Breaking Down the National League Championship Series
On to the the National League, where the defending Champion Chicago Cubs will face the Los Angeles Dodgers in a rematch of last year’s NLCS.
History: After the longest Championship drought in professional sports (108 years), the Cubs clawed their way back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Indians in the 2016 World Series. The Curse of the Billy Goat was lifted and the former “Lovable Losers” are now entering their third consecutive NLCS, as one of the elite franchises in MLB.
Reasons to root for the Cubs: Even though they are the reigning World Series Champions, they still seem to have somewhat of an underdog appeal; given the Dodgers held the best record in baseball this season (104-58). And when your 103 year stadium is known as the “Friendly Confines,” it’s hard to draw too many negative feelings toward the franchise. And who doesn’t love that “Go Cubs Go” anthem? But does this Cubs team really have it? Most of the 2016 team is still in tact, but they began the season with a slow start, eventually outpacing out the Brewers in the NL Central. Anchored by Rizzo and Bryant, and the starting rotation of Arrieta, Lester, Hendricks and Lackey, this Cubs team certainly has the proven postseason experience to go the distance. Cubs fans are still celebrating last year’s victory, but would undoubtedly like nothing more than to build a dynasty.
Los Angeles Dodgers
History: Although historically one of the most successful franchises in MLB, with six World Series wins and 21 NL Pennants, the Dodgers have not won (or appeared in) a World Series since 1988. Despite five consecutive NL West titles, they have failed to capitalize in the postseason.
Reasons to root for the Dodgers: At one point this season, it looked like the Dodgers were on their way to breaking the regular season wins record, but slumped in early September. Concerns over the team may have gone away in their swift, three game sweep of the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers have been a fun team to watch for several years, with guys like Justin Turner and the young Corey Seager. They had the NL’s answer to Aaron Judge, with rookie slugger Cory Bellinger. But, you can’t discuss the Dodgers without first thinking of Clayton Kershaw, who simply the best Pitcher of the past decade. It is easy to get excited about the possibility of a Kershaw vs Verlander World Series matchup. On the flip side, the historic nature of a Dodgers vs Yankees World Series is also intriguing; these franchises have met 11 times in the World Series, last in 1981. Finally, Curtis Granderson was also picked in a trade with the Mets in mid-August and along with Chase Utley brings more veteran presence to the clubhouse. Granderson reached the World Series with Detroit (2006) and the Mets (2015), but fell short both times. He remains a favorite among both Tigers and Mets fans.
Game 1 Jose Quintana or John Lackey vs Clayton Kershaw
Game 2 Cubs Undecided vs Rich Hill
Game 3 Cubs Undecided vs Yu Darvish
Game 4 Cubs Undecided vs Alex Wood
Who’s going to win? This is a fairly even match-up on many levels. Cubs acquiring Jose Quintana and Dodgers adding Yu Darvish on the trade market, bolstered both of their pitching staffs. Both teams have plenty of pop in the lineup, with the potential to produce runs – as demonstrated in their respective Division Series. The biggest setback for the Cubs has been their bullpen. Their attempt to add help on the trade market (Justin Wilson from the Tigers) did not yield favorable results. If the Dodgers emerge victorious in the series, it could very well be the result of late inning run production and the Cubs inability to prevent it.
The Cubs have a World Series Championship to defend. The Dodgers are trying to finally break through to land their first Pennant in 29 years. Let’s play seven!
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