Cubs vs. Dodgers NLCS Game 1 Preview and Pick

by Kevin Roberts
on October 14, 2017

How did the Chicago Cubs get here? The defending World Series champions were down 4-1 in game five of their NLDS battle with the Washington Nationals and survived a late rally from a team many picked ahead of them.

Perhaps that’s just their nature. Whether they’re favored or enter as underdogs, the Cubs just keep fighting. And when you’re blessed with a stacked offense and capable defense, enough fighting helps you win out in the end, more often than not.

Chicago could require some more of that good fortune as soon as Saturday night, when they kick off their new series with the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers.

L.A. understandably enters as the early favorites, both for this series and game one. The Dodgers boast the best World Series odds (+195 at Bovada) and enter this tense 7-game series as the mild favorites.

Can the Cubs get off to another quick start and hold onto an upset en route to back to back trips to the World Series? Vegas doesn’t think so – not in game one, at least – but we should all dig deep to make sure we’re on the right side of this thing in MLB betting circles:

Chicago Cubs (+155)
Los Angeles Dodgers (-190)
Total: n/a

Clayton Kershaw (18-4, 2.31 ERA) can put the Dodgers on his back right away in game one, as the best pitcher in baseball has a chance to play a huge hand in a 1-0 lead at home.

Kershaw was not quite his elite self in his playoff start, when he lasted just over six innings and gave up four solo home runs. That didn’t keep him from getting the win, however, and after surviving that rocky performance, it’s arguable he could be more dialed in with his team a series away from the World Series.

L.A. enters as the mild favorites to win this entire series, while they also have the best World Series odds across the MLB betting industry. That may not necessarily make them a lock in game one, but with Kershaw on the mound at home and Bovada handing us a solid -190 line, it’s going to be difficult to shy away from the Dodgers.

On the year Kershaw has been quite stout and opponents coming into Dodger Stadium have produced a collective .206 batting average. The 29-year old southpaw went 9-2 with a sizzling 2.58 ERA at his home stadium, but he did have some trouble with the long ball (14 homers) here.

Kershaw could easily endure similar struggles with the hard-hitting Cubs taking the plate. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are the big names to fear, while the Cubs are stacked with viable bats such as Willson Contreras, Addison Russell and Javier Baez.

The Cubs as a unit hit lefties well, finding themselves inside the top 12 in both home runs and batting average when battling southpaws. They had little trouble against Kershaw when they faced him earlier this year, either, when they hung four runs (3 home runs) on him in just four innings.

While that could be discouraging for some bettors, Kershaw’s numbers even out and he’s in much better form at this point in the season.

On the other side, the Cubs will likely be trusting in Jose Quintana or John Lackey to get the job done. There hasn’t been a confirmed report as to which arm the Cubs will use, or if they’re considering a different option.

This is the smart path, as a road battle in game one against Kershaw has to look and feel bleak. It might be too early to call this one for some, as pitching can change things. However, even with Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta on the mound, we have to back the superior arm in their home park.

There is certainly a strong narrative rolling with the Cubs. They’re about as fun as it gets as far as an underdog team goes based on sheer talent, they win in the experience department and they have to be riding on a serious high after winning game five of the NLDS on Thursday night.

That’s all damaging, but the Dodgers are at home with Kershaw for -190. We need to take value like this when it presents itself. There will be opportunities to back the Cubs that make more sense in this series.

Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers to Win (-190)
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