Ker­shaw in Cubs’ way

Pen­nant chase goes through ace lefty — or it’s on to Game 7

Baltimore Sun - - ORIOLES NHL - By Mark Gon­za­les

CHICAGO — The temp­ta­tion to look ahead to the World Se­ries is great, but the chal­lenge of beat­ing t hree- t i me Na­tional League Cy Young Award win­ner Clay­ton Ker­shaw is even greater.

“Hon­estly, it’s just like any nor­mal game un­til you get to those last cou­ple in­nings,” Ben Zo­brist said of play­ing in a play­of­f­clinch­ing game.

The Cubs hope to re­al­ize that dis­tinc­tion tonight for the first time since 1945 when they face the Dodgers and Ker­shaw in Game 6 of the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries at Wrigley Field.

“You just try to stay in the mo­ment, stay fo­cused on do­ing the job early in the game, try­ing to get a lead [and] hold the lead,” Zo­brist said. “Some­times your mind can wan­der think­ing about this re­ally means some­thing here, win­ning the Se­ries and such. But even at that mo­ment, you try to put those thoughts out of your mind and go out and win the game.

“We know we’ve got a chal­lenge ahead of us in Ker­shaw again. Hope­fully we can get a lead early and keep it go­ing.”

The Cubs would like to avoid a Game 7, get an ex­tra day of rest and line up their ro­ta­tion for the World Se­ries. But they’ll have to over­come Ker­shaw, who beat them, 1-0, in Game 2 at Wrigley and will have the ben­e­fit of five days’ rest to let his valu­able left arm re­cu­per­ate as well as fur­ther strengthen his back af­ter miss­ing 21⁄ months be­cause of a her­ni­ated disk.

Ker­shaw re­lied mostly on fast­balls to limit the Dodgers ace Clay­ton Ker­shaw stands be­tween the Cubs and the Na­tional League pen­nant in Game 6 on Satur­day. Cubs lead 3-2 Game 1: Cubs 8-4 Game 2: Dodgers 1-0 Game 3: Dodgers 6-0 Game 4: Cubs 10-2 Game 5: Cubs 8-4 Game 6: Dodgers (Ker­shaw) at Cubs (Hen­dricks), 8 tonight, FS1 Game 7: Dodgers (Hill) at Cubs (Ar­ri­eta), 8 p.m. Sun­day (if nec.), FS1 Cubs to two hits over seven in­nings Sun­day, but their re­cent fa­mil­iar­ity might help them fare bet­ter.

“I al­ways think the ad­van­tage goes to the hit­ters when you’re see­ing a guy [in back-to-back starts],” An­thony Rizzo said. “But we’ll have to cap­i­tal­ize on ev­ery other de­tail.”

That means gain­ing more suc­cess ear­lier than last time, when Ker­shaw re­tired the first 14 bat­ters be­fore Javier Baez col­lected the first of his two hits against him.

“He’s go­ing to come at you early,” a vet­eran Na­tional League scout said. “You’ve got to be ready for his fast­ball early and do some­thing. He’ll tend to mix in his se­condary pitches, slid­ers and curves, the sec­ond time around.

“It’s not easy be­cause he’ll throw that slider in [to right-handed bat­ters] to keep them hon­est.”

By tak­ing two of three at Dodger Sta­dium, the Cubs re­gained home-field ad­van­tage at what’s ex­pected to be a deliri­ous Wrigley Field. They’ll get an­other shot Sun­day if they don’t beat Ker­shaw.

“I like our chances,” Rizzo said.


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