The Chicago Cubs enter the National League Championship Series with as much confidence as a team battling a 108-year title drought could possibly have.

Late Tuesday night, it looked like Chicago would be headed home to Wrigley Field to play a pivotal Game 5 against the San Francisco Giants. The Cubbies trailed 5-2 in Game 4 and were just three outs away from dropping their second straight game to the Giants. 

Instead, Chicago tacked four runs on the Giants bullpen to take a 6-5 lead, and then closer Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the bottom half of the inning with a flurry of 100-plus mph fastballs. The win propelled the Cubs to their second trip to the NLCS in as many years—they fell to the New York Mets in the 2015 championship series. 

The Cubs will host Game 1 on Saturday night—first pitch is scheduled for 8:08 p.m ET—on the strength of their 103-win regular season, welcoming the Los Angeles Dodgers to town. Los Angeles fought off a late Game 5 surge from the Washington Nationals on Thursday night at Nationals Park to set its date with Chicago. 

The Dodgers overcame the Nats’ 2-1 series lead to make the NLCS—the team’s first since its 2013 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals—and now face ostensibly their toughest test of the season: a locked-in Cubs team on a mission for a championship.

If Los Angeles hopes to progress to the World Series to take on the Toronto Blue Jays or Cleveland Indians, whichever team emerges from the American League, it will likely need to take at least one of the first two games in Chicago. With the momentum the Dodgers will maintain from Thursday’s victory, Game 1 is as good a time as any to snatch back home-field advantage.

But first, let’s take a look at what Chicago must do to keep its postseason freight train rolling. 

A Cubs triumph in Game 1 relies on performances from students of the old school and the new school.

One key to victory Saturday evening lies with the Cubs’ Game 1 starter, grizzled veteran and Cy Young candidate Jon Lester. He’s only 32, but Lester has pitched in seven postseasons, including 2016, with the Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics and Cubs. Lester attained a bulk of his playoff experience in 2013 with Boston, as it rumbled to a World Series title. That postseason, Lester surrendered just six earned runs in 34.2 innings. 

Three years later, Chicago manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs could hardly ask for a steadier Game 1 starter, and this is a team that also features 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks, who dealt to a dazzling 2.13 ERA in the regular season. As for Lester, he won 19 games in 2016 and surrendered only 2.44 runs per nine innings, which is the lowest ERA of his career. 

Lester also proved he has the mental fortitude to handle the pressures of being a Game 1 starter for a team pegged as the World Series favorites. He was magnificent in Chicago’s Game 1 victory at home in the division series. Facing the Giants, Lester tossed eight scoreless innings and gave up just five hits while walking none.

The Cubs needed every zero Lester was able to throw up on the scoreboard, as their offense didn’t break through until the 8th inning. In the eighth, Javier Baez blasted a solo home run to give Chicago the lead. Facing Los Angeles, Lester has the tough assignment of dealing with the likes of Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez, all of whom homered against the Nationals. 

Now Chicago has made it to yet another NLCS, the expectations continue to rise and the ghosts of losing seasons past begin to creep into everyone’s minds. And since it’s only Game 1, we won’t mention the events of October 2003. 

Instead, it’s important to note the Cubs’ lack of offense in Game 1 of this year’s NLDS. Chicago’s lineup is stacked—it produced the third-most runs in Major League Baseball during the regular season. But based on what we saw in the Cubs’ first game against San Francisco, the impetus to get the offense going against the Dodgers on Saturday should fall squarely on Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. 

To give their team the best chance of grabbing an immediate advantage in the series, Rizzo and Bryant need to drive in at least two runs between them in Game 1. They can’t bank on someone such as Baez, Jason Heyward or even Ben Zobrist to pick up the slack again. 

These corner infielders and NL MVP candidates were the biggest threats to opposing pitching during the 2016 campaign, and that continues to be the case into the postseason, even though Rizzo struggled mightily in the division series. He went just 1-for-15 against Giants pitching, but the guy smacked 32 homers and drove in 109 runs in the regular season. He needs to return to form early on in the series if the Cubs are going to make the Fall Classic. 

As for Bryant, he doesn’t have much adjusting to do since he hit .375 off of Giants pitching in the first round of the playoffs with three extra-base hits.

The Cubs hitters will take their hacks in Game 1 off Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda, who will take over the role the Dodgers would have liked to give to their ace, Clayton Kershaw, had he not had to record the final two outs against Washington. 

Pitching will be one of the most significant areas for the Dodgers in this series, but in Game 1, each pitcher who comes to the mound will have to do his job. Manager Dave Roberts used six pitchers to record 27 outs in Game 5 of the division series, but it was the one he had to use that ups the ante for Game 1.

In addition to starter Rich Hill, who lasted 2.2 innings despite giving up only one run, Roberts called on starters Julio Urias, the 20-year-old, to throw two innings and Kershaw to close it out. It would be no easy task to pick out a hurler on the Dodgers roster who’s well rested at this point in the postseason, so requiring any starters or relievers to pick up another’s slack could hamper Los Angeles’ chances of winning at Wrigley on Saturday night. 

So although the pitching duties need to be shared among L.A.’s staff, it all starts with Maeda. He registered solid numbers during the regular season—16 wins, 11 losses and a 3.48 ERAbut the 28-year-old struggled in his only postseason appearance.

In Game 3 of the NLDS, the Dodgers returned home to L.A. with the series tied at one, but Maeda lasted only three innings, giving up four runs on five hits. After his exit, Los Angeles went on to use seven more pitchers in the 8-3 loss. Although Roberts’ crew was able to climb back from that 2-1 series deficit, a short outing from their starter would put the Dodgers in an unfortunate position in Game 1, as well as for the rest of the championship series.

The second key for Los Angeles to take Game 1 has almost as much to do with its team as with the Cubs. Chicago has a stellar defensive squad thanks to the crew of fielding wizards assembled by team president Theo Epstein. However, the one area where the Cubs often struggle is preventing runners from creating anarchy on the basepaths since their pitchers have trouble holding runners on.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, stealing bases was not something they excelled at doing—the club stole the fourth-fewest bases (45) of any team over the course of the regular season. In the postseason, though, throw out the stats (well, not completely). Still, Roberts knows the power a well-timed stolen base can have on a playoff game from his time with Boston. 

Since the Cubs make few errors and will not just give Los Angeles any extra bases, the Dodgers need to manufacture runs, especially against Chicago’s stellar pitching. Seager hit two home runs in the division series, but no other Dodger hit more than one.

As the playoffs move along, timely run-scoring hits tend to power offenses late in games even more than long balls do. If the Dodgers can come through in situations with runners in scoring position, they will seriously improve their chances of taking down Chicago.

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