No surprises as Roberts reveals NLCS starting rotation

After nearly a week of speculation and media hype, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts revealed his starting rotation for the 2017 National League Championship Series during his final pre-NLCS media conference on Friday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.

“We’re going to go Kershaw, Hill, Darvish, Wood,” said Roberts.

Although it had been known all along that Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw would start game-1 of the best-of-seven series against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on Saturday evening and even that game-2 and game-3 starters would be right-hander Yu Darvish and left-hander Rich Hill, the order in which the latter two would start was being held close to the vest by the Dodger skipper.

“We felt good in the [Division Series] with that and I think that just to continue, as we’ve kind of looked into match-ups and things like that, just to say keep the guys on turn just made sense to me,” Roberts added.

Roberts confirmed what had been speculated all week – that his NLCS starting rotation would be the same as the one he used in the Division Series, with the addition of Alex Wood for game-4.
(Video capture courtesy of SportsNet LA)

During the regular season the Dodgers were 4-2 against the north siders, with the Cubs taking two of three in Chicago in April and the Dodgers sweeping the Cubs in three at Dodger Stadium in May. Ironically, Kershaw made only one of those six starts – on May 28 – and it did not go well for the soon-to-be four-time NL Cy Young award winner. Kershaw lasted only 4.1 innings, during which he allowed four runs on 11 hits, of which four were home runs. He did, however, strikeout six while walking only two. In his career against the Cubs, Kersh is 5-3 with a very good 2.64 ERA over 58.0 innings pitched in nine starts.

This is where things get interesting.

Hill has faced the Cubs only once in his 13-year MLB career and that was a 0.2 inning relief appearance on May 21, 2011 while a member of the Boston Red Sox. He did, however, strikeout two of the three batters he faced while giving up only one hit.

Like Hill, Darvish has faced the Cubs only once in his five-year MLB career. It was an interleague game on July 16, 2016 while with the Texas Rangers and it, too, did not go well. In his 4.1 innings of work against the eventual World Series champions, Darvish allowed two runs on two hits while walking four. He did, however, strikeout nine of the 20 batters he faced, so there’s that.

Ironically, the guy with the most experience against Joe Maddon’s Cubs (aside from Kershaw) is Alex Wood, who has faced them eight times (five starts) and is 2-2 with a 2.93 ERA. In his two starts against the Cubs this season, Wood went 1-1 while allowing only two runs on three hits with seven walks and 12 strikeouts in his combined 8.2 innings pitched against them.

Wood went 1-1 against the Cubs this season, making one start in Chicago (the loss) and one at Dodger Stadium (the win). He pitched five scoreless innings in the eventual 4-0 Dodgers win.
(Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

But wait, there’s more!

Another guy who has fared well against the Cubs is (wait for it…) 34-year-old right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who went 2-0 against the Cubs this season and is 2-1 over them during his 12-year MLB career. McCarthy has made a total of four starts against the Cubs, although two occurred in 2005 and 2006 respectively when he was a member of the (oh this is good…) Chicago White Sox. In his combined 24.1 innings pitched against the Cubs (including 12.0 IP this season), Mac allowed only 7 runs on 18 hits (two home runs) with seven walks and 24 strikeouts for an outstanding 1.11 ERA and 1.027 WHIP. And here’s the kicker – McCarthy has thrown several bullpen sessions this past week and pitched a simulated game on Thursday afternoon.

Now granted, it’s no secret that the 6′-7″ / 235-pound Glendale, California native has struggled (mightily) during his three seasons with the Dodgers and missed significant time over the past two seasons for a variety in injuries. It’s also no secret that he wasn’t on the Dodgers 25-man NLDS roster. But you have to believe that Roberts, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and bullpen coach Josh Bard are very well aware of McCarthy’s history against the Chicago Cubs – including and especially this season.

Although McCarthy spent much of the past two seasons rehabbing in the minor leagues, he logged more innings pitched against the Cubs this season (12.0) than any other Dodger starter. He also won both of his starts against them this season. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

Dodger fans won’t know whether or not McCarthy makes the Dodgers 25-man NLCS roster until early Saturday morning and to be brutally honest he probably will not. But should the unthinkable happen and an emergency starter be needed to replace Kershaw, Hill, Darvish or Wood, Brandon McCarthy might be a better option that Hyun-Jin Ryu or even Kenta Maeda, who was absolutely brilliant out of the Dodgers bullpen as a long reliever during the division series.

All of this said and as every Dodger fan on the planet so painfully knows, Kershaw went 1-1, Hill 1-0 and Wood 0-0 (as a reliever) against the Cubs in last year’s NLCS, which the Cubs won in six games over the Dodgers en route to their first World Series title in 108 years. And just like last week’s NLDS – and every other postseason game ever played – what happened in the regular season means absolutely nothing once the postseason begins.

Play ball!


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4 Responses to “No surprises as Roberts reveals NLCS starting rotation”

  1. Bluenose Dodger says:

    Things seem to be lined up well but in my opinion someone has to pitch like a Johnny Podres, Lew Burdette, Mickey Lolich, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Jerry Reuss, Orel Hershiser, Madison Bumgartner, etc. for the Dodgers to get to the finish line for a WS ring. Thus far Clayton has not been that guy in post season play so perhaps it is his turn to do so now. If not Yu Darvish might be the guy or Alex Wood.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Maybe I’m just being ignorant, but I believe that Kershaw will come up big in the NLCS and hopefully the World Series. I also believe that Rich Hill and Alex Wood will be big factors as well … as will Kenta Maeda.

      You heard it here first, folks.


      • CruzinBlue says:

        You saved the best for last, Ron! Maeda certainly showed us something in back-to-back games. Four strikeouts on 21 pitches and hitting 95 on the radar gun like a boss!

        He’s part of the bridge!

  2. oldbrooklynfan says:

    I see there’s no surprise in the Dodger rotation for the NLCS. I didn’t think there would be after such a fine showing in the NLDS.

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