The North Side of Chicago does not want to hear anything else about history. They’ve heard it all before. They know it’s been 108 years since the Cubs have claimed a world championship. They know what happened last October against New York. You don’t have to tell them again.
They also know that their beloved Cubbies are just two wins away from a World Series berth. After living up to lofty expectations during the regular season, Chicago now has the perfect opportunity to end over a century of suffering.
However, the Los Angeles Dodgers are also just two games from a chance at World Series glory. They are the only thing that stands in the way of Joe Maddon’s Cubs and the biggest stage in baseball. To ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself, Chicago will need a few things to go their way as they attempt to close out the NLCS, starting with their power tandem of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
Known collectively as “Bryzzo”, the two corner infielders have had two wildly different postseasons. Bryant has been one of the bright spots in a lineup that has been dismal for the majority of the NLCS. For the Cubs first baseman, it’s been a tale of two Rizzos. In the postseason, he has struggled mightily and is almost unrecognizable from the guy who slugged nearly .550 during the regular season. Rizzo showed signs of live with a home run in last night’s contest, but the Cubs need for him to maintain that in order to give them the best chance this series. They’re going to need a couple of good games from both members of Bryzzo over the next few days. Multi-hit games from Bryant and Rizzo will all but guarantee a win for Chicago.
In the rotation, things have been very steady for the Cubs throughout the year. Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester have carried over their regular season success thus far. One man who hasn’t quite lived up to the moment yet is closer Aroldis Chapman. Acquired from the Yankees in July, Chapman dominated the ninth inning for Chicago during the second half of the year. The Cuban fireballer blew a save in Game 3 of the NLDS and has allowed multiple inherited runners to score on two occasions in the NLCS. The Cubs will likely be involved in some close battles with Los Angeles and they’ll need Chapman to lock down the late innings with confidence. While Maddon has experimented with Chapman in the eighth inning, he should probably be reserved for the ninth. They have plenty of other weapons in the bullpen to set up Chapman for the last three outs.
There are only so many things that Chicago can control, so naturally, they’re going to need Los Angeles to make some mistakes. Quite frankly, it may take a little luck for Chicago to advance to the next round. Especially when facing Clayton Kershaw, who the Cubs will match up against one more time this series (or at least we think – who knows what Dave Roberts thinks). Kershaw is a pitcher that, when on his game, is not going to give up baserunners. It’s that simple. So, Chicago will need Kershaw to make some mistakes and have some breaks go their way. They’re going to need a hanging breaking ball, or one of Kershaw’s rare walks, or a ball to land ever so narrowly in fair territory. There’s not much of a gameplan against guys like Kershaw, but the Cubs may be forced to win a game which features him as a starter. And for that to happen, Chicago cannot have another episode of Game 2.
For the Cubs to make a World Series appearance, they’re going to need to rely on their superstars, both in the batter’s box and on the mound, and have a little bit of luck. Don’t the Baseball Gods think 108 years is long enough?