CHICAGO -- The Dodgers went into the National League Division Series knowing they had already beaten the opposing Nationals five of six in the regular season, that they matched up well with Washington's heavily right-handed starting rotation and that the Nationals were banged up.
None of those perceived advantages apply in the Dodgers' NL Championship Series against the Cubs, who were the best team in baseball this year. The best-of-seven series starts Saturday (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on FS1).
The Dodgers wound up being outscored by the Nationals, as well as statistically out-hit and out-pitched, but here they are after a monumental Game 5 win, cast in the familiar role of underdog that they wear so well.
"I can kind of relate a little bit playing for the Red Sox in 2004, where it felt like the whole country was supporting us and was hoping for us to break the curse," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "And, obviously, the country's rallied around the Cubs. So, I don't think it affects us. We had a good feeling going into that last series and so we are here now and we're playing on prime time and our guys are looking forward to it."
What do the Dodgers need to do to advance to their first World Series since 1988? Here are three things to consider:
1. Work the count
It's hard to find a weakness in the Cubs, but middle relief is as good a place to start as any. And when the Dodgers offense is focused, as Justin Turner demonstrated with a 13-pitch at-bat in Game 5, it can grind out a string of professional at-bats that taxes starters and gets the bullpen busy. Oh, and getting Corey Seager hot again would be nice.
2. Beat Jon Lester
It's simple, just not easy. The Dodgers have been tamed by lefties of all shapes and abilities this year, and they'll be facing Lester twice. If they can't get a lead off Lester, they'll be trying to come from behind against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning. Not an ideal strategy.
3. Don't beat themselves
OK, this sounds pretty obvious, but it's also one of the Dodgers' most overlooked strengths this year. They don't make dumb mistakes. They are fundamentally solid. They make the routine play. They don't get runners thrown out at the plate by 30 feet. They hit the cutoff man, even Yasiel Puig sometimes. They aren't fast baserunners, but they're pretty smart and selectively aggressive when the situation dictates.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.