The Los Angeles Dodgers are one more win from the promised land. Major League Baseball hasn’t seen the iconic Dodgers back in the World Series since they won it all back in 1988.
Clayton Kershaw and his crew have come awfully close. L.A. almost made it back in 2016 and this marks their third opportunity in the last five years where they’ve at least been within striking distance.
With a commanding 3-0 series lead going into Wednesday night, however, the Dodgers are undoubtedly in the best shape they’ve been in years. Los Angeles has brought lively bats to this NLCS, while their elite defense has stepped up with just four total runs allowed.
The big question, of course, is if destiny arrives tonight. While baseball wouldn’t mind pushing the Dodgers one step closer to their fate, the Chicago Cubs are still part of this story.
After all, the Cubs were left for dead in the World Series last year, having fallen in a 3-1 hole against the Cleveland Indians. They stormed back to win their first title in over 100 years.
Should we dismiss that as last year’s magic, or can the Cubs be trusted to stay alive in the face of elimination? We aim to find out as we decide which way to bet on tonight’s contest:
On the surface, this looks to be a finished series. The Cubs simply have not shown up offensively in this entire series and it’s tough to envision that changing with a very solid arm in Alex Wood (16-3, 2.72 ERA) toeing the rubber for L.A.
Vegas doesn’t necessarily agree, as the Cubs are mild favorites at -111 at top MLB betting sites like Sportsbetting.ag.
Wood has enjoyed a career year in which he seemingly put it all together, striking out batters at an elite rate and also limiting run damage at an extremely high level. Wood will hope to keep that success rolling in game four when he takes on a Cubs team he contained earlier this year (1 earned run across two starts).
This is actually a dangerous matchup on paper. The Cubs have the ability to mash southpaws, ranking inside the top 12 both in home runs and batting average against left-handed pitching.
Unfortunately, the Cubs have been dormant in this series. They’re taking on a very talented pitcher who can make batters miss and has been very stingy all year long. Wood’s general success is scary, but he’s also fared well in this exact matchup. Considering the Dodgers are playing lights out in all regards and haven’t dropped a single game in this playoff run so far, they’re going to be tough to bet against.
The only things keeping the Cubs alive here are the hope their offense shows up and the notion that Jake Arrieta (14-10, 3.53 ERA) could keep the Dodgers’ bats at bay.
That is one narrative that could ring true here. While Los Angeles has provided way more scoring than the Cubs in this series, they haven’t really blown the lid off in any one game. In fact, one of their wins came on a magical walk-off home run.
Still, this is a tough test for Arrieta, who will be making his first start of this series. Arrieta has been good but not spectacular throughout 2017, but he stepped up and delivered four innings of shutout ball the only time we saw him in these MLB playoffs.
It can’t hurt that Arrieta is at home (5-2, 2.90 ERA at Wrigley Field), either. Of course, he did not fare well the lone time he took on the Dodgers earlier this year (4 runs in 6 innings). He’s also struggled a bit with the long ball (23 home runs), so we may need to worry about how long he can last in this one, as well as how much damage he can contain.
This probably isn’t about Arrieta saving the day, though. The Cubs just haven’t been the team they were last year and it’s silly to believe they’re suddenly going to morph into that with their backs against the wall.
Chicago can fire off offensively at any time, but they’re again facing a really tough pitcher and are one more loss away from seeing their season end. It’d be nice if the oddsmakers would put the Cubs as the underdogs in this spot. Then we could consider rolling with them and cheer on a comeback.
Sadly, we need to eat money to take Chicago here and I’m not willing to do that. The Dodgers have solid pitching and a hot offense going to work here, yet we get value at +107. I’m taking the Dodgers to end this thing tonight and advance to the World Series.