The time has come. Tonight at 7:08 central time, the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers square off in game one of the National League Championship Series. There are so many storylines that come into play.
Andrew Friedman vs Joe Maddon
The Cubs might not be having the success they are if not for Joe Maddon being the manager. Maddon would not be the Cubs manager if Andrew Friedman had not let his General Manager job to take the President of Baseball Operations job with the Dodgers. While the two teams have met in four series since the split of their partnership from their time with the Tampa Bay Rays, this is their first meeting in a series of any true significance.
Friedman’s shocking departure from Tampa Bay kicked in an opt out clause in Maddon’s contract which made him a free agent. Theo Epstein wasted no time in targeting Maddon to be the new manager of the Cubs, and relieving Rick Renteria of his managerial duties. While I have no issue with how Renteria did in his one and only year here, when you have a chance to get on of the best managers in baseball, you have to jump on it.
Friedman is thought to be one of the smartest men in baseball, alongside with Cubs President Theo Epstein. But his first and maybe biggest mistake in his Dodger’s tenure might have been not firing Don Mattingly and bringing Maddon with him to LA. The Dodgers loss is the Cubs gain. Under Maddon, the Cubs are 200-123-1 (stupid tie).
Now, Maddon get’s to face his former boss in a very meaningful game and remind him why he should have brought him to LA.
David Ross returns “home”
David Ross was drafted by the Dodgers in 1998 and made his Major League debut with 2002. His tenure in LA was brief and not overly impressive, though as a backup catcher you do not expect to see someone completely dominate.
In his second season with the Cubs, Ross has become a fan favorite after a rather rocky start. Fandom can be a little crazy and might be just a little hard to explain at times. Last year fans groaned at the thought of him being signed just to be “Jon Lester‘s caddy” and continued to grumble every time he started behind the plate.
What a difference a year makes. Now in his final season, Ross is having a rebirth of sorts and he has become one of the biggest fan favorites on the team. He is well loved and has been receiving standing ovations in plenty of his final at bats at Wrigley Field. Perhaps the fanbase has finally realized just how important of a piece he is after Lester, Jason Heyward and many other Cubs came out and spoke of his leadership, or maybe because he is performing as though he is a young rookie again. Either way, he has earned the love and support of the Cubs fanbase.
The Dodgers gave Ross his start in the game, and he has a chance to return the favor by eliminating them from the playoffs.
Jake Arrieta‘s first no hitter
In 2014 Arrieta started his tremendous run of excellent pitching, coming close to throwing a no hitter on several occasions. Then, finally in 2015 he finally got one, Arrieta threw his first career no hitter against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
While the Dodgers have yet to announce their full starting rotation for the series, the Cubs already have. Arrieta will be starting game three of the series, but that will be the first game in LA. While Arrieta may not throw a no hitter, in that ballpark (and pretty much in all of California) he has tremendous numbers. Even though Arrieta has not been as dominant this season as he was in 2015, he is still pitching very well.
The series is slated to start tonight, and there is still much to figure out. At the time of this writing, neither team has announced their NLCS roster, though they should be announced relatively soon.
One of the biggest questions, is when will the Dodgers pitch Clayton Kershaw. Will they throw him out there for game three on short rest or hold him for game three with a meeting against Arrieta? Kershaw pitched on short rest for the Dodges on Tuesday, which means he would be available on regular rest for a start on Sunday. However, he made an appearance on short rest Thursday for the Dodgers in a save situation. That means he would only be on two days rest, if not for the fact that he skipped his bullpen session that day and only threw seven pitches.
The time is almost here guys. The nerves and excitement are building. As the song says…