Following the Los Angeles Dodgers’ come-from-behind win over the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS, the NLCS is officially set with the Chicago Cubs looking to return to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

According to Odds Shark, the Cubs enter the series as 20-39 favorites, while the Dodgers are 7-4 underdogs. Although history hasn’t been kind to Chicago, every indication throughout 2016 has been that the Cubs are the best all-around team in baseball.

As the Cubs look to exorcise more than a century of demons by reaching and winning the World Series, here is a full rundown of the NLCS viewing schedule, as well as a prediction for how the series will play out.


Dodgers Player to Watch: Corey Seager

The Dodgers are far less offensively inclined than the Cubs, but that could change if shortstop Corey Seager gets hot at the plate in the NLCS.

The 2016 regular season marked Seager’s first full campaign in Major League Baseball, and he didn’t disappoint, as he hit .308 with 26 home runs, 72 RBI and 105 runs scored while being named to his first career All-Star team.

Despite enjoying such a great year, Seager was hit-and-miss during the NLDS, as he finished with a .130 batting average to go along with two home runs and three RBI.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the 22-year-old struggled to get anything going at the plate beyond the opening inning:

Seager’s first-inning heroics were key in Los Angeles advancing to the NLCS, but the Dodgers need him to be a threat throughout the entire course of games moving forward.

He possesses power that is rarely seen at the shortstop position, as evidenced by him accomplishing something that hadn’t been done by a shortstop in a division series in nine years, per’s AJ Cassavell:

The Cubs boast a pitching staff that doesn’t let up, so Los Angeles will need contributions throughout its lineup to advance.

Provided Seager plays like the stud he proved himself to be during the regular season, however, it will make life far easier for the rest of the lineup in terms of seeing quality pitches and being put in positions to succeed.


Cubs Player to Watch: Kris Bryant

After establishing himself as an MVP candidate during the regular season by hitting .292 with 39 home runs, 102 RBI and an NL-best 121 runs scored, third baseman Kris Bryant has carried over his hot hitting to the playoffs.

In Chicago’s NLDS triumph over the San Francisco Giants, Bryant hit .375 with one homer and three RBI, and he proved he has a knack for clutch hitting in the process.

Although the Cubs went on to lose in extra innings, Bryant hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning of Game 3 against the Giants to tie the game, which put him in elite company, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

While Bryant is just 24 years of age, he seemingly already has the mindset of a veteran player who has been through all the battles before.

Per Dan Martin of the New York Post, Bryant said the Cubs gained “motivation” in losing to the New York Mets in last year’s NLCS and that he and the Cubs don’t intend to go through a similar situation this time around: “Going through that NLCS, when we had high expectations, was tough. We found out it was like to be swept and what that feels like. And we definitely don’t want to do that again.”

For as great as the Cubs were last season, they are a far more experienced and dominant team in 2016, and the steps taken by Bryant are a big reason for that.

The 2015 NL Rookie of the Year makes the entire lineup better due to his ability to get on base and hit the ball out of the park, and he figures to make life miserable for the L.A. pitching staff in the NLCS.


Series Prediction

The Dodgers enter the NLCS at a significant disadvantage since their roster is nowhere near as deep and talented as Chicago’s—and due to the fact that ace Clayton Kershaw won’t be available in Game 1.

Kershaw started Game 4 of the NLDS and came in for the final two outs of Game 5 to record the save and send L.A. to the next round.

Although Kershaw was far from his best during the NLDS with a 5.84 ERA, the Dodgers are overly dependent on him to win games, as evidenced by this tweet courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:

Neither Rich Hill nor Kenta Maeda pitched well in starting roles for the Dodgers in the NLDS, and rookie Julio Urias could be pressed into more significant action against the Cubs.

Conversely, Chicago’s rotation is stacked from top to bottom with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey all capable of tossing a gem on any given day.

The Cubs also have a deep lineup without any truly easy outs, spearheaded by Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and Javier Baez.

Both Rizzo and Russell struggled mightily in the NLDS, yet Chicago still managed to put plenty of runs on the board.

It is difficult to envision their issues continuing for much longer, and that makes the Cubs an even more difficult team to contend with.

The Dodgers were seemingly forced to empty the tank in order to get past the Nats, and there simply won’t be enough left to pull off the upset over Major League Baseball’s best team.

Prediction: Cubs win in 5


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