(Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)
For many fans of the Dodgers, Saturday’s NLCS Game 6 has a few of those eerie vibes of producing borderline irritable perspectives from those who can vividly count back the days to the club’s last World Series appearance in 1988.
And with resident ace Clayton Kershaw taking the bump in a hostile environment at Wrigley Field, the same fans can’t help but recall Game 6 of the NLCS in 2013 in St. Louis when Kersh and Company’s championship aspirations fizzled after being bludgeoned 9-0 by the Redbirds.
While there are a few similarities today to the Dodgers’ playoff run of three years ago, there are some major differences. Kershaw has matured, and his powerful throwing arsenal has developed more than twofold since then. Kenley Jansen is more confident. The squad is more adept with the lumber. The management crew provides key statistical aspects to potentially capitalize on any possible advantage. Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Joe Blanton bring valuable World Series experience to the table. And most importantly, Kersh has proven that he can deal in October.
Since 2013, Kersh has pitched in five postseason games with the Dodgers facing elimination. Although they have won only three of those five, Kershaw has shown that he can indeed carry over his regular-season effectiveness to the playoffs, as made evident by his seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball in Game 2 at Wrigley just last Sunday. In that same game, Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ starter for Game 6 on Saturday, held the Dodgers to only one run on three hits through five-plus frames. One of those hits, a home run to center field off the bat of Adrian Gonzalez in the second inning, was the lone offensive distinction of the game.
Of the hundreds of game previews surrounding the Game 6 affair, most are meaningless, at least from the Dodgers’ frame of reference. The keys to the game are simple — Kershaw needs to throw well, and the offense must produce enough runs to support his stellar effort on the mound. By all means necessary. Bottom line.
As far as the Cubs are concerned, they’d much rather come out on top in Game 6 rather than run back out for a decisive contest on Sunday where anything could go the right way for either side. While they have plenty of faith in Hendricks, they also feel secure in knowing that Jake Arrieta waits in the wings if needed in Game 7.
For the Dodgers, it’s win on Saturday, and don’t even think about Sunday until the final out is made in Game 6.
First pitch is scheduled for 5:08 Pacific and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
There’s no doubt that fans from both sides will be on the edges of their seats all evening.