Over the years, so much has been made of the underwhelming performances turned in by Clayton Kershaw during the post season. Each year, as the Dodgers proceed to the playoffs with the hopes of a World Series berth, their fate is rested on the left arm of their ace. Each year, the hopes are that the past season will be forgotten, and this will be the year that he will pitch like the regular season, which he dominates as baseball’s best pitcher and lead the team to not just the World Series, but to a World Series Championship.
Last season as the Dodgers failed in the National League Championship Series, falling to the eventual champion Chicago Cubs, Kershaw had two poor outings against Washington, though the Dodgers won both of those games, and then pitched a masterful 1-0 game,
throwing seven shutout innings against the Cub in game two of the series after the team lost the series opener. But, when it mattered in game six, down three games to two, he allowed five runs, four earned, in a 5-4 loss, ending the Dodgers’ post season.
In this post season, Keshaw and the Dodgers drove a truck through the overrated Arizona Diamondbacks, outscoring them 20-12 for a three-game sweep, and despite Kershaw again pitching sub-par, the Dodgers won his game, advancing to the NLCS. But today, Kershaw against faces the Cubs, and he must be the dominating pitcher he is through regular season season after regular season, the pitcher who over 1935 innings pitched allowed one home run over each 15 innings pitched, and not the pitcher through 95 playoff innings has allowed a home run ever 6.8 innings, including allowing a career worst four homers to Arizona in 6-1/3 innings on October 6.
Apart from the Kershaw conundrum, there are two tough issues facing the teams tonight and throughout the series, one bad situation for each team. For the Dodgers, their absolute best player, the guy who really has been their on field catalyst, the guy who game in and game out has made the big play both at bat and in the field, the guy whose late season elbow injury and absence form the lineup coincided with the team’s horrendous losing streak, Corey Seager, will miss the entire NLCS due to a back injure suffered in the Oct 6 game. Replacing Seager on the roster and starting tonight at shortstop, will be journeyman Charlie Culberson, whose post season stats consist of an oh-for-seven in last years games. A lifetime .229 hitter through parts of four seasons with San Francisco, Colorado and the Dodgers, Culberson has a lot to live up to, playing in place, at least tonight, for Seager.
The Cubs have a whole different issue, a significantly over-worked starting staff combined with a barely effective bullpen. The ineffectiveness and over use of the bullpen led Manager Joe Maddon to have to use two of his top starters, Jon Lester and tonight’s starter Jose Quintana, in relieve against Washington in their Division Series. Set-up man
Carl Edwards was horrid against the Nats, with a 23.14 ERA in five appearances, and Mike Montgomery similarly was abominable, with his 27.00 ERA in his two appearances. The Cubs’ bullpen overall allowed 13 earned runs in 17-1/3 innings against Washington, for an ERA of 6.75.
The Cubs do have a pretty solid top four starters and with days off can straighten out their pitching. Without Seager for the entire series and with the usual Kershaw question marks, the Dodgers have the bigger issues with which to deal.