By Cary Osborne
Jake Arrieta, who starts for the Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, again was the toughest pitcher to hit in 2016. He has led baseball two years running in lowest opponents’ batting average and fewest hits per nine innings.
But beyond the reigning Cy Young Award winner’s jump from a 1.77 ERA in 2015 to 3.10 in 2016, there are other signs that Arrieta was a different pitcher this season — which could be good news for the Dodgers, the team he no-hit in his last Dodger Stadium appearance (with a similar 5 p.m. start time) on August 30, 2015.
By Mark Langill
Until this week, the Dodgers have never faced a scenario in which a National League Championship Series returned to Southern California tied at one game apiece.
The Dodgers opened on the road in four of their 10 previous NLCS appearances. They won the first two games at Pittsburgh in 1974 and the first two games at Philadelphia in 1978, which was critical in an era when the playoff series was a best-of-five format. In both cases, the Dodgers lost Game 3 in Los Angeles and wrapped up the series in four games.
The LCS format changed to a best-of-seven playoff in 1985. The 2008 Dodgers lost the first two games of the NLCS at Philadelphia and eventually dropped the series in five games, and the 2013 Cardinals beat the Dodgers in the first two games of the NLCS in St. Louis en route to a victory in six games.
By Jon Weisman
Two games into the 2016 National League Championship Series, we have had no shortage of drama — or trivia. For those of you who like to wallow in the historically bizarre and bizarrely historical, here are some off-day tidbits:
By Cary Osborne
In late 2014, I reached out to a couple of heavy-hitting baseball writers to get their thoughts on Kenley Jansen for a Dodger Insider magazine story. The premise of the story was that Kenley Jansen is the best closer in baseball who nobody — outside of Los Angeles — was talking about.
Tom Verducci said this at the time: “To me, he’s not going to get the national attention he deserves for how good he is until he starts closing out games in at least the National League Championship Series and maybe even the World Series. He definitely needs that postseason national stage to get to that next level.”
Coupling what he did Sunday night with a two-inning save in the Dodgers’ 1-0 win in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series — in which he got six outs on 18 pitches — with his Game 5 performance in Washington, Jansen has reached crossover status.
By Jon Weisman
Surrounded by the bricks in Wrigley Field on a Sunday evening, Clayton Kershaw was a wall.
And no one blew him down.
Kershaw, kicking his October naysayers in the teeth with each inning he throws, combined with Kenley Jansen on a razor-thin 1-0 shutout, evening the National League Championship Series at one win for the Los Angeles Dodgers, one for the Chicago Cubs.
“It’s a good feeling,” Kershaw said in an on-field interview with Fox Sports 1 after the game. “I don’t know how to compare games or anything like that, but we needed this win tonight bad.”
This was the first 1-0 postseason victory by the Dodgers since Game 3 of the 1963 World Series (Don Drysdale three-hitter), and the first two-hit shutout in Dodger playoff history.
“Awesome. Watching Kersh, that shows he’s the best in the game,” Jansen said. “His stuff that he had, the way that he pitched against this team. He showed you again, he can just put this team on his back.”
The Dodgers will take home-field advantage in the NLCS back to Dodger Stadium for Games 3, 4 and 5, Tuesday through Thursday.
“Going back home, splitting this series in Chicago, we like where we’re at right now,” Kershaw said.
By Jon Weisman
Clayton Kershaw has thrown 218 pitches since the playoffs began October 7, 117 of them in the five days preceding his start today in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.
That’s a hearty if not quite outrageous amount, buoyed by the fact that Kershaw hasn’t had any physical complications since his return from a herniated disk in September.
“Fortunately for us, the back hasn’t been an issue since he’s come back,” Dave Roberts said, adding that the Dodgers are mainly monitoring his overall usage.
Kershaw has never let on that his arm has been fatigued in any previous postseason, but Roberts suggested that the lefty’s midsummer absence might have given him a little something extra this October.
“I think that the velocity’s played up,” Roberts said, “and he’s holding velocity. His pitch mix is right on point. … There’s a lot of bullets left in that arm this season.”
Before Saturday’s game, Dodger broadcaster Rick Monday, a Chicago Cub before his trade to the Dodgers in 1976, talked about the nuances of playing ball in Wrigley Field.
— Jon Weisman
By Jon Weisman
This game was nothing like it should have been, and everything it shouldn’t have been.
Bloops fell daintily for doubles. Liners zipped into gloves like magnets. Busted squeezes became steals of home.
The Dodgers should have been buried, but weren’t. Then they could have won going away, but didn’t.
Trailing for seven innings, then tying the game in the top of the eighth with Adrián González’s two-run single off human sonic boom Aroldis Chapman, the Dodgers fell to the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, 8-4, after a pinch-hit grand slam by Miguel Montero off Joe Blanton.
Still hoping for a road split, Los Angeles will send Clayton Kershaw to the Wrigley Field mound Sunday for Game 2, following a night of contemplating how nearly they stole their pennant series opener.
“It stings a little bit,” Dave Roberts said. “But just the way that we kept fighting and we kept playing … I felt that our at-bats all night long were quality. I thought we were gonna win it, but we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
By Jon Weisman
Carlos Ruiz and Kiké Hernández will make their first 2016 postseason starts for the Dodgers, on a day the team confirmed that Clayton Kershaw will be the starting pitcher in Sunday’s Game 2 and Rich Hill in Game 3 at Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Ruiz had a two-run homer and RBI single off the bench in the National League Division Series, while Hernández will be making his 2016 postseason debut, taking the Chase Utley/Charlie Culberson spot at second base.
Dave Roberts cited Hernández’s athleticism, versatility and “the potential slug” for bringing him back into active duty.
“It was a tough decision with Charlie, but I think (Kiké) could pay a huge benefit for us,” Roberts said.
Otherwise, the Dodgers have their regular postseason lineup against a left-handed pitcher, with Yasiel Puig and Howie Kendrick subbing for Josh Reddick and Andrew Toles.
Left-handed pitcher Alex Wood and infielder-outfielder Kiké Hernández have been added to the Dodgers’ official roster for the National League Championship Series, replacing Austin Barnes and Charlie Culberson.
Wood gives the Dodgers an extra pitcher for the best-of-seven series, which could include games on three consecutive days Tuesday-Thursday in Los Angeles. In addition, there is a chance of rain this weekend in Chicago, though it looks most likely to come in between Games 1 and 2.
The departure of Barnes removes the luxury of a third catcher for the Dodgers, though in two of the five National League Division Series games, Dave Roberts already showed he was willing to go down to use his last backstop off the bench with multiple innings to go.
Hernández replaces Charlie Culberson, who went 0 for 7 in the NLDS. Hernández has a single, triple and homer in 12 career at-bats against Game 1 starter Jon Lester, with the homer being the only run the Dodgers scored against the Cub left-hander in 15 innings this year, as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. pointed out.
Here’s the lefty-righty breakdown of the Dodger roster: