Dodgers' ace set for must-win Game 6, while regular-season ERA leader could pitch Cubs to Series
By Jack Baer
LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw vs. Kyle Hendricks went the Dodgers' way in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, but the Cubs will get another crack at it Saturday at Wrigley Field.
Kershaw emerged victorious in the 1-0 Game 2 win with seven masterful innings, allowing two singles and no runs to even the series, 1-1. Hendricks allowed the only earned run of the game on a solo shot from Adrian Gonzalez, but he was still sloppy outside of that. His four walks matched his regular-season high.
In case a reminder is needed about how good these two were in the regular season, just keep in mind that MLB's ERA champion this season has the higher ERA in this matchup. Now, the two meet again, with elimination on the line.
Why he'll win: Round one in this matchup went well enough for Kershaw, as the southpaw shut down the Cubs' lineup for seven innings and slowly chopped away at the narrative that he can't pitch in the postseason. Now, he faces the same team at the same ballpark with even greater stakes. Kershaw remains the best pitcher on the planet, and there's no one the Dodgers would rather have pitching for them.
Pitcher beware: The last time Kershaw pitched in Game 6 of an NLCS, it did not go well. In 2013 against the Cardinals, Kershaw allowed 10 hits and seven earned runs in a loss that eliminated the Dodgers from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1988. While a game three years ago isn't exactly predictive of what happens now, it certainly isn't encouraging.
Bottom line: The Dodgers have not lost a game this postseason in which Kershaw touched the mound. If he delivers again in Game 6, he'll be adding to a postseason legacy that has quieted many doubters this season.
Hendricks against the Dodgers
Game 2: 5 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K 2016: 1 GS, 1-0, 2.25 ERA, 8 IP, 6 K, 1 BB Career: 3 GS, 2-1, 3.15 ERA, 20 IP, 12 K, 3 BB
Loves to face:Joc Pederson, 0-for-6 (.000), 1 BB, 2 K Hates to face: Gonzalez, 2-for-7 (.286), 2 HR, 2 BB
Why he'll win: A league-leading 2.13 ERA is what happens when a player forces soft contact as often as anyone, keeps the ball in the park and plays in front of what is easily the best defense in baseball. Hendricks does all of that, and it's worked quite well this season.
Pitcher beware: As strong as Hendricks was for the vast majority of the season, he hasn't lasted six innings since Sept. 26. He also had to leave Game 2 of the NL Division Series with a right arm contusion after he was hit by an Angel Pagan line drive.
Bottom line: Hendricks is pitching in a ballpark where he posted a 1.32 ERA in the regular season, and he is still somehow the underdog in Game 6. If he flashes what he did in the second half of the season, there's no reason why he can't emerge victorious, even considering who he's starting against.
Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.