Tag: National League

NLCS Game 6 Betting Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Chicago Cubs Odds, Trends

The odds may still be with the Chicago Cubs to advance to their first World Series since 1945, but they are listed as small home underdogs Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers for Game 6 of the NLCS at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

That’s what happens when facing a three-time Cy Young Award winner who has turned things around in the postseason and blanked the Cubs for seven innings in a Game 2 victory.

Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw (2-0, 3.72 ERA in the playoffs) allowed only two hits at Chicago in his most recent start there last Sunday, walking one and striking out six. The Dodgers have won every game in which he has appeared, including a relief appearance resulting in a save in the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS versus the Washington Nationals.

Kershaw (game log) did not face the Cubs during the regular season but was 5-3 with a 2.18 ERA in eight previous starts, as they hit just .218 against him and struck out 68 times in 53.2 innings.

Meanwhile, Chicago will send MLB ERA leader Kyle Hendricks (0-1, 3.00 ERA in the playoffs) to the mound for the second time in the series, as he also opposed Kershaw in Game 2. Hendricks allowed only an Adrian Gonzalez solo homer in that 1-0 loss along with two other hits over 5.1 innings with four walks and five strikeouts.

Hendricks (game log) was nearly perfect at Wrigley Field during the regular season, going 9-2 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 appearances.

The key for the Cubs will obviously be hitting and generating runs, as they have failed to score in their two losses and outscored Los Angeles 26-10 in their three wins. For the Dodgers, they will need to hold Chicago’s bats in check and leave the pressure on their opponent, who has not won a World Series since 1908.

The Cubs won four of the seven regular-season meetings, according to the Odds Shark MLB Database, and dropped four of seven the year before. They are hoping it does not come down to a deciding Game 7 on Sunday like it did when they were last in this position back in 2003 and lost.

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MLB Playoffs 2016: Updated LCS Bracket, TV Schedule and Live-Stream Guide

After erupting offensively in the last two games, the Chicago Cubs took a 3-2 series lead Thursday night over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2016 National League Championship Series with the thrilling matchup set to return to Wrigley Field this weekend.

The Cleveland Indians are awaiting in the World Series, as they will host the opening two games with a fearsome bullpen that appears ready to lift this team to a championship. Yet, the Cubs and Dodgers must focus on pulling out their current series before worrying about Andrew Miller and company in the next round.

Let us take a look at the remaining NLCS television and live-stream schedule, as well as a breakdown of what lies ahead in Game 6.

A full MLB playoff bracket can be found at MLB.com. 


Game 6 Preview

Despite dropping two straight games earlier in this series without scoring a run, Chicago seems to have broken out of its offensive slump with 18 runs in the last two games.

The emergence of Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell is a big reason why. After coming into Game 4 with one hit in 26 at-bats, Rizzo is 5-for-10 with four RBI in his last two games. Russell entered Game 4 with one hit in 24 at-bats before exploding for 5-for-10 with four RBI as well in his previous two outings.

With a critical Game 5 on the line, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decided to tab rookie Kenta Maeda, which did not turn out great as the starter went only 3.2 innings and allowed a run. This was Maeda‘s second loss of the series. However, Los Angeles has plenty of reason to be confident for a possible Game 7 with the proposition of Clayton Kershaw taking the mound on Saturday.

He will be coming off full rest from his last start in Game 2, where he went 7.2 innings with two hits and no runs allowed at Wrigley Field. This seems to be OK with the 28-year-old star, per the Los Angeles Times‘ Andy McCullough:

Before Game 5, Chicago manager Joe Maddon seemed to recognize the immense challenge his lineup faces, per Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News:

When [Kershaw]’s pitching well, he’s just that good. There is that certain set of pitchers that are that guy, and the confidence he brings to their group. There is no question about that. But at this time of the year, if you wanted to get to your ultimate goal, you have to beat people like that. You have to.

There’s always been that group of pitchers through history that pitched a lot in the postseason because they’re very good. And he’s one of them.

The lefty possesses a commanding fastball and a slew of other pitches that keep batters off balance. Yet, the Cubs were one of the better clubs in baseball against left-handed pitching, ranking seventh with a .267 team average. However, that mark has dropped dramatically in the postseason, where Chicago is hitting .170 as a team.

Kyle Hendricks is set to take the hill for the home team after a regular season in which he led the majors with a 2.13 ERA. He has been solid this postseason with three runs allowed in 9.0 innings, but Hendricks lost his Game 2 start to Kershaw.

Yet, the 26-year-old has been historically good against this Dodgers roster, as all current players are hitting a combined .195 against Hendricks for their careers. Although there is not a huge sample size, Hendricks has been stout against Los Angeles’ top bats:

This game looks to be a low-scoring affair similar to the 1-0 Dodgers win in Game 2. The Cubs have a slight advantage in this one simply because they are at home, where they sported MLB’s top home record this season with a stout 57-24 mark. Still, Kershaw was unfazed by this in Game 2, handing Chicago its first home loss of the playoffs.

Los Angeles’ suddenly dormant lineup could be the difference. The Dodgers have combined for a pedestrian six runs and 13 hits in the last two games, and the team is batting .224 in the postseason. Given that the club struggled on the road this season with a 38-43 record, it is tough to believe it can pull out a win on Saturday despite Kershaw‘s brilliance.


Statistics are courtesy of MLB.com.

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NLCS Schedule 2016: Game Time, Live Stream and Updated Odds

After suffering through back-to-back shutouts in Games 2 and 3 of the National League Championship Series, the Chicago Cubs‘ slumbering offense awoke for a 10-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 to tie the series at two games apiece.

Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo, who had both been slumping badly throughout the postseason, both homered to trigger the Chicago attack. Both men had three hits in the game, with Russell scoring two runs and driving in two while Rizzo scored two and drove in three runs.

While the Cubs got back to work at the plate, the Dodgers were held to six hits and committed four errors. 

The Cubs, whose 103-58 record was the best in baseball during the regular season, have seemingly recaptured the momentum that had disappeared in their consecutive losses.

They will attempt to regain the lead in the series Thursday night in Game 5 at 8:08 p.m. ET at Dodger Stadium, sending left-handed ace Jon Lester to the mound to face Kenta Maeda of the Dodgers. The game will be televised on FS1, and the live stream is available on Fox Sports Go.

Some thought the Dodgers would send Clayton Kershaw to the mound in Game 5 on short rest, but Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts opted to go with Maeda.

The Washington Nationals tagged Maeda with a loss in the National League Division Series, and he allowed three runs on four hits in Game 1 against the Cubs.

Roberts explained his decision to go with Maeda to the media prior to Game 4.

“Well, I think that [Thursday] isn’t a deciding game,” Roberts said, per CBSSports.com. “It’s not an elimination game. And I think the accumulation of [Kershaw’s] usage over the last 10 days plays a factor in our decision.”

Lester has been in good form this postseason, as he is 1-0 with a 0.64 earned run average. In Game 1 of the NLCS, he gave up one run and four hits in six innings. Manager Joe Maddon replaced him after that, even though it looked like he could have gone further after throwing just 77 pitches.

Lester is coming off a strong regular season that included a 19-5 record, a 2.44 ERA and a 1.016 WHIP. He also struck out 197 batters and walked 52 in 202.2 innings.

Lester has also had success throughout his career in the postseason. The 6’4″, 240-pound Tacoma, Washington, native has a 2.57 ERA and 1.027 WHIP in 18 career appearances.

Lester’s status as one of the best money pitchers in baseball helps the Cubs in the eyes of the oddsmakers. Chicago is a -151 (bet $151 to win $100) favorite to take the 3-2 lead in the series, according to Odds Shark. The Dodgers are +141 (bet $100 to win $141) underdogs in the game.

Kershaw is scheduled to pitch Game 6 of the series on Saturday night against Kyle Hendricks. If the series goes the full seven games, Rich Hill of the Dodgers and Chicago’s Jake Arrieta are likely to be slated for a rematch.

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Dodgers vs. Cubs NLCS Game 1: Live Score and Highlights

Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs is underway at Wrigley Field.

Keep it here for all the latest updates, reaction, analysis, pictures, tweets and anything else we can think of as the action unfolds.

Hit us up in the comments section below and on Twitter @RickWeinerBR to partake in the festivities! 

Final Score

Cubs 8, Dodgers 4

WP: Chapman

LP: Blanton

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Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: Keys for Each Team to Win NLCS Game 1

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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NLCS Schedule 2016: Schedule, Ticket Info, Odds and Predictions

The Chicago Cubs have been waiting for nearly a full year to get back to the National League Championship Series.

Last year, that exercise did not go well for Joe Maddon’s team, as they were swept in four games by the Mets and denied the opportunity to go to their first World Series since 1945.

Of course, it has been much longer than that since Chicago’s National League representative won the World Series. The 108-year wait for the Cubs has been tortured for many generations of fans, and they have good reason to believe that this is the year they can get to the World Series with an excellent chance of winning it.

By beating the San Francisco Giants in four games in the National League Division Series, the Cubs preserved their starting pitching rotation. They will be able to start left-handed ace Jon Lester in the opener and follow with Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks if Maddon chooses to go in that direction.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will fly into Chicago on a tremendous high themselves. They edged the Washington Nationals 4-3 in Game 5 of their NLDS, and that allowed them to advance to the National League Championship Series.

The Dodgers got gutsy relief performances from Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw, and that allowed Los Angeles to survive and advance.

The Cubs are favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. According to Odds Shark, the Cubs range from prohibitive minus-310 to to minus-160 favorites to win the NLCS. The Dodgers range from plus-450 to plus-530 underdogs to win the National League pennant.

Chicago was a dominating team during the regular season, winning the National League Central Division by 17 ½ games over the St. Louis Cardinals, and they were a remarkable 57-24 at Wrigley Field. That’s another problem for the Nationals, because the seventh game would be played in Chicago if the series goes that long.

The confidence in the Cubs’ well-appointed locker room is peaking. “This is exactly where I envisioned our team being when I was deciding who to sign with,’’ Cubs infielder-outfielder Ben Zobrist told Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “My ultimate goal here is to win a championship. And that’s what everybody’s is. We’re close to that.’’



The Cubs were the best team in baseball during the regular season by winning 103 games, and then they faced a tough test in the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants.

After losing Game 3 that allowed the Giants to get back in the series, the Cubs trailed in Game 4 until the ninth inning. That’s when they rallied for four runs to take the lead. They secured the victory in the game and the series when Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.

That showed the mettle the team has, and as Zobrist pointed out, the team is confident and ready to play. The Dodgers are a fine team that might have a good chance of advancing most years. However, this Cubs team is one for the ages.

Chicago wins the series in five games.



For tickets information, go to ScoreBig.com.

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Cubs vs. Giants: Game 4 Score and Twitter Reaction from 2016 MLB Playoffs

The ninth inning of Tuesday’s Game 4 of a National League Division Series will long be remembered as a nightmare for the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants were in full control at AT&T Park with a 5-2 lead after a brilliant outing by starter Matt Moore, but the Chicago Cubs exploded for four runs against five different relief pitchers to earn a 6-5 win and clinch the series.

The sequence: Derek Law allowed a leadoff single to Kris Bryant, Javier Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo, Sergio Romo gave up an RBI double to Ben Zobrist, Will Smith allowed a two-run single to Willson Contreras and got Jason Heyward to bunt into a forceout, and Hunter Strickland gave up the game-winning single to Javier Baez.

Rachel Nichols of ESPN reacted to the rally after the Giants had won a 13-inning thriller in Game 3 on Monday:

Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to give the Cubs a spot in the National League Championship Series.

Perhaps the most incredible takeaway was the fact the Giants lost an elimination game in an even year, as ESPN Stats & Info highlighted:

San Francisco won the 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series, but Stats LLC (h/t Fox Sports) noted Chicago starter John Lackey was the last active pitcher to beat the Giants in an elimination contest (Game 7 of the 2002 World Series, when Lackey was with the then-Anaheim Angels).

Lackey didn’t eliminate San Francisco on Tuesday, as he struggled through just four innings of work, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out four.

His counterpart, Moore, was nearly unhittable through eight innings. The southpaw gave up one earned run on two hits and two walks and struck out 10. He appeared primed to add his own chapter to the Giants’ postseason legacy until the fateful ninth.

Conor Gillaspie—who tallied a go-ahead two-run triple in the eighth inning Monday and the decisive three-run home run in a victory over the New York Mets in the Wild Card Game on Oct. 5—nearly played the role of offensive hero again with four hits, a run and an RBI. He even drew “MVP” chants from the crowd. Moore, Denard Span, Buster Posey and Joe Panik also drove in a run apiece for the Giants.

San Francisco wasted little time jumping on Lackey, as Span doubled to lead off the bottom of the first, advanced to third on Brandon Belt’s fly out and scored on Posey’s sacrifice fly.

Anthony Masterson of Stats LLC pointed out the Giants’ lead was nothing new:

Chicago bounced back in the third when David Ross drilled a home run to left field. At 39, he became the oldest catcher and Cubs player to homer in the postseason, per Andrew Simon of MLB.com.

Lackey kept San Francisco off the board in the bottom half, but it was Baez who turned heads. The second baseman made an incredible diving stop and nearly threw out the speedy Span on a play that was reviewed. He then slapped a lightning-quick tag on the leadoff hitter to help catch him trying to steal second.

Baseball journalist Andrew Baggarly called the first play the best he’s ever seen by a second baseman, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today praised the 23-year-old:

Baez couldn’t do anything to stop the Giants in the fourth. Gillaspie and Panik singled with one out, and Moore came up with the bases loaded after Gregor Blanco walked. Moore smacked an RBI single on an 0-2 pitch, and Span made it 3-1 on a fielder’s choice.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post underscored how unlikely the pitcher’s RBI was:

The Cubs got one back in the next inning when Baez advanced all the way to third on a throwing error by shortstop Brandon Crawford and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ross.

San Francisco appeared to break things open with one out in the bottom of the fifth. Hunter Pence singled, and Crawford blasted the ball off the top of the wall in right field. Pence didn’t score because he went back to re-touch second base, and Crawford ended up with a double.

SF Giants on CSN highlighted just how close it was to a home run:

Travis Wood came on in relief, but Gillaspie plated Pence with a single, and Panik scored Crawford with a sacrifice fly for a 5-2 advantage.

Chicago threatened in the sixth when Dexter Fowler drew a leadoff walk and Bryant dumped one into right field, but Pence charged the in-between ball and forced Fowler out at second. That was the last time the Cubs bothered Moore, who retired the Cubs 1-2-3 in the seventh.

The Giants reacted to his performance:

Moore struck out Ross and Fowler in the eighth to cap his night in style.

But as great as Moore was Tuesday, his showing will forever be a footnote thanks to Chicago’s offensive onslaught in the ninth. San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy didn’t give the ball to Romo to start the ninth after the closer recorded a blown save Monday, and Law, Lopez, Romo, Smith and Strickland couldn’t get the job done.

Adam Amin of ESPN noted the meltdown was nothing new:

The Giants will have all winter to think about their bullpen shortcomings after Tuesday’s collapse.


What’s Next?

The Cubs advanced to the NLCS, which starts Saturday at Wrigley Field. They will face the winner of Thursday’s decisive Game 5 between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Chicago can reset its rotation of Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and Lackey, while its next opponent still has to register one more win and will likely be without its best starter until at least Game 2. The Cubs were 5-2 against the Nationals and 4-3 against the Dodgers this season.

Chicago reached the NLCS last year only to be swept by the Mets. One key difference this time around will be home-field advantage, as the Cubs will look to get off to a quick start in front of the Chicago faithful.


Postgame Reaction

Gillaspie summarized things from the Giants’ perspective, per Baggarly: “It’s hard. We pour our whole lives into this. To see it end like this, to be honest, I’m still shocked.”

Bochy said he didn’t want to put Moore back on the mound for the ninth, per Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area: “That’s a lot of work [120 pitches]. He did his job. We were lined up.”

Bryant noted the Cubs’ confidence level in the final inning, per Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times: “High. It’s always high. We’ve got a lot of guys on our team who have had unbelievable years.”

Baez talked about why he celebrated so much after his big hit, per Greenberg: “Their pitcher was staring at me for no reason.”

Rizzo said the Cubs have a larger prize in mind, per Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago: “You can’t take for granted what we’ve done last year and this year. But we got one mission, one goal in mind. That’s eight more wins.”

If they get those eight wins, Chicago will likely party until Opening Day next year.

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Nationals vs. Dodgers: Game 4 Score and Twitter Reaction from 2016 MLB Playoffs

The Los Angeles Dodgers faced elimination Tuesday afternoon at home, but they forced a decisive Game 5 against the Washington Nationals with a 6-5 win thanks to a game-winning RBI single from Chase Utley in the eighth inning.  

Joe Blanton notched the win after he pitched 1.1 no-hit innings on the heels of a tumultuous seventh-inning sequence. Starter Clayton Kershaw (11 strikeouts, two walks, seven hits in 6.2 IP) was superb on short rest even though he struggled with his command early. 

Trea Turner and Bryce Harper led off the top of the first by reaching base, and Daniel Murphy rolled a single into right field with one out to score Turner to put the Dodgers in a rare early hole with Kershaw starting, according to Inside Edge on Twitter: 

By the time the top half of the opening frame came to a close, Kershaw had tossed 27 pitches. As ESPN.com’s Eddie Matz explained, those inefficiencies didn’t bode well for the Dodgers: 

With L.A. in need of a spark following Kershaw’s sluggish start, Adrian Gonzalez delivered. 

After Justin Turner was hit by a pitch, Gonzalez stepped up and crushed a two-run home run to right field when starter Joe Ross let a fastball cut back over the plate up in the zone: 

The Nationals proceeded to tie things in the third on a Murphy sac fly that scored Turner, but things didn’t remain deadlocked for long. 

Ross gave up two hits, two runs and two walks in the third inning, and manager Dusty Baker pulled the 23-year-old after he drilled Joc Pederson with the bases load to give the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. 

All told, Ross managed three strikeouts and two walks while allowing three hits and four earned runs in 2.2 innings. 

Conversely, Kershaw was able to settle down. 

The three-time Cy Young Award winner retired the side in order in the fourth and fifth innings, and in doing so he was able to stabilize his pitch count, according to the Southern California News Group’s J.P. Hoornstra: 

And as the ace found his groove, the Dodgers offense continued to churn out runs. 

Pederson smacked a double to left field that scored Josh Reddick from first, and the RBI that gave Los Angeles a 5-2 lead represented a breakthrough for the Dodgers, according to MASN’s Mark Zuckerman: 

While the Nationals searched for answers, Kershaw looked sharp. 

The southpaw—who entered Tuesday with a 1.89 ERA in three starts on short rest, per MLB.com—notched 10 strikeouts by the time the sixth inning was over, which marked the fourth time in Kershaw’s postseason career that he tallied double-digit K’s, according to Jon Weisman of the team’s official blog and magazine. 

Those numbers were stellar considering Kershaw was on the mound just four days earlier, but things unraveled some in the seventh inning. 

Kershaw was pulled with two outs in the seventh after he loaded the bases, and the bullpen couldn’t work out of the jam. Pedro Baez plunked Werth to make it a 5-3 game, and Murphy tied things up with a two-run single off Luis Avilan.

Yahoo Sports’ Big League Stew noted Murphy has been a virtuoso at the plate in big spots: 

The Dodgers could have folded at that point, but they stood tall and delivered in the eighth inning.

After Andrew Toles was hit by a pitch and Andre Either notched a pinch-hit single, Utley stepped to the plate and drove in the go-ahead run to propel the Dodgers to within a game of the NLCS.

The Dodgers will now travel back to the nation’s capital with momentum in hand after they staved off elimination in pursuit of their first National League Championship Series appearance since 2013. 

The Nationals, meanwhile, will need to put Tuesday’s loss in the rearview mirror as they seek the franchise’s first NLCS appearance since moving to Washington. 

And if Murphy, Werth and Turner can continue to buoy the offense and force a shaky Dodgers bullpen into action early, the NL East champions could be in position to exorcise their postseason demons and send the Dodgers packing. 


Postgame Reaction

Once the Dodgers put the finishing touches on their Game 4 win, the team’s official Twitter account relayed video of their celebration: 

“Man, that was a hard-fought game on both sides,” Baker said, according to Weisman.

Looking ahead, Baker told reporters he’s glad his team won’t have to face Kershaw again this season, according to True Blue LA’s Eric Stephen: 

However, the Nationals will have to face Rich Hill, according to the Los Angeles Times‘ Andy McCullough: 

The Nationals, on the other hand, will counter with Max Scherzer, according to the Washington Post‘s Jorge Castillo

“Biggest start of my career,” Scherzer said, according to MASN’s Dan Kolko. “Biggest start of my life.” 

“It’s gonna be a heck of an experience,” he added, per Kolko. “It comes down to one game. Winner-take-all.”

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MLB Playoffs 2016: Odds, TV Schedule, Predictions for Tuesday’s NLDS

The Los Angeles Dodgers will be fighting for their lives when they take the field at Dodger Stadium Tuesday afternoon.

After winning Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals, they have dropped the last two and must come up with wins in Games 4 and 5 if they are going to advance to the National League Championship Series.

The Nats rode the power bats of Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth to record an 8-3 victory in Game 3 in Los Angeles Monday. Rendon hit a two-run home run in the third inning off Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda, while Werth crushed a 450-foot homer off Los Angeles closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning.

The Dodgers will either go with Clayton Kershaw or Julio Urias on the mound in this potential elimination game, but the team had not made an official announcement as of Tuesday morning.

Kershaw pitched five innings Friday and was credited with the win in the series opener, but he did not control or dominate the Washington hitters.

Urias is well-rested and quite talented, but he would be getting the start in an elimination game, and it seems likely that manager Dave Roberts will want to go with his best pitcher in such an important game instead of a 20-year-old, relatively untested pitcher.

However, Kershaw spent more than two months on the disabled list this year with a lower-back injury, so the Dodgers may not want to push him on short rest.

“With an elimination game, we still have to win two games,” Roberts said after the loss, per Doug Padilla of ESPN.com. “So the thought of having Julio pitch at home, versus the road is something we’re thinking through, and what gives us the best chance to win two games. And obviously, yeah, you have to win [Tuesday] to win on Thursday.”

The Nationals have not announced their starter, either. It is possible that they could go with Joe Ross (7-5, 3.43 ERA) and save Max Scherzer (20-7, 2.96 ERA) for Game 5—if that scenario is required.

Tuesday’s game will be played at 5:05 p.m. ET and will be televised by Fox Sports 1.

Both the Nationals and Dodgers are still considered underdogs to win the World Series, according to Odds Shark. The Dodgers are +1200 (bet $100 to win $1,200) to be crowned world champions, while the Nationals are +700.



There are many variables since neither side has announced its starting pitcher. However, the Dodgers need to win to stay alive, and they will be the more desperate team.

It would take a lot for Roberts not to go with his ace, and the feeling is that Kershaw will get the ball. Kershaw has struggled throughout his postseason career and is not at his best right now, so it may not be the proper time to expect a remarkable effort from him.

That may be the key. While some may see Kershaw as vulnerable, this will be the time that he comes through with a postseason gem. The Dodgers win Game 4 and square the series.


Chicago at San Francisco, Chicago leads series 2-1

It took 13 innings for the San Francisco Giants to get their first victory of the series against the Chicago Cubs, and by winning the third game, manager Bruce Bochy’s team is back in the NLDS.

The Giants rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take a 5-3 lead into the ninth as a result of a two-run triple by Conor Gillaspie and an RBI single by Brandon Crawford off flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman.

With the Giants poised to win, NL MVP candidate Kris Bryant hit a game-tying, two-run homer in the top of the ninth to tie the score at 5-5.

The two teams remained locked up until the bottom of the 13th, when Joe Panik doubled home Crawford with the winning run. The Cubs lead the best-of-five series by a 2-1 margin.

“Just because we’re down, we’re not out,” Panik said after the game, per Janie McCauley of the Associated Press (h/t CBSSports.com). “If we’re breathing, we’re still fighting.”

The Cubs will send John Lackey to the mound Tuesday night at 8:40 p.m. ET against Matt Moore. The game will be televised by Fox Sports 1.

The Cubs remain favored to win the World Series with odds of +210. Chicago is looking for its first World Series title since 1908. The Giants are +1600 underdogs to win the World Series, and they have won three championships since 2010.



The Giants succeeded in putting the heat on the Cubs by winning a game in this series in front of their rabid fans.

However, the Cubs won 103 games in the regular season because they were the best team in baseball, and they will have a strong pitcher on the mound in Lackey.

He was 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA this season along with a 1.057 WHIP. Additionally, Lackey has been a part of two World Series-winning teams (2002 Anaheim Angels and 2013 Boston Red Sox), and he should be able to pitch effectively in a closeout game on the road.

Moore was 6-5 this season with a 4.08 ERA and 1.332 WHIP in 12 starts for the Giants. It may be much harder for him to limit Chicago’s offense.

Look for the Cubs to pull away in this game and earn the series victory.

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NLDS 2016: Keys for All 4 NL Teams to Win Game 2s

In a best-of-five series, teams that lose the first game find themselves on high alert.

There is little margin for error, and especially in the case of the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants, there is plenty of work to do.


Los Angeles at Washington, Game 2 (Los Angeles leads series 1-0)

Homestanding Washington dropped Game 1 of its National League Division Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. While the contest was expected to be a razor-sharp pitcher’s duel between Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Max Scherzer of the Nationals, neither starter was on top of his game.

The Dodgers took a 4-0 lead in the third inning, but the Nats had closed to within 4-3 by the bottom of the fourth. That’s how the game ended, as the bullpens did not yield any runs.

The Los Angeles bullpen was one of the team’s greatest strengths all year. Dodgers relievers led the majors with a 3.35 ERA (Washington was second with a 3.37 ERA), and manager Dave Roberts used his relief pitchers in an MLB-high 590.2 innings.

Kenley Jansen is one of the best closers in the game, and he was called on with five outs to go in Game 1. While that was a departure from his usual three-out save, Jansen got the job done, allowing just one hit and striking out three.

During the regular season, Jansen recorded 47 saves in 53 chances, a 1.83 ERA and a remarkable 0.67 WHIP.

Los Angeles also has Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton and Pedro Baez, all of whom were superb in Game 1.

“Whatever we’ve got to do to win, right? Those guys are up to the challenge,” Dodgers rookie shortstop Corey Seager said, per the Associated Press’ Howard Fendrich. “And they’ve been up to it all year.”

Therein lies the key for the Dodgers: Get the lead by the fifth or sixth inning and turn the game over to the bullpen.

On the other hand, if the Nationals can take an early lead, that will remove quite a bit of the pressure that Dusty Baker’s team will have on its shoulders throughout Game 2.

Washington needs to have its big hitters come through. Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy filled the second, third and fourth spots in the Nationals’ batting order Friday, but none of them drove in a run in Game 1.

That has to change if the Nationals are going to tie the series before the two teams head to Los Angeles.

Key for Los Angeles: Get a lead, and get the ball to the bullpen.

Key for Washington: Get run production from Harper, Werth and Murphy.


San Francisco at Chicago, Game 2 (Chicago leads series 1-0)

While the Nationals fell short on their home field in Game 1, the Chicago Cubs did not.

They won a tight, emotional pitcher’s duel 1-0 thanks to Javier Baez’s home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, which ruined a sensational effort by San Francisco starter Johnny Cueto.

“He’s been pitching me inside. I was just waiting for him to make a mistake, and he left it over the plate,” Baez said, per the Associated Press (via the Los Angeles Times).

Chicago starter Jon Lester earned the win, and fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman picked up the save.

Game 2 figures to feature more hitting—for one team, at least. Former Cub Jeff Samardzija will start for the Giants, while Cy Young Award candidate Kyle Hendricks will take the mound for the North Siders.

Samardzija was 12-11 this season with an unremarkable 3.81 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, and he gave up 8.4 hits and 1.1 home runs per nine innings. It would not be a surprise if Chicago—after facing the dominating stuff of Cueto in Game 1—got its offense going against “Shark.”

Look for Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to take good swings against Samardzija and put at least five runs on the board.

San Francisco, which ranked 28th in the majors with only 130 home runs during the regular season, may have a hard time against the sensational Hendricks. The right-hander had a 16-8 record with an MLB-best 2.13 ERA and 0.98 WHIP and features two different changeups. While his pitches—including an 87.8 mph fastball—often look hittable, opposing batters just can’t figure him out.

Hendricks may not be a hard thrower, but he still struck out 170 hitters in 190 innings this season.

The Giants need to play their best game to get a split at Wrigley Field. The lineup has to figure out Hendricks, and Samardzija and the bullpen must be on point.

Key for San Francisco: Play near-perfect baseball.

Key for Chicago: Hit Samardzija hard.

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