|5:08 PM PT6:08 PM MT7:08 PM CT8:08 PM ET20:08 ET0:08 GMT8:08 5:08 PM MST7:08 PM EST7:38 PM VEN4:08 UAE (+1)7:08 PM CT, October 14, 2017
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California Attendance: 54,289
Dodgers look to turn tables on Cubs in NLCS
LOS ANGELES -- One year later, the teams in the National League Championship Series are the same so it makes sense that the plot lines are similar.
There is a team four victories away from getting a chance to vanquish a long World Series drought. There is a fan base starved for a championship, hanging on every pitch. And there is a group of players who have bonded together to craft a memorable summer, while moving into the fall where destiny appears to be on its side.
The twist is that it is the Los Angeles Dodgers who carry all those credentials into the NLCS this time. The Cubs wore all those same markers on their sleeve as they plowed their way through the postseason last year.
Further solidifying the role reversals are the facts that the Dodgers are owners of home-field advantage this time, while the Cubs are the team arriving at the NLCS following a hard-fought division series. Both the Dodgers last year, and the Cubs this year, had to dispatch a determined Washington Nationals team in Game 5 in the nation's capital.
Added to Chicago's plate was a travel issue while flying overnight from Washington to Los Angeles early Friday. The plane was diverted to Albuquerque when a family member of somebody on the charter flight fell ill. Then the pilots had to go off duty because of accumulated flight time. The Cubs finally arrived to their Los Angeles hotel at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
"Everybody understood the reasoning behind it," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought our guys handled it extremely well. Biggest concern was that there might be enough food for everybody. But big 767, plenty of room. We all settled in."
Maddon had not decided Friday night between left-hander Jose Quintana and right-hander John Lackey as his Game 1 starter. The Cubs announced Saturday that Quintana would get the start at Dodger Stadium.
Quintana went 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA with the Cubs after being acquired in a mid-July trade from the Chicago White Sox. He threw 5 2/3 innings against the Nationals in Game 3 of the NLDS, allowing one unearned run on two hits. Quintana recorded two outs and threw 12 pitches in the Game 5 clincher on Thursday night.
The Dodgers will enter the NLCS with a well-rested Clayton Kershaw starting Game 1. Manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw will be followed in the rotation by Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood, in that order.
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager was limited in recent days with a sore back and was expected to play in Game 1. But the team announced Saturday that Seager was left off the 25-man NLCS roster due to the injury.
For Kershaw, having plenty of rest before a playoff series is a rare luxury. He did not pitch until Game 2 of the 2016 NLCS after getting the save in the deciding victory of the NLDS. When he returned to the mound again in Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS, he appeared tired and vulnerable as the Cubs pounced.
The Dodgers were eliminated last year after a 5-0 defeat at Wrigley Field and they were left to wait for another season, just as they have done every year since Kirk Gibson delivered his 1988 miracle that baseball fans in Los Angeles still clutch close to their collective heart.
"We want to win this series; we want to go to the World Series," Kershaw said Friday. "We didn't get to do that last year, and the Cubs were the reason why. No doubt about it, we know that. But if the Nationals won this, I'd be saying the same thing. I don't hold grudges, it's not billboard material for me or bulletin-board material that we've got to get revenge on the Cubs."
After defeating Los Angeles in the NLCS last year, the Cubs went on to get past the Cleveland Indians in seven games of the World Series. Fans filled the streets in Chicago as the Cubs vanquished a 108-year championship drought.
The Dodgers are working on a 29-year dry spell of their own. They haven't even been to the World Series since their underdog team upended the mighty Oakland Athletics for their last title. They have made 10 postseason appearances since and have come up empty each time.
"It's very clear what our ultimate goal is," Roberts said. "But our guys, all year long have done a very good job of not getting ahead of themselves. So our only focus is tomorrow, it really is, and whatever we can do to win a baseball game tomorrow."
Roberts' Dodgers went 52-9 at one stretch this season. They also went 1-16 late in the year in what appeared to be a collective exhale. But a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS had the Dodgers looking more like the team that dominated most of the season.
The Cubs had their woes during a sluggish first half of the season. But they scored more runs than anybody in the NL since the All-Star break and their OPS was best in the league too. Only one NL team hit more home runs in the second half.
Starting Saturday, it is the Dodgers and their major-league-best 104-58 record against the 92-70 Cubs, the reigning champs. The credentials of both are clear.
"They were the best team last year, and until somebody beats them, they're the best team," Kershaw said. "So we've got to go get them."
Updated October 14, 2017