RECORDS: Dodgers 15-9 Cubs 10-10
GAMETIMES: Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:05, Thursday at 1:20
TV: NBCSN Tuesday and Thursday, WGN Wednesday
THINK BLUE: True Blue LA
Ross Stripling vs. TBD (possibly Lester, possibly Hendricks)
DODGERS PROBABLE LINEUP
Joc Pederson – LF
Corey Seager – SS
Justin Turner – 3B
Cody Bellinger – RF
A.J. Pollock – CF
Max Muncy – 1B
Enrique Hernandez – 2B
Austin Barnes – C
(note: with lefties on tap, Freese could start at first, Taylor could move into the outfield with Bellinger moving to first, or some combo thereof)
PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP
Daniel Descalso – 2B
Kris Bryant – 3B
Anthony Rizzo – 1B
Javier Baez – SS
Jason Heyward – CF
Kyle Schwarber – LF
Ben Zobrist – RF
(note: Could see Bryant move to right with Bote at 3rd)
If the Cubs had gotten somewhat healthy by getting to face some dregs and drain-scrapings in Arizona and Miami, and to a lesser extent the Angels shorn of Mike Trout, that all changes tonight as the Cubs welcome the National League’s aristocrats in the form of the Los Angeles Dodgers. If you want to know how the Dodgers have ascended to the top of the league’s standings, I’ll refer you to John Paul Jones’s impression of all drummers who were foolishly compared to John Bonham, “UGH. BASH. UGH. BASH.”
The Dodgers are second in the NL in homers to the Brewers. They lead in runs, and only trail the Mariners in all of baseball. They’re second in OBP. First in slugging. First in wOBA. So yeah, they pack something of a punch.
The Dodgers are led by the infuriatingly good and handsome Cody Bellinger, who you’ll never convince me doesn’t have Rohypnol somewhere in his house, who already has 11 homers, is slugging around .900, and is carrying a wRC+ of 252. So don’t pitch to him. Corey Seager has returned from missing all of 2018 and is doing Corey Seager things. Joc Pederson and his moon-face are having a career year, as he’s got 10 homers as well. Even Enrique Hernandez, the one you know as the one you’d like to hit with a tire iron, is slugging .551. There are very few places to hide. Pollock is struggling but has historically killed the Cubs. Tormund Turner hasn’t hit his stride yet but always looks like he’s about to. Austin Barnes seems to be the only breather here. And that’s before they bring Bruce Banner’s brother Chris Taylor off the bench.
What the Dodgers haven’t gotten is the starting pitching they were expecting, but once they do it’s a problem for America. It’s been fine, and certainly good enough when they’re turning every game into pop-a-shot. Walker Buehler has been let down by his defense a bit, has seen an ungodly number of runners score instead of stranded, and his strikeouts are down just a touch. But you’d bet on him figuring it out. Clayton Kershaw isn’t really a descendant of Zeus anymore, but you’d bet on him finding a way to carry a sub-3.00 ERA anyway. Ross Stripling is getting a ton of grounders, Julio Urias has started to look like what they said he would three years ago, Ryu has been even better, and Rich Hill isn’t even around yet to scream and make sure everyone knows just how much he cares. It seems like every season the Dodgers have seven or eight starters and none are worse than a #3. Fuck these guys, seriously.
If there’s one problem area, it’s in the pen. The Dodgers signed Joe Kelly to try and bandage that from last year, except Joe Kelly has always sucked no matter how many lame-ass YouTube videos he comes up with or how much he parades around his ring that the Red Sox were terrified of letting him try and contribute to. Kenley Jansen hasn’t been automatic this season, and neither has human filibuster Pedro Baez. Caleb Ferguson has been the best weapon out of there so far.
For the Cubs, they’re likely to try and stack their lefties against the Dodgers, as the main threats of Seager, Bellinger, and Pederson all hit from that side and with Turner still finding it they don’t have much of a counter. It’s just less bad with a lefty, not advantageous. Lester is eligible to come off the DL for Thursday’s matinee, though that isn’t much of a landing for him. The Cubs will see three tricky-to-tough righties, which means Anthony Rizzo coming in from the cold would be welcome. Of course, when the Cubs get into their pen, and the Dodgers will almost assuredly make sure the starters aren’t around that long, it’s going to be an adventure and a half right into hell.
There probably is no path out of the National League without seeing these guys. Might as well see how you stack up.