After coming back from a 2-1 deficit to go up 3-2 in the National League Championship Series, the Chicago Cubs have pushed the Los Angeles Dodgers' back against the wall, as L.A. will enter Saturday's Game 6 in win-or-go-home mode.
The pitching contest will be a rematch of the Game 2 affair the Dodgers won 1-0, with ace Clayton Kershaw going up against regular-season NL ERA leader Kyle Hendricks. With two top-flight hurlers on the mound, runs could be difficult to come by once again.
With the Cubs just one win away from reaching the World Series, here is everything you need to know about when and where to watch Game 6, as well as a prediction for which team will prevail.
Where: Wrigley Field in Chicago
When: Saturday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox Sports 1
Dodgers Player to Watch: Clayton Kershaw
Great pitchers can almost single-handedly carry teams through the playoffs at times, and the Dodgers may need that type of performance out of Kershaw in Game 6.
After struggling to the tune of a 5.84 ERA in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals, Kershaw bounced back in a big way in Game 2 of the NLCS, firing seven innings of two-hit, no-run baseball in a 1-0 Dodgers triumph.
The Cubs were also shut out by Rich Hill in Game 3, but the bats have since come back to life in the form of 18 runs over the past two contests.
Despite that, the Dodgers appear to have plenty of confidence entering Game 6.
According to MLB's official Twitter account, manager Dave Roberts feels good about his team's chances with Kershaw on the bump:
The same can be said for Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register:
Kershaw's career playoff record leaves plenty to be desired, as he is just 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA despite the gem he threw in Game 2.
Even so, the fact he has been on the big stage so often means the moment shouldn't overwhelm him. He is of the belief he is well prepared and equipped to take on the challenge, according to Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune:
Obviously the fans are pretty excited about their team this year, and rightfully so. They have been waiting a long time for them to win. ... Pitching on the road is obviously different, but you try and keep it the same as possible. D.C. was one of the louder environments that I've pitched in. So I have gotten to do that now a few times. I guess I'm as prepared as I'll ever be for that.
The Dodgers bullpen has struggled during the NLCS, so it is incumbent upon Kershaw to pitch well and pitch deep into Game 6.
If he is locked in, then the Dodgers won't have to do much against Hendricks, much like in Game 2.
Pitching in Game 6 does take a potential relief appearance in a possible Game 7 out of the equation for Kershaw, but Game 7 won't even occur if he doesn't come through Saturday.
Cubs Player to Watch: Javier Baez
Great defense and timely hitting are paramount in high-pressure playoff games, especially when elite pitchers are on the mound. Because of that, Javier Baez could be the most important position player in Game 6.
The 23-year-old is enjoying a spectacular playoff run in 2016, as he is hitting .368 with five RBI and two stolen bases in the NLCS.
According to MLB Stat of the Day, his penchant for extra-base hits is already historic through five games of the series:
As good as Baez has been at the plate, it can be argued that his defense at second base has been even better.
While Baez played all over the diamond during the regular season, he has settled in at second base during the playoffs and regularly made difficult plays look routine, such as the one on Gonzalez in Game 5 that features in this MLB Twitter post:
Many have taken notice of Baez's defense reaching an elite level, including ESPN.com's Jayson Stark:
Although Chicago's offense has exploded over the past two games, Kershaw is skilled at silencing bats, much like he did in Game 2.
If Kershaw pitches another gem, every play and every out will be of the utmost importance, which is why Baez's defense will be key.
He has also been the most consistently productive hitter in the Cubs lineup during the postseason, and he seems the likeliest candidate to get a big hit for Chicago in a tight game, which could push the team into the World Series.
Game 6 Pick
Cubs fans have been starved for a World Series berth since 1945, and they are just one win away from finally making their return.
The crowd promises to be raucous at Wrigley Field Saturday, and it won't be an easy atmosphere for Kershaw and the Dodgers to deal with.
Kershaw already managed to do so once in Game 2, however, and now he has seemingly found his playoff stride, the Dodgers enter Game 6 with an advantage.
Hendricks had a spectacular regular season, but he has struggled to give the Cubs length during the playoffs, going just 3.2 innings in the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants before leaving through injury and 5.1 innings in Game 2 of the NLCS.
He also had control problems in his last start, as he walked four batters, while Kershaw offered just one free pass.
The Los Angeles offense has been largely stagnant in the series, but if Yasmani Grandal, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Co. are able to run into a pitch or two, Kershaw may not need much more run support than that.
Kershaw is a three-time Cy Young Award winner and has been the best regular-season pitcher in baseball for years. He'll carry that trend over into the playoffs for a second consecutive start to force a Game 7.
Game 6 prediction: Dodgers 2, Cubs 1
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