It’s Football Day Across America with another NFL Sunday going on. Once most of those games are over, the focus will become Game 2 of the NLCS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs. No offense to the Indianapolis Colts or Houston Texans, but this one should be a much better game. Yesterday’s MLB slate certainly gave us plenty of drama and excitement. Let’s see if today will give us the same.
Those that followed along yesterday had a strong day. The Indians were the value side and the Indians were the winner. Whatever variation of the run line you decided to play on the Cubs was also a winner thanks to Miguel Montero’s pinch-hit grand slam. The Cubs also grew to a -220 favorite, so there were some people willing to lay the big straight bet price.
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Los Angeles (-125) at Chicago; Total: OFF
We’ll have to see what the weather conditions look like before we get a Wrigley Field total tonight. In any event, it’s the side that we’re focused on, as Clayton Kershaw gets a little bit of a surprise start against Kyle Hendricks. This is officially a must-win game for the Dodgers. Kershaw wouldn’t be available until Game 5 and the season might be over by that point if the Dodgers can’t grab tonight’s game. With their starting rotation depth issues and problems in middle relief, Clayton Kershaw games cannot be squandered.
This is a really unique situation for Kershaw. With his two-thirds of an inning on October 13, he’s pitching for the fourth time in 10 days. He threw five innings in Game 1 of the NLDS and then pitched Game 4 on short rest, where the bullpen skewed his final line score. Starters generally throw a bullpen session in the middle of their rest period and Kershaw’s just happened to come on the field in the Dodgers’ Game 5 victory.
I’m trying to decide if it will be overblown or not. Technically, Kershaw is starting on regular rest and the bullpen appearance was just a deviation in stress level. He only threw seven pitches to record the two outs. He had to get ready in the bullpen, but he’s a veteran guy and probably knew what he needed to do in order to get loose. It wasn’t an unseasonably cold night or anything.
Kershaw does have a 5.84 ERA in his 12.1 innings of work in the postseason so far, so I’m surprised we’re not seeing more of the narratives. He’s got 37 swings and misses and 19 strikeouts, but he’s given up eight runs on 15 hits. It’s crazy to think that the world’s best pitcher could have such poor batted ball and sequencing luck over 77 playoff innings. So far this postseason, his BABIP against is .441. As mentioned, the bullpen’s inability to get out of the seventh hurt his line in that Game 4 start.
The Cubs were the best offense in baseball in wRC+ against southpaws this season and they were second only to Arizona in wOBA in that split. If anybody can hit Kershaw, it would likely be the Cubs offense. That is a definite concern for the Dodgers. Also, with Joe Blanton’s incendiary performance on Saturday night, the state of the bullpen is in significant disarray. Kenley Jansen is the only reliable arm out there, which means Kershaw is working with a very thin margin for error.
Kyle Hendricks didn’t look very comfortable in his 3.2 innings against the Giants in his Game 2 start. Hendricks eventually had his start cut short by a comebacker to his forearm, but he allowed two runs on four hits and only got two swings and misses. Hendricks is going on over a week’s worth of rest here in this outing, so we’ll see what kind of effect that has on him. He’s a guy that had spectacular sequencing and batted ball luck and, to be fair, thrived on inducing weak contact.
Hendricks had a .250 BABIP against and an 81.5 percent strand rate. Coming into the postseason, Hendricks had posted a 1.68 second half ERA with a .206/.251/.320 slash against. That was a little bit lower than his .204/.271/.319 slash against in the first half, but his ERA was 0.87 runs lower because of how many runners were stranded. It has been surprising to see how long Hendricks has sustained this level of performance.
The Dodgers were a very strong lineup against right-handed pitching. It’s hardly a surprise that they struggled against Jon Lester, but this is a more favorable matchup for them. Joe Maddon used all of his primary relievers to get them some work last night and working back-to-backs won’t be an issue since only Aroldis Chapman threw more than 15 pitches in his appearance. Nobody worked more than an inning. It will be interesting to see how short Hendricks’s leash is given that it should be a low-scoring game with Kershaw on the mound. Then again, Kershaw’s playoff starts have been anything but low scoring.
Seeing the Cubs as a home dog in the postseason is pretty surprising. From a line value standpoint, you have to give the nod to the North Siders. Clayton Kershaw’s reputation certainly makes an impact in the betting market and we’re seeing it here. Without a total, it’s hard to speculate, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see some runs early on. It’s a little bit of an odd situation for Kershaw and Hendricks is facing a tough lineup.