The Chicago Cubs will barely have time to catch their breath, fly to Los Angeles and prepare for the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers after winning a heart-stopping division series against the Washington Nationals.
The Cubs emerged with a 9-8 victory in Game 5, and the win required the Cubs to rally against Washington ace Max Scherzer in the fifth inning and then get a seven-out save from closer Wade Davis.
"I've always known he's got a lot of mettle in his soul," said Ben Zobrist about Davis, per StatsAP. ''The guy just shows up. He's got ice in his veins.''
It was a thrilling victory, one as joyful for the Cubs as it was painful for the Nationals. But the next task is already at hand for the defending World Series champions as they square off in a best-of-7 series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Los Angeles was a dominant team through the first three-quarters of the season. As the Dodgers moved through August, it appeared they were on track to win 110 games or more. However, they hit a significant roadblock in the latter stages of the month. The Dodgers lost 16 of 17 games at one stretch and came limping into the postseason.
They appeared quite vulnerable as they entered the division series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They had been swept in back-to-back series by Arizona during their end-of-season slump, but the Dodgers quickly put that behind them and swept the Diamondbacks out of the playoffs.
The first game of the series between the Dodgers and Cubs will get underway Saturday in Los Angeles. Here's a look at the series schedule:
National League Championship Series
Game 1: Chicago at Los Angeles, 8 p.m., TBS, Oct. 14
Game 2: Chicago at Los Angeles, 7:30 p.m., TBS, Oct. 15
Game 3: Los Angeles at Chicago, TBD. TBS, Oct. 17
Game 4: Los Angeles at Chicago, TBD, TBS, Oct. 18
Game 5: Los Angeles at Chicago, TBD, TBS, Oct. 19 (if necessary)
Game 6: Chicago at Los Angeles, TBD, TBS, Oct. 21 (if necessary)
Game 7: Chicago at Los Angeles, TBD, TBS, Oct. 22 (if necessary)
Justin Turner hit .462 for the Dodgers in the Arizona series with one home run and five RBI, while Yasiel Puig hit .455 with four RBI.
The Dodgers will have ace Clayton Kershaw ready and prepared to take the mound in Game 1, and that's an enigmatic situation. Kershaw is clearly one of the top three pitchers in Major League Baseball, and an excellent case can be made that he is No. 1 over the likes of Washington's Scherzer and Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox. However, his playoff record is not up to that level.
Kershaw has a 5-7 career postseason record with a 4.67 earned-run average. He earned a victory in Game 1 against the Diamondbacks, but he gave up four home runs in 6.1 innings and his 5.68 ERA in that series demonstrates he is not over his postseason issues.
The Cubs hit .180 as a team in their series against the Nationals, but Anthony Rizzo drove in six runs, while Addison Russell added four RBI. Kris Bryant hopes to turn things around after hitting .200 against the Nationals and striking out 10 times in 20 at-bats.
The Dodgers lost to the Cubs in six games in last year's NLCS, but manager Dave Roberts says this year's team has gained increased confidence.
"Our guys this year, as they were last year, are focused," Roberts said, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "It does help when you're the winningest team from this year and we've showed how good we can be when we play our brand of baseball. We're a confident group, and understand we still have a lot of work to do."
The Dodgers are minus-185 favorites to win the NLCS and advance to the World Series, while the Cubs are plus-160 underdogs according to OddsShark.
The Dodgers appear to have gotten over their brutal late-season tailspin, and the team appears ready for the challenge of the Cubs.
The Dodgers are rested, talented and motivated, while the Cubs have proved their resiliency throughout the last three playoff seasons. They have shown they will fight hard and figure things out even if they are not playing their best baseball.
This series has the look of a seven-game classic, and the Dodgers are not going to let this one get away. They have not played in the World Series since 1988, but this is their time.
Closer Kenley Jansen is basically unhittable, and he will finish off the defending champions in the ninth inning of Game 7.
This will be another excruciating series, and the Dodgers will earn the victory.