MLB Playoffs 2016: Latest Odds Guide, Preview and Bracket Predictions

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2016

Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell hits a two-run home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Blanton during the sixth inning of Game 5 of the National League baseball championship series Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

While the Cleveland Indians already punched their ticket to the World Series, the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers continue to battle it out in the NL championship. The Cubbies are just one win away from taking the next step toward breaking a century-long drought.

Chicago's offense broke out of a funk in Game 4 and Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead after trailing 2-1. The Cubs are favored to win the series with a one-game cushion at their disposal, but the Dodgers have a pair of aces up their sleeve with Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill set to take the mound in Game 6 and Game 7, respectively.

With Game 6 on the horizon, here is a look at the current odds of interest in the NLCS, as well as a prediction for which team will come out on top.

   

NLCS Game 6 Odds: Dodgers 10-13, Cubs 6-5 (via OddsShark)

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NLCS Series Odds: Cubs 10-17, Dodgers 7-5 (via OddsShark)

Remaining NLCS Schedule

NLCS Schedule
DateTime (ET)GameAway TeamHome TeamWatch
Saturday, Oct. 228 p.m.6Los Angeles DodgersChicago CubsFS1
Sunday, Oct. 238 p.m.7 (if necessary)Los Angeles DodgersChicago CubsFS1
MLB.com

    

NLCS Prediction

After getting shut out in both Game 2 and Game 3, things looked somewhat grim for the Cubs, but they bounced back in a big way over the past two games to take firm control of the series.

The Game 5 triumph was an especially big one, as teams that win Game 5 of a best-of-seven series that is tied 2-2 historically have gone on to win the vast majority of the time, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Chicago's biggest key to success over the past two contests has been the fact that first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Addison Russell broke out of massive slumps and led the Cubs' offense, much like they did all season long.

Both players are 5-for-10 in their last two outings with a combined three home runs and eight RBI.

Although that is a great sign for the Cubbies, Rizzo and Russell have done their damage against struggling starters and relievers.

That can be said for much of Chicago's lineup, as Kershaw and Hill thoroughly dominated the Cubs hitters in Game 2 and Game 3, per Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com:

While neither Kenta Maeda nor Julio Urias pitched particularly well in the Dodgers' three losses during the series, most of Chicago's success has come against L.A.'s struggling bullpen:

If Kershaw and Hill are able to replicate their previous performances in the series, though, the Dodgers won't have to worry much about their relief pitching woes.

Kershaw has often been ridiculed for his playoff record in comparison to how good he has been during the regular season over the course of his career.

Although the lefty had an up-and-down NL divisional series, he pitched like a true ace in Game 2 of the NLCS by allowing just two hits and one walk in seven innings of shutout baseball.

After that showing, Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is confident that Kershaw can get them back in the series, according to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register:

Assuming Kershaw comes through in the clutch, the series will go to a Game 7 featuring a pitching matchup pitting Hill against Jake Arrieta.

Hill easily won that battle in Game 3 by allowing two hits and two walks in six shutout innings, while Arrieta scattered six hits and four runs over five frames.

While Hill was great during the regular season, he struggled against the Washington Nationals during the NLDS and has yet to prove he can string together consecutive great starts in the playoffs.

Arrieta hasn't been the same pitcher since starting off 2016 in dominant fashion and winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award, but his recent history against the Dodgers prior to Game 3 was impressive, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today:

Now that Chicago's big bats have come to life, it once again looks like the all-around elite team it was over the course of the entire regular season.

The Cubs' lineup depth is amazing, thanks to the likes of Rizzo, Russell, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and others, and it is difficult to envision them being held down once again in consecutive games.

A locked-in Kershaw will find a way to force a Game 7, but with the Wrigley Field faithful behind them and Arrieta on the mound, the Cubs will win that decisive game and finally get back to the World Series.

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