Cleat Geeks

NLCS: The Defending Champion Cubs Are In Trouble, But So Are The Dodgers; Here’s Why

Survive and advance.

That’s an obvious goal of every team that makes it to the playoffs in each and every sport.

The Chicago Cubs defined such goal with a 9-8 victory over the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series last week in the Nation’s Capital.

Right now, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a stranglehold over those Cubs in the National League Championship Series with a three games to none lead.

Obviously, the Cubs are in trouble. Having to win four straight against any team in any professional sport is a tall task, especially when dealing with one of the best clubs in the game, one that ran off an impressive 50-game stretch where they went 43-7 during the summer.

Despite hitting a large speed bump that spanned the dates of August 26th-September 11th where the Dodgers went 1-16, they returned to form at the end of the regular season and haven’t blinked. Los Angeles made quick work of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the division series with a three-game sweep and are now handling the Cubs.

So, you might ask, what’s the problem with the Dodgers’ situation?

I’ll tell you.

Of course, they do indeed have the Cubs right where they want them. They’re a win away from punching their ticket to the World Series, which would be the organization’s first trip to the Fall Classic since the 1988 campaign.

The problem arises when you look over at the out-of-town scoreboard and notice that the New York Yankees have tied up the Houston Astros at two games apiece in the American League Championship Series. That series has essentially become a best-of-three.

With that said, the ALCS will at least go a total of six games, if not seven. The NLCS could top out later tonight with a four-game sweep.

The World Series is scheduled to begin next Tuesday night, October 24th.

The team that eventually advances out of the American League will have a maximum of three days off. If the Dodgers sweep the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night, they will begin a full five-day stretch of not playing a game of baseball, something that no team in baseball is familiar with.

The most recent team to have a similar stretch of off days? The Dodgers. Los Angeles had four non-game days after sweeping the Diamondbacks and have yet to show rust against the Cubs, a team that opened their path to the championship series just two nights prior to its beginning. That would qualify as a working counter-argument.

When it comes to the World Series, phew, things change and everything (presumably) happens faster than ever.

The previous five teams to sweep their way through the championship series failed to win the final game of the season. Those teams are as follows: 2006 Detroit Tigers, 2007 Colorado Rockies, 2012 Detroit Tigers, 2014 Kansas City Royals and the 2015 New York Mets.

The ’06 Tigers faced the St. Louis Cardinals and were defeated in five games. The Cardinals played in seven championship series’ games that fall. The Tigers squeaked out 11 runs on 32 hits and committed a brutal, eight errors in the series. Many of those eight were costly.

The ’07 Rockies faced the Boston Red Sox and were swept. The Red Sox played in seven games during the championship series that fall. The Rockies plated just 10 runs on 29 hits in the series.

The ’12 Tigers faced the San Francisco Giants and were swept. The Giants played in a total of seven games during the championship series that fall. The Tigers scored a measly six runs on 20 hits.

The ’14 Royals faced the Giants and fell in the seventh game of the World Series. It took the Giants five games to advance to the Fall Classic. The Royals’ bats were rather hot in the series — the one team that almost snuck away — as they scored 27 runs on 57 hits.

The ’15 Mets faced off against the Royals and fell in five games. The Royals advanced after playing in six games during the championship series. The Mets plated 19 runs on 34 hits and committed six errors on defense.

In each of those World Series, the winner of the series played more games in the previous round. Four of those five World Series didn’t go further than five games.

Baseball is a game of timing, mechanics and like many other sports, repetition. It’s hard to recreate its playoff atmosphere and game speed. After a string of unaccustomed off days, the hottest hitters are more likely to cool with October’s numbing nighttime air, pitching grips become less consistent and baseballs become less efficient in travel. Yes, both teams deal with the same conditions, but the one that is able to roll from one round to the next without many days off has the advantage.

Sure, to this point, the Dodgers have taken advantage of their most recent string of off days, but with October waning, that fire becomes more likely to be put out.

Their advantage is being able to play in Los Angeles where the air doesn’t thicken as much.

With everything said, by no means am I saying that it’s okay to throw a game or somehow think about losing. No, you go and win the damn series. You don’t take any chances.

Survive and advance.

It’s just a tough spot to be in for any team. Having five days off to playing an opposing team that is able to roll in on fire with almost no break.

At the end of the day, it’s kind of similar to icing the kicker in football. Their big moment has finally come and they’re set to boot a monster field goal to win, but the opposing coach calls a timeout. Now, the kicker has to step aside, wait and potentially freeze.

Dont be that kicker, Dodgers.






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