MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Kershaw, experience give Dodgers hope

Kershaw, experience give Dodgers hope

LOS ANGELES -- This is, of course, no time for the Los Angeles Dodgers to panic. And so, they won't.

By losing Game 5 of the 2016 National League Championship Series to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night, the Dodgers left themselves with a postseason situation that is at once precarious yet far from impossible.

• NLCS Game 6: Saturday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on FS1

The Dodgers' 8-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs left the Dodgers on the edge of postseason elimination, trailing 3-2 in the NLCS. But you can still see the road to a much happier ending for the Dodgers. There have been 10 teams in MLB history that have won Games 6 and 7 on the road in a best-of-seven series. The Cubs succumbed to that fate in the 2003 NLCS, when they lost their final two games to the Marlins.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 15 CHC 8, LAD 4 video
Gm 2 Oct. 16 LAD 1, CHC 0 video
Gm 3 Oct. 18 LAD 6, CHC 0 video
Gm 4 Oct. 19 CHC 10, LAD 2 video
Gm 5 Oct. 20 CHC 8, LAD 4 video
Gm 6 Oct. 22 CHC 5, LAD 0 video

Whatever happened Thursday night, when the series resumes with Game 6 Saturday night at Wrigley Field, the Dodgers will have Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher on the planet, starting for them. Kyle Hendricks, who had the lowest ERA in the Majors this season among qualified pitchers at 2.13, is scheduled to start for the Cubs.

Hendricks would be in the category of "very, very good, but still not Kershaw."

You never know what will happen at Wrigley. The Cubs haven't figured it out, because if they had, they wouldn't have gone 108 years without winning a World Series, or 71 years without appearing in a World Series.

Chicago's North Side will be a different environment than Chavez Ravine in more ways than one. At game time Thursday, the temperature was 89 degrees at Dodger Stadium. Based on the responsible forecast models, by the close of business Saturday night, Wrigley Field will have a temperature of roughly one-half of that number.

But the visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley is the smallest and least adequate in Major League Baseball. The Dodgers could certainly huddle in there for warmth if the upper Midwestern climate chills them.

Anyway, Kershaw was asked Thursday about his level of excitement for a start of this magnitude.

"I don't know if excitement's the right word," Kershaw said with a smile, "but it will be exciting if we win, for sure.

"I think you do everything you can to try and keep it just like another start at the beginning. Then obviously the magnitude and situation of the game kind of raises everybody's adrenaline and things like that. But trying to keep it the same right now."

Kershaw on Game 6 excitement

There is no point in worrying about Game 7 now. Rich Hill would get that start and look how well he performed in Game 3, with the six shutout innings. But without a Dodgers victory in Game 6, there is no Game 7.

The Dodgers were down 2-1 against the Nationals in the NL Division Series, but won the last two games. That gives them particular hope here.

"You look at the series where we're at," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "We're down a game, but we've won on the road before. We've won two games before. And I think that for us it's an isolated focus on Game 6. We get a rested Kersh. So with that, we feel good. After we get through Game 6, we'll focus on Game 7. But I think our confidence hasn't wavered."

"We were in the same situation against Washington and we took care of it," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. "We're going to take care of it on Saturday. We've won two games before. Nothing says that we can't do it Saturday and Sunday.

"This time," Gonzalez added with a smile, "Kershaw will pitch with zero days' rest."

Roberts on confidence in aces

There wasn't much to be learned from Game 5, which turned out to be another contest that got away from the Dodgers late. The Cubs were held scoreless in Games 2 and 3 and they seemed to be eager to compensate for those shortcomings.

It was still a 1-1 game after five innings. Kenta Maeda did his best work of this postseason, although he wasn't exactly eating innings, giving up one run in 3 2/3 innings and striking out six.

Joe Blanton, who has pitched so well for the Dodgers, may have reached the expiration date on his latest career revival. In Game 1 of this series, he gave up the pinch-hit, grand slam homer to Miguel Montero that decided the game in favor of the Cubs.

In Game 5, with the game tied, 1-1, in the sixth, Blanton gave up a two-run homer to Addison Russell that put the Cubs ahead for keeps. But Roberts said he thought Blanton was still strong and that he would not hesitate to go to him in Game 6 and Game 7.

One way or another, it won't be easy for the Dodgers. The Cubs are one victory away from going to the World Series for the first time since 1945. They will have a world of motivation. But the Dodgers won't be short in that category, either. And they'll have Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher on the planet, going for them in Game 6.

As Gonzalez put it: "We can grab back that momentum with one name: Kershaw."

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.