a baseball game.”

First pitch for Wednesday’s Game 4 is slated for 5:08 p.m. Pacific time and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

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