2016-MLB-Play offs-Semi Finals-Cubs at Dodgers game preview

With the National League Championship Series between the Cubs and Dodgers tied at one game apiece, the series shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3.

The NLCS between the World Series-favorite Cubs (103-58) and the NL West-champion Dodgers (91-71) has exceeded expectations thus far. Chicago took Game 1, 8-4, in thrilling fashion after C Miguel Montero (1-for-6, HR, 4 RBI) hit a pinch-hit, go-ahead Grand Slam in the eighth inning. The Dodgers leveled the series on Sunday, 1-0, behind seven brilliant innings from ace Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers scored their lone run on an Adrian Gonzalez (7-for-27, 2 HR, 5 RBI) homer.

The Cubs are still favored in this series, but with the next three games at Dodger Stadium, Dave Roberts’ club suddenly has the upper hand. RHP Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA during the regular season) will start Game 3 for the Cubs, and he’ll be opposed by LHP Rich Hill (12-5, 2.12 ERA during the regular season).

Arrieta started Game 3 of the NLDS against the Giants and was solid, allowing two earned runs in six innings. In two starts against the Nationals in the NLDS, Hill went 0-1 and allowed five earned runs in seven innings. The Cubs are 1-1 away from Wrigley Field this postseason. The Dodgers are 1-1 in L.A.

3B Kris Bryant (8-for-24, 4 2B, HR, 4 RBI) is one of the best players in the sport, and he’s lived up to expectations in the postseason. The real star for the Cubs this month, however, has been IF Javier Baez (9-for-23, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI).

Joe Maddon’s team has scored enough runs to win in the playoffs thanks to their excellent starting pitching, but they could use more production from 2B Ben Zobrist (4-for-22, 3 2B, 2 RBI), CF Dexter Fowler (4-for-24, 2B, HR), RF Jason Heyward (2-for-18, 2B, 3B), SS Addison Russell (1-for-22) and 1B Anthony Rizzo (1-for-23).

Arrieta faced the Dodgers once in 2016, back in May, and earned a no-decision despite throwing seven scoreless innings. In four career postseason starts (25 2/3 IP), he’s 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA. Chicago has arguably the most dominant closer in the game in LHP Aroldis Chapman (1 ER, 9 SO, 2 BB, 3 SV in 5 1/3 IP).

Gonzalez has had two massive hits in this series—in addition to his Game 2 homer, he hit a two-run, game-tying single in the eighth inning in Game 1—but 3B Justin Turner (7-for-21, 3B, HR, 5 RBI) has been the most consistent Dodgers hitter this postseason.

LF Andrew Toles (4-for-13, 2B, RBI) and CF Joc Pederson (6-for-22, 2B, HR, 3 RBI) have also been swinging the bat pretty well. Gonzalez has had success against Arrieta, going 6-for-21 with a homer and a double off him, and Josh Reddick (5-for-19, RBI) is 4-for-9 against the right-hander with a homer.

Hill has never faced the Cubs in his 11-year career, and only four players on Chicago’s roster have faced him. Like the Cubs, the Dodgers have a brilliant closer in Kenley Jansen (4 ER, 13 SO, 5 BB, 3 SV in 7 1/3 IP), though he’s had his struggles this postseason.