Cubs must overcome Kershaw to stay alive
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
CHICAGO -- For the first time in almost three weeks, the Los Angeles Dodgers will try to bounce back from a loss.
The stakes could not be much higher this time around. Los Angeles holds a decisive 3-1 lead over the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series and has the opportunity to close out the series in Game 5 on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.
A win would vault the Dodgers into the World Series for the first time since 1988. A loss would push the series back to Los Angeles and give the defending champion Cubs a renewed sense of hope.
The Cubs staved off elimination with a 3-2 victory Wednesday night in Game 4. The outcome snapped a six-game postseason winning streak for the Dodgers, whose previous loss was Sept. 29 against the Colorado Rockies.
"I wouldn't say that the pressure is on us," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "I think that we're in a pretty good spot. We've got our No. 1 pitcher going tomorrow, and we've got two of the guys at the back end rested.
"I can't speak to their mindset (on the Cubs), but I still like the position we're in."
The Dodgers will turn to left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who went 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA during the regular season. Kershaw has five career postseason victories and needs one more to match Burt Hooton's franchise record.
In the series opener against the Cubs, Kershaw allowed two runs on four hits in five innings in Los Angeles' 5-2 victory on Saturday. He walked one and struck out four in a no-decision.
"I feel good," Kershaw said. "I don't feel any different than when I feel normal. I feel normal, which is great."
The Cubs will counter with left-hander Jose Quintana, who faces the Dodgers and Kershaw for the second time this series. The Colombia native gave up two runs on two hits in five innings in his first appearance. He walked two and fanned four.
"'Q' has been great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's ready to play all the time. The stuff's really been spiking in a positive direction. Velocity has been up. Curveball has been better. I know one thing, he'll be ready to pitch."
Chicago will be without its top bullpen pitcher, closer Wade Davis, after his marathon 48-pitch appearance to finish off Game 4. The pitch count was Davis' highest in a save situation in his career.
Maddon said he would rely on a bullpen by committee that includes right-handers Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards, Hector Rondon and John Lackey as well as left-handers Brian Duensing and Mike Montgomery.
"This is where the guys got to pretty much do their jobs," Maddon said.
That has not been an easy task for Cubs relievers during the postseason. The team also has struggled at the plate, particularly against the hard-throwing bullpen of the Dodgers.
Los Angeles right-hander Kenley Jensen did not pitch in Game 4, so he will be well-rested to back up Kershaw.
"It's a good feeling when we wake up (Thursday), we know Clayton's taking the mound," Roberts said. "As far as our mindset, the psyche, we know we're going to be in for a battle, and we'll be ready."
One bit of encouragement for the Cubs is Kershaw's mediocre postseason career record: 5-7 with a 4.57 ERA in 20 games (16 starts). Quintana's first three career postseason appearances (two starts) have all come this month, and he has no decisions with a 1.59 ERA.
Updated October 19, 2017