Post-season play has a reputation for turning the odds upside down, but one thing is certain ...The Dodgers must win one of the first two games in Wrigley Field to have a reasonable chance to move up to the next level.
A 0-2 start would pretty much send everyone in Los Angeles back to the drawing board.
The Cubs are the National League's highest scoring team, 5.31 runs per game. Los Angeles is almost a full run per game behind them (4.32) and 13th in the league. The Dodgers have the best earned run average in the league, 3.68 but the Cubs are fifth with a .387.
The Cubs are predominantly right-handed, and they'll see three right-handed starters in the first three games, Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda. Lowe has been especially good, not losing a decision since August. His heavy sinker, a must in Wrigley Field where things in the air tend to end up in or over the bleachers, could seriously limit the Chicago production.
Torre said the decision of whether to bring back Lowe on three days' rest for a possible Game 4 on Sunday at Dodger Stadium depends on what happens in the first two games.
"We have discussed that, but again, to worry about Sunday is probably a little bit too far down the line," Torre told the Los Angeles Daily News.
"But if we do get to that situation, it's not going to be a problem. I have been very fortunate to have been able to do that numerous times in my career and not had any problem. If we get to that situation, I would love to be able to pitch Game 4. But clearly, your focus is on the first pitch."
The Cubs have six players with over 20 home runs, including Soriano (29), Ramirez (27), Soto (23), DeRosa (21) and both Edmonds and Lee with 20 each. Andre Ethier led the Dodgers with 20, although Manny Ramirez had 37 between the East and West Coasts.
Because the Dodgers will start right handers, Cubs center fielder Jim Edmonds who hits lefthanded could be a huge factor in the short, five-game series.
The Dodgers have leaned on Manny Ramirez to get them into the postseason but he is going to need considerable support to get Los Angeles over the hump. Over his 53 games with the dodgers, Ramirez did in hit .396, 17 home runs and drive in 53 runs. He hit .299 and had 20 homers and 68 RBI with the Red Sox in about twice as many games this season.
Game 1 starter Ryan Dempster (17-8) has been almost unbeatable at Wrigley Field. Rich Harden (5-1), when he is healthy and on his game, is one of the best in the game. Lefty Ted Lilly (17-9), a former Dodgers farm hand, has been brilliant late in the season, and he is just the fourth starter. The "X" factor may be the nominal ace, Carlos Zambrano (14-6) who threw a no-hitter against Houston, but then, he was roughed up in his next two starts.
Lowe (14-11) has come down the stretch like and old fire-horse who is answering the bell, winning seven of 10 decisions after the All-Star break and posting a 2.36 ERA.
Ominously, however, Lowe is more effective against lefthanded batters (2.58 ERA) than right handers (3.81) during the season.
Billingsley (16-10) is 7-2, 2.99 since the break and Kuroda was 9-10 on the season with flashes of real brilliance.
The Dodgers will win if their pitching staff delivers. As underdogs they will need solid starting pitching to have any chance.
Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin. Blake DeWitt and James Loney are young, and are certain to bee feeling their first playoff pressure. They will have to step up of the Dodgers have any chance to beat the Cubs.
Generally, the odds are stacked against the Dodgers, perhaps not as overwhelmingly as the nine out of 10 ESPN writers who are picking the Cubs.
Then again, maybe it's 1988 all over again, when literally everyone and their brother were certain the Mets, who has won 10 of 11 against the Dodgers in the regular season, would waltz into the World Series.
And we all can remember how that turned out.
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