The panic has subsided in the Windy City, but don’t confuse that with a sense of relief. No sir, when you have waited longer than the majority of your fan base has been ALIVE to reach a World Series, and possess a title curse that has outlived all but the miraculous, you take NOTHING for granted. The Cubs return home tonight possessing a 3-2 lead, but the Dodgers roll in possessing something far more important than momentum; Clayton Kershaw.
Speaking of exorcising curses and demons and goats and other nonsense, perhaps no player has more quickly shed the label of post-season failure than Clayton Kershaw has in the past seven days. And with that cumbersome albatross discarded, he can appropriately be viewed in his fully dangerous context; the most effective left-hander since Sandy Koufax and the most feared since Randy Johnson. He gets another chance to add a positive page to the legacy pitching in perhaps the biggest game of his career tonight in Wrigley Field.
The Cubs are clicking again. The bats tallied 18 runs in the past two games. Anthony Rizzo has awoken in a major way and Addison Russell has found some recent pop as well after a postseason of struggles. And of course, Kyle Hendricks is a pretty formidable option by the way the NL ERA leader ehm…
It’s going to be ELECTRIC tonight with so much on the line and so much talent on the field. Unless you are like birthing a child this evening, there isn’t much excuse to miss this game if you like sports even a little bit. And even if your wife is giving birth, it isn’t like there aren’t TVs in the delivery room…
We are 9-2-1 ATS in the postseason and looking to keep things cooking with tonight’s free pick.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Los Angeles Dodgers -131 at Chicago Cubs +122 (Total: 6.5)
Clayton Kershaw vs. Kyle Hendricks
We all know what Kershaw has done the last week. We also all know what he has done in his postseason career as well as his regular season. That makes for a powerful cocktail of conflicting trends and stats and does severely call into question WHAT sample to rely upon. I always thought the “postseason choking” theme was overblown. He was typically good in the postseason and then destroyed by a disastrous seventh or eigthth inning (usually seventh). He was too good to be THAT much worse in the postseason once the sample size increased.
However, there is enough of a sample size to think tonight is more likely to include some surrendered runs than it is to be another seven inning, three-hit complete shut down. Add in the fact that the Cubs offense is the best non-Coors aided offense in the league, AND that they are warming up as a group, AND that they are at home in a frenzied atmosphere… as much as the narrative sets up the other way (Kershaw is Koufax, etc) I think the Cubs have enough success to give Hendricks a chance tonight.
And that is no small issue for the back-to-the-wall Dodgers tonight. Hendricks has been nothing short of spectacular since the All Star Break with an ERA barely over one and a quarter and he hasn’t shown any signs that the added pressure and improved competition of the postseason is going to affect him. He pitched more than well enough to win this same head-to-head matchup in Game Two, allowing just the solo shot to Adrian Gonzalez in Game Two in a tough 1-0 defeat. I expect him to be sharp again tonight. Gonzo’s Wrigley proficiency is a concern. Don’t be surprised if he does a little damage tonight, but I think it’ll be minimal and I think the Cubs will get Hendricks at least two runs tonight to work with.
It will be JUST enough for a tense, hard-fought, thrilling win to send the Friendly Confines into absolute revelry as they FINALLY make NEXT YEAR, NOW.