We pushed on the epic Game Five finale to the Nationals and Dodgers NLDS series on the 4-3 total punctuated by Clayton Kershaw’s first ever save (after closer Kenley Jansen came out in the seventh and lasted for seven clutch outs.) So, technically, not a win for me, but I still advance to the second round of the MLB postseason without a single loss in the postseason and a nice 6-0-1 ATS. Can we keep is rolling through this hopefully-classic NLCS?
Let’s start with a look at the series overall. On paper, the Cubs have the edge in every single category. They have better pitching, especially in the depth of their starting rotation. They have a deeper and more accomplished lineup, and defensively, they are one of the best team in the last ten years. But we all know how the postseason can go in MLB, so writing off the Dodgers as having no chance might be a bit premature.
The series price for the Cubs is a steep one at -195, but I think it is a reasonable consideration. It isn’t just that they are the better team, it is how lineup up their rotation is for success. Tonight is a heavy advantage for the Cubs with Jon Lester matching up with Kenta Maeda. Game Two figures to be an edge for the Dodgers with Kershaw on normal rest, but the Cubs are still at home, with Kyle Hendricks leading the league in ERA. IF the Cubs can beat Kershaw, and there is no reason to make them decided dogs in that game, the series is all but academic.
Of course, we are a bit ahead of ourselves, but I am going to go bold and predict Cubs in five.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Los Angeles Dodgers +185 at Chicago Cubs -190 (Total: 7.5)
Kenta Maeda vs. Jon Lester
You can accuse me of being a little cowardice by couching this pick, but I like to give my gut, honest take on every game I cover. I like the Cubs tonight. I do not love the value at -190. That’s REALLY steep for a series opening playoff game against a very good team with a quality starter. If there were ten games on the schedule, I’d say “lean Cubs” and then look for a sneaky pitching edge in a crappy Padres or Brewers game.
But this is what we have, and I think we can still get some value on the game tonight with a conservative play. The play is the Cubs on the runline at slight plus money. Lester was dominating in his last start and is plenty well rested to be extra sharp tonight. He strung up a night full of zeros against the Giants and I think he can do similarly tonight. He only allowed five hit and walked no one in eight stunning innings.
Meanwhile, Maeda has been good but never great over the last few months. He got rocked in the short three innings her threw against the Nats in a loss and was equally brief and ineffective in his season finale against the Giants. Look for the Cubs to strike early and give Lester the cushion he needs. I think Roberts, who has been brilliantly liberal with his bullpen deployment, will need to be a tad more cautious with a long series still looming, so while the hook will be quick if needed, it might not be quite as instantaneous.
Look for the Cubs to score early and the Dodgers to score rarely. I don’t think the Cubs light em up for seven or eight runs, but three or four should be enough to cover the runline tonight.