Tag Archives: Kris Bryant

Cubs walkoff the Phillies with rally in bottom of the 9th

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Kris Bryant led the Cubs past the Phillies on Tuesday night at Wrigley

The host Chicago Cubs (28-18) rallied to a 3-2 walkoff victory over the Philadelphia Phillies (28-20) by scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the 9th inning on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field on Chicago’s North Side.

The Cubs got on the board first thanks to the aggressiveness of Kris Bryant. The Cubs third baseman singled with one out in the bottom of the 1st inning and moved to second when Anthony Rizzo followed by drawing a walk.
Both runners were moving as Willson Contreras grounded to short, keeping them out of the doubleplay. The move paid off doubly as Bryant never stopped running while Jean Segura threw to first. Bryant slid in to home plate just ahead of the throw from Rhys Hoskins to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
The Cubs nearly put another on the board in the home 4th inning. With two outs, Kyle Schwarber drew a walk. Bryant followed with a double down the left field line as Schwarber raced home and crossed the plate.
However, a challenge from Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler went the Phillies way thanks to a “stadium ground rules boundary” ruling that changed the play to a ground rule double. Schwarber was put back at third base, and Eflin then retired Rizzo on a fly out to center to escape trouble.

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After making the final out in right field in the sixth inning, Bryce Harper trolls Cubs fans and LAUNCHED the ball out of Wrigley Field and on to the rooftop. 😂

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Maddon pinch-hit for Quintana in the bottom of the 6th inning. He had stymied the Phillies to that point, but also had reached 100 pitches for just the third time this season. It would prove to be just the opening that the visitors needed.

With Carl Edwards on to pitch in the top of the 7th inning, Cesar Hernandez led off with a looping single to left field. After Scott Kingery hit into a force out, Maikel Franco one-hopped a double off the ivy in left field. Kingery rolled around to third and the Phillies had runners at second and third with one out.
Kapler sent the slumping Odubel Herrera up to hit for Eflin. Herrera ripped a ball back to Edwards, who made a fantastic stab to grab the ball and retire Herrera at 1st base with the runners holding. Maddon then went to a pitching change again, and again it burned him.

Andrew McCutchen‘s clutch two-out, two-run single in the top of the 7th inning gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)
Andrew McCutchen stepped in against the new Cubs hurler, righty Brandon Kintzler. The Phillies veteran right fielder jumped on a 2-2 sinker, ripping it up the box for a two-run single that finally put the Phillies on the board with a 2-1 lead.
It was Kapler’s turn to go to his bullpen, and he called on 22-year-old Edgar Garcia for the bottom of the 7th. After surrendering a leadoff base hit to Bryant the young righty retired the next two batters.
Kapler then brought in Jose Alvarez to face the lefty bat of Jason Heyward. Alvarez sawed off Heyward’s bat, getting him to ground to shortstop for the final out. Alvarez then came back out for the bottom of the 8th inning and worked around a couple of baserunners to keep the 2-1 lead intact.
In the top of the 9th inning, Kingery drilled a one-hopper off the ivy in left off Cubs reliever Xavier Cedeno for a one-out double. Maddon then made another bullpen move, bringing in Kyle Ryan. The lefty got Franco to ground out to third base for the second out, then struck out pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin to end the threat.
Kapler brought out Juan Nicasio to try to close it out in the bottom of the 9th with a one-run lead. He promptly broke the baseball cardinal rule, walking Bryant as the leadoff man. Rizzo then followed by ripping a double into the right field corner and the Cubs had the tying run just 90 feet away, the winning run in scoring position at second base, nobody out.
Contreras then lifted a short fly into left field. Harper grabbed it and set to throw home, too shallow for the tagging Bryant to score. Kapler then ordered Heyward walked to load the bases. Almora  dribbled a ball in front of the plate. Nicasio grabbed it, but delivered a weak flip home as Bryant slid in with the tying run.
The next move in the chess match was Maddon’s, and he had a good one available to him. He sent the electric Javier Baez, normally the starting shortstop but out of the lineup the last two nights with a minor injury, up as a pinch-hitter. Baez wasted no time, ripping the walkoff base hit to right field as Rizzo trotted home with the winning run.
On Wednesday night for the first time in his career, Cole Hamels will take the mound to go against the Phillies team with which he won the 2008 World Series.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

  • Zach Eflin, Phillies: 6 IP, 6 hits, 1 earned run, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts. 104 pitches, 62 for strikes.
  • Jose Quintana, Cubs: 6 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts. 100 pitches, 59 for strikes.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: KRIS BRYANT

The Cubs third baseman went 3-4 with a walk and a pair of runs scored. His hustle led to the Cubs first run of the game back in the bottom of the 1st inning. And that walk started off the rally in the bottom of the 9th inning that won it for the home team.
NEXT GAME

Big four-game series between Phillies and Cubs continues at Wrigley Field

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Wrigley Field is the site of a four-game series between Phillies and Cubs

The Philadelphia Phillies (28-19) woke up this morning in the Windy City with the club sitting at nine games over the .500 mark for the first time since last September 2.

On Tuesday night at Wrigley Field the Phillies will try to clinch at least a tie from this four-game series with the host Chicago Cubs (27-18) as the two first-place teams continue their battle. In last night’s wild series opener, the Phillies captured a 5-4 victory in 10 innings.
The Phillies have now won four straight close affairs to fashion their first four-game winning streak since capturing the first four of the 2019 season. During this stretch, the Phillies have won three times by a single run and won by two runs in the other game.
From July 31 through August 5 of last season the Phillies won five in a row. That pushed the club to 15 games over the .500 mark for the first time since the 2011 season. It was also the last time that the team won five straight games. They won six in a row twice during last season. On Tuesday night they will try to get five straight for the first time in the 2019 season.

TUESDAY STARTING LINEUPS

PHILLIES LINEUP

  1. Andrew McCutchen LF
  2. Jean Segura SS
  3. Bryce Harper RF
  4. Rhys Hoskins 1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto C
  6. Cesar Hernandez 2B
  7. Scott Kingery CF
  8. Maikel Franco 3B
  9. Zach Eflin P


CUBS LINEUP

  1. Kyle Schwarber LF
  2. Kris Bryant 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
  4. Wilson Contreras C
  5. Jason Heyward RF
  6. Albert Almora CF
  7. Daniel Descalso 2B
  8. Addison Russell SS
  9. Jose Quintana P

INJURY REPORT

Phillies: Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez hopes to throw a bullpen this week after suffering a strained elbow and being placed on the IL back on May 11. Relievers David RobertsonTommy HunterEdubray Ramos and Victor Arano remain on the Injured List. None is close to a return at this point. Outfielder Roman Quinn has ramped up running as he continues recovering after suffering a groin strain. He will not return for this series.
Cubs: Electric shortstop Javier Baez will miss a second straight game in this series with a heel injury suffered in Sunday’s game. He could see action as a pinch-hitter and is considered day-to-day at this point. Reliever Pedro Strop is on the IL with a hamstring injury and will miss this series. Also out from the Cubs pen mix are Brandon Morrow and Kendall Graveman, both with elbow injuries. Graveman underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2018.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

  • Zach Eflin: 5-4, 2.89 ERA, 1.089 WHIP, 52 hits allowed over 56 innings across nine starts with a 45/9 K:BB ratio.
  • Following three straight Quality Starts, Eflin was whacked around by Milwaukee last Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. He surrendered four earned runs on seven hits over five innings in that afternoon affair.
  • Eflin is 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA over three appearances against the Cubs, against whom he has not allowed a home run over 19.2 innings. The righty has made two career starts at Wrigley, one in each of the past two seasons, and lasted at least seven innings in both.
  • Jose Quintana: 4-3, 3.68 ERA, 1.266 WHIP, 50 hits allowed over 51.1 innings across nine outings, eight starts with a 50/15 K:BB ratio.
  • The 30-year old lefty from Colombia lasted just five innings in his most recent start on Thursday in Cincinnati. He surrendered three earned runs on six hits in suffering his second straight loss.
  • Quintana has faced the Phillies just four times over his eight-year big-league career. He tossed a pair of no-decisions against them last season, allowing just six hits over 11.2 innings, striking out 17 while walking just three batters.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PREGAME NOTES

  • Monday night’s extra-inning victory was the first win for the Phillies this season when trailing after eight innings. They had been 0-14 prior to last night’s rally.
  • Jean Segura‘s game-tying base hit in the top of the 9th on Monday night extended his hitting streak out to 11 games.
  • Bryce Harper worked a walk on Monday night and has now reached base safely in all 19 career games that he has played at Wrigley Field.
  • Hector Neris has converted 10 straight Saves since last May 21, the second-longest streak of his career. In those last 10 save opportunities, Neris has pitched 11.1 innings, allowing just three hits and a walk with 15 strikeouts. He has a miniscule 0.98 ERA since allowing a pair of runs on Opening Day.
  • Juan Nicasio earned his first Save with the Phillies on Monday night. The veteran right-hander has not allowed an earned run in his last 11.1 innings over 10 appearances.
  • In a 14-game stretch at the start of May, 27-year-old third baseman Kris Bryant slashed .377/.500/.906 with eight homers and 17 RBIs. But after going 0-5 in Monday’s series opener he is now just 1-12 over his last three games. Hopefully the Phillies are catching him just as he cools down.
  • Joe Maddon is now in his fifth season as the Cubs manager. He was at the helm of the Tampa Bay Rays during their 2008 World Series loss to the Phillies. Maddon now has a 1,195-1,008 record as a big-league skipper. The wins total is 43rd all-time in MLB, with only Bruce BochyTerry Francona and Clint Hurdle ahead of him among active managers.
  • The Phillies have announced that their recent “Phantastic Auction” raised a record $205,000 to benefit Phillies Charities, Inc.

TUESDAY PROGRAMMING INFORMATION


Phillies third baseman of the future? Alec Bohm ready to show it is him

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Bohm was the Phillies 2018 first round draft pick out of Wichita State

Fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have justifiably been distracted in recent weeks by two names. But while Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are gathering contract offers and making their final decisions, perhaps we can take some time to talk about other topics related to the ball club?

There are other possible Hot Stove situations further out on the horizon that have also received some attention from the fans. One of those could come next Fall, when third baseman Nolan Arenado is due to become a free agent if he and the Colorado Rockies cannot reach a contract extension.
Having acquired Jean Segura via trade earlier this off-season, the Phillies would like Machado to play third base for them. If that were to come to pass, then the hot corner would be filled for the foreseeable future.
However, should the club fail to land Machado this year or Arenado next, the Phillies future third baseman could already be in the organization. And I’m not talking about incumbent Maikel Franco.
Last June the Phillies made Alec Bohm of Wichita State University their choice in the first round at third overall in the MLB Amateur Draft. With an advanced bat, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of seasons before Bohm is ready for a crack at the big-leagues.

When Bohm was drafted there were many who speculated he would eventually end up at first base or an outfield corner. But as the Phillies (hopefully) learned this past season with the Rhys Hoskins left field experiment, you cannot simply stick a player in the outfield and hope that his bat makes up for defensive deficiencies.
Hoskins is not a left fielder and never will be one. Nothing about Bohm suggests that he would be a solid defender out there either. With Hoskins now apparently back and settled in at first base for years to come, that position presents more than a roadblock to Bohm.
Based on what we know at this point, Bohm is the Phillies third baseman of the future. As the RotoWire staff pointed out for CBS Sports, if the 6’5 Bohm were to make it and become a regular at the position he would be bucking the odds. Troy Glaus and Kris Bryant are the only players 6-foot-5 or taller to have ever played 200 games at the position in the majors.
Neither Glaus, who bashed 320 homers over a 13-year big-league career from 1998-2010, or Bryant who is one of today’s premier power hitters, would ever be considered a defensive whiz. Their bats were their calling cards.
There is little doubt that the bat will be what carries Bohm as well. If anyone knows hitting, it’s Charlie Manuel. The Phillies 2008 World Series-winning manager was quoted on that bat by Jim Salisbury for Baseball America back in November:
He’s going to hit. He’s going to be a line-drive hitter with power. He’s going to be an RBI guy. He’s a tough out. He doesn’t like to strike out and he can really get on the fastball. We’d turn the machine up to 100, 105 (mph) in the cage and he can get to it. I liked him in college and I like him more now.”
The Phillies have enjoyed success with taller third basemen over their history. The two best to ever play the position for the club were the 6’2 Mike Schmidt and 6’4 Scott Rolen.
Both Schmidt and Rolen were premier athletes who were not only dynamic offensive contributors but were also among the greatest defenders to ever play third base in the history of the game.
That defensive performance is where Bohm is going to have to show improvement if he wants to last at the position in Major League Baseball. This past Fall he spent four weeks working on that aspect of his game in the Instructional League.
Back in October, Meghan Montemurro at The Athletic quoted the Phillies minor league infield coordinator Chris Truby on Bohm’s work at the defensive side of the game:

“He wants to silence everybody. He’s come out with the work ethic and desire to prove people wrong. He’s done nothing but prove to us that he can play third.” ~ Chris Truby, on Bohm

“When you’re in college and the bat is your thing, you go to the next level and you realize that you need a little bit more than that, and I think he knows that..
Work in the IL is an important part of the developmental process. Now entering his first year as a professional baseball player, Bohm will continue that work in spring training and on into his first full season. That work in practice and then the experience gained in real games will be the telling point.

His bat should allow Bohm to reach Double-A Reading by the end of this coming summer. Assuming health and continued expected development, he would see Triple-A Lehigh Valley by some point in the summer of 2020.
That would put the Omaha, Nebraska native in line to contend for a starting job in the Phillies lineup by spring training of 2021 when he would be 24 years of age.
Schmidt was 23 for his first full season in 1973, Rolen just 22 for his first full season in 1997. Franco was also just 22 when he took over the position in 2015. So that is certainly a more than reasonable track for Bohm to be on.
Most fans seem to be writing off any chance of Franco remaining a part of the Phillies future for much longer. That is somewhat difficult to understand considering that he is still just 26-years-old and hit for a career-high .270 average last season, when a shoulder injury severely hampered his production over the final month of September .
The incumbent Franco? The free agent Machado? The future free agent Arenado? The developing Bohm? The third base position should prove one of the most compelling situations as the Phillies look to construct a roster that can contend throughout the 2020’s as they did through all of the 2000’s.

2018 MLB Preview and Predictions

The Boys of Summer are set to begin the 2018 season

The crack of a bat ripping a line drive. The pop of a fastball into a catcher’s mitt. Fireworks exploding. Hot dogs steaming.

It’s that time again folks. The start of another season in Major League Baseball.

For the first time in 50 years, all MLB teams will experience Opening Day on the same date. That comes this Thursday, March 28, when 15 games will take place scattered at various times throughout the day and night.

Those first games will begin a regular season that will stretch out over more than six months, leading to the drama of the MLB playoffs as Fall arrives.

Which teams are most likely to reach those playoffs? Which players will stand out over the course of the 162-game MLB regular season?

Each year, I give you my picks for the final standings across each of MLB’s six divisions, as well as my playoff predictions. I also make picks for some of baseball’s most important awards.

A year ago in my 2017 MLB Preview and Predictions piece, I correctly picked the winners in five of those six divisional races. The biggest letdown from those picks was for the San Francisco Giants to edge out the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. The Giants collapsed to a last place finish after winning three World Series crowns in the previous seven seasons.

I had the Washington Nationals beating the Boston Red Sox in seven dramatic games a year ago. As we know now, it was the Houston Astros beating the Dodgers in six to capture their first-ever world championship.

So now it’s time to make my team picks and my awards predictions for the upcoming 2018 MLB season. Would love to hear your own picks in the comments section below this piece. Here we go again, baseball fans.

2018 NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Kris Bryant, Chicago
Contenders: Corey Seager LAD, Bryce Harper WAS, Nolan Arenado COL, Paul Goldschmidt ARZ
CY YOUNG AWARD: Stephen Strasburg, Washington
Contenders: Clayton Kershaw LAD, Max Scherzer WAS, Noah Syndergaard NYM
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Lewis Brinson, Miami
Contenders: Jack Flaherty STL, Ronald Acuna ATL, Scott Kingery PHI, Nick Senzel CIN
MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Craig Counsell, Milwaukee
Contenders: Joe Maddon CHC, Dave Roberts LAD, Dave Martinez WAS, Gabe Kapler PHI

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Noah Syndergaard
Contenders: Adam Eaton WAS, Mark Melancon SF, Homer Bailey CIN

2018 AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
Contenders: Giancarlo Stanton NYY, Carlos Correa HOU, Mike Trout LAA, Mookie Betts BOS

CY YOUNG AWARD: Chris Sale, Boston
Contenders: Corey Kluber CLE, Luis Severino NYY, Justin Verlander HOU, Chris Archer

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles
Contenders: Dustin Fowler OAK, Gleyber Torres NYY, Francisco Mejia CLE, Chance Sisco BAL

MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Alex Cora, Boston
Contenders: Aaron Boone NYY, TerryFrancona CLE, A.J. Hinch HOU, John Gibbons TOR

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Michael Brantley CLE
Contenders: Doug Fister TEX, Miguel Cabrera DET, Francisco Liriano DET

2018 MLB DIVISIONAL & WILDCARD PREDICTIONS

NL EAST: Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Miami

NL CENTRAL: Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati

NL WEST: Los Angeles, Colorado, San Francisco, Arizona, San Diego

NL WILDCARDS: Milwaukee, Colorado

AL EAST: Boston, New York, Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Bay

AL CENTRAL: Cleveland, Minnesota, Detroit, Kansas City, Chicago

AL WEST: Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Oakland

AL WILDCARDS: New York, Los Angeles

2018 MLB PLAYOFFS & WORLD SERIES PREDICTIONS

As stated at the top of this article, a year ago I had the Washington Nationals finally breaking through to win the franchise first-ever World Series by edging out the Boston Red Sox. I genuinely believe that making that exact same prediction this season would be just as valid. It would also be just as likely to go another way entirely.
A major development will come as the summer rolls on, and the impending free agency of superstar Bryce Harper becomes more and more realistic. At some point, the powers-that-be with the Nationals may have to actually entertain trade offers for their outfielder, or risk losing him for nothing later this Fall.
If Harper stays and is both healthy and focused come October, the Nats are my pick. But that is way too questionable at this point. So let’s call it the Chicago Cubs as winners of their second NL Pennant in three years.
Over the in AL, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros are the cream of the crop until someone proves differently. The Bosox and Yankees will do a Battle Royale in the AL East, and both could be good enough to dethrone the Astros. Same can be said of the Tribe in the Central. Still, I’m taking Houston to repeat in the American League.
The 2018 World Series would then be a battle between the winners of the last two Fall Classics. There is an old saying in sports that goes “you gotta beat the champ if you wanta be the champ.” I just think that Houston is too good for that to happen.
Given health, the Houston Astros will defeat the Chicago Cubs in five games in the 2018 World Series. After never having won a title, the Astros will make it back-to-back World Series crowns. They would become the first team to repeat since the 1998-2000 Yankees won three in a row.

There you have it, my 2018 Major League Baseball preview and predictions. Again, feel free to leave your own picks in the comments section below. Play ball!

NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs preview and prediction

The Dodgers and Cubs meet in a repeat NLCS

For the second consecutive season the National League Championship Series will be contested by the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.

The two teams engaged in a spirited series last October, eventually won by the Cubs in six games. Chicago would then go on to defeat the Cleveland Indians, winning the franchise first World Series in more than a century.

A year ago, Chicago took the opener. But LA then received back-to-back pitching gems from Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, shutting out the Cubs twice to take a 2-1 series lead.

After that, it was all Chicago. The Cubbies bats awoke with a vengeance to take the final three games by a combined 23-6 score.

This season, the Dodgers staggered out of the gate, going 10-12 over the first few weeks of April. But from April 27 through August 25 they accumulated an unreal 81-24 record.

That four month stretch of dominance allowed the Dodgers to run away with the National League West Division race. Even a month-long slump over which they lost 20 of 25 games would not allow either the Arizona Diamondbacks or Colorado Rockies, both eventual NL Wildcard teams, to make a dent in the division.

Los Angeles would recover to take eight of their final 10 games, finishing with 104 wins and an 11-game cushion over Arizona. The 104 victories gave them the best mark in all of Major League Baseball, and were the most by any Dodgers team in more than four decades.

The Dodgers would stay hot in the postseason as well, sweeping the 93-win Diamondbacks in three games in a National League Division Series.

Over in Chicago, the defending World Series champion Cubs had a much tougher go of things in the 2017 regular season. They would ultimately win 92 games and a second consecutive NL Central crown by six games. But that would not be decided until September, following spirited challenges from the upstart Milwaukee Brewers and arch-rival Saint Louis Cardinals.

That tougher road would continue in their NLDS against the Washington Nationals. The Cubs and Nats split the first four games, with Chicago taking a pair of low-scoring 3-0 and 2-1 affairs. Washington won by 6-3 and then in a 5-0 shutout behind Stephen Strasburg to send the series to a deciding game.

In that decisive Game Five, the two National League giants threw hay makers at one another. At the end of the battle in our nation’s capital, it was the Cubs left standing following a 9-8 victory.

The Dodgers are led by skipper Dave Roberts in his second year at the helm. Roberts has guided the LA club to division crowns in each of those two seasons.

The Cubs manager is the colorful Joe Maddon. The longtime skipper in Tampa Bay, Maddon guided the Rays to a pair of AL East crowns and the 2008 American League pennant. Now in his third season in the Windy City, he has an all-time managerial record of 1,073-922 and that 2016 World Series crown.

The Dodgers lineup receives most of their offense from five players. Two of them, shortstop Corey Seager and first baseman Cody Bellinger, are the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year and the likely 2017 ROY respectively.

A pair of 27-year olds have emerged as the most pleasant surprises this season. Left fielder Chris Taylor hit for a .288/.354/.496 slash line with 21 homers, 72 RBI, 85 runs scored, and 17 steals. Austin Barnes has taken over primary catching duties. His big 6th inning homer off Dbacks ace Zack Greinke in the NLDS Game Three helped the Dodgers clinch that series.

The mercurial Cuban right fielder known as “the Wild Horse”, Yasiel Puig, put together his finest season. The final influential lineup piece is third baseman Justin Turner. Known for his long red hair and beard, Turner is also one of baseball’s most underrated superstars.

There are plenty of veterans to provide Roberts with lineup support. They include Logan Forsythe, Chase Utley, Andre Ethier, and Yasmani Grandal.

On the mound, Roberts will go with his ace Kershaw in the opener. You can expect to see the lefty, one of the top pitchers of this generation, to come back twice more in the series if needed.

The lefty Hill will go in Game Two, followed by right-hander Yu Darvish in Game Three. Another lefty, Alex Wood, will start Game Four. If the series continues beyond that, expect Kershaw to start Game Five, and then to be available in a decisive seventh game.

The Dodgers bullpen is anchored by one of baseball’s top closers. Kenley Jansen is a big, 30-year old right-hander. He saved 41 games this year with a 1.32 ERA and 0.746 WHIP in his second consecutive NL All-Star campaign. Jansen allowed just 44 hits over 68.1 innings with a dominating 109/7 K:BB ratio.

Between his starting pitcher and his lights-out closer, Roberts will lean heavily on righties Kenta Maeda and Brandon Morrow, and left-handers Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson. He is likely to also have right-handers Pedro Baez and Josh Fields available.

Maddon is well aware of what it takes to beat good pitching in October. “Mr. Kershaw, obviously, and they’ve got Darvish, etc. Listen, we just went through Strasburg and Scherzer, and 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, which they have.

The Cubs group of hitters have proven they can beat that good pitching. One of the deepest and most versatile lineups in the game today is led by the 2016 NL MVP in third baseman Kris Bryant and clutch first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Jason Heyward are all 20-somethings and all are talented enough that they can be difference-makers in a particular game.

The old man of the team is versatile 36-year old Ben Zobrist, who followed Maddon from Tampa to Chicago and still contributes heavily. When he takes the field in the opener, Zobrist will be participating in his 60th MLB postseason game over the last decade.

The biggest question mark in this series may be what Maddon decides to do with his starting rotation. Even as late as Saturday morning, the starter for Game One has not been announced.

Maddon could choose to go with lefty summer acquisition Jose Quintana, who tossed 2/3 of an inning in relief during Game Five against Washington just two days ago in the NLDS.

He could also come with righty John Lackey, who won a dozen games and started 30 games in the regular season. The veteran turns 39 years old in a couple of weeks, has 26 games of postseason experience, and is well-rested after not seeing any NLDS action.

I would expect to see Maddon go with those two as starters in the first two games in some order. They would be followed by Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks. But that’s only what I would do.

The good news is that whomever becomes the choice to start, there is plenty of talented bullpen support available should they get into early trouble. Maddon should have righties Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards, and closer Wade Davis available. From the left side it would be Justin Wilson, Brian Duensing, and Mike Montgomery. And if he doesn’t start, Lackey would be available as well.

The Dodgers had the best record in Major League Baseball this season and swept their NLDS opponent. The Cubs are the defending world champions and play with confidence and swagger. This should be a fascinating matchup.

During the regular season, the Dodgers took four of the six meetings between the two clubs. But I am going to call it for the defending champs. I believe that the Cubs have the talent to take out the Dodgers by that same margin. Call it Chicago in six games.