Cubs, Dodgers square off in rematch of last year’s NLCS
LOS ANGELES - When the Chicago Cubs began their NL Division Series clincher in Washington on Thursday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers watched it on their stadium video boards during an upbeat team workout in Chavez Ravine.
By the time Wade Davis got the final out in Chicago’s 277-minute victory, the Dodgers were long gone home. They all could have been fast asleep by the time the Cubs’ plane left Washington on its 10-hour delayed trip across the country, only arriving midmorning Friday.
Whether the rested, hungry Dodgers can use these advantages in any meaningful way against the World Series champions will be decided when they get together this weekend to play for the NL pennant again.
“The Cubs are the defending world champs, so there’s a lot to be said for having been there and done that,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s virtually the same group.”
A familiar challenge
The Cubs and Dodgers are back for a rematch of last season’s NL Championship Series when Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw takes the mound for Game 1 on Saturday night, but these well-loved powerhouses’ circumstances are somewhat reversed.
After the Cubs finished far ahead of the Dodgers in the regular-season standings last year to earn home-field advantage, Los Angeles won 18 more games than the Cubs this year. Chicago had to sweat through a marathon series against the Nationals to reach the NLCS - the same route taken by the Dodgers in 2016.
And after four consecutive failures to win the pennant with high-priced NL West championship teams, the Dodgers have the confidence of a 104-win campaign heading into a chance to get back at the Cubs, who eliminated them in six games last October.
As the whole world knows, Chicago ended its 108-year championship drought last fall. The Cubs are in their third straight NLCS, their reputation as lovable losers thoroughly buried.
The Dodgers’ World Series drought is a paltry 28 years, but it looms large in L.A.
“It does help when you’re the winningest team for that current year, and we’ve showed how good we can be when we play our type of baseball,” Roberts said. “We’re a confident group, and understand that we still have a lot of work to do.”
Respect for their foes
Los Angeles rolled into the NLCS with a sweep of Arizona , while the Cubs were stretched to the limit by the Nationals. Chicago manager Joe Maddon used seven pitchers in Game 5 of the NLDS, but the Cubs likely have the pitching depth to get through the weekend.
“It’s very interesting once again,” Maddon said of the rematch. ”(The Dodgers) are different, because they really overcame the inability to (hit) against lefties. They are better. They made some nice moves. ... They always have a good bullpen.
“They have Mr. Kershaw, obviously, and now they have (Yu) Darvish. Listen, we just went through Strasburg and Scherzer. I mean, that’s no day at the beach, either. When you get to this time of the year, you really have to be prepared to beat good pitching.”