The Chicago Cubs have two chances to win one game to reach their first World Series since 1945. That’s the good news.
The bad news is they’ll be facing Clayton Kershaw in Game 6 of the NLCS on Saturday night. Kershaw pitched seven scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 1-0 Game 2 win and is yet to lose in the postseason.
How can the Cubs overcome this?
“Well, have two game like they just had,” nine-time All-Star Gary Sheffield said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “When you get in the playoffs, everybody thinks hitters are in slumps. It’s just a five-game series and a seven-game series. These things happen on the regular during the season. You succeed three times out of 10. But when you’re in a series and you’re hitting .260, that’s not good enough for the playoffs. You have to be hot going into the playoffs. The Cubs, the last two games, they’ve put up a lot of runs, which got the bats going. Hitting is contagious. No matter who’s pitching, the Cubs’ bats have to be feeling better about themselves than the Dodgers.”
After scoring zero runs in Games 2-3, the Cubs scored 18 in Games 4-5.
The Dodgers have struggled offensively in the past few games, but Sheffield advises against hitters changing their approach mid-series.
“You can’t make too many changes because it’ll take you that much longer to figure out the change if it doesn’t work,” he said. “Then you’re trying to go back to what you knew. Then the next thing you know, the series is over. The best thing to do is hit the ball line-to-line and not try to pull. When you try to pull in the playoffs, that’s when you’re going to have a hard time because you’re facing No. 1s and No. 2s on a consistent basis, and you may get a No. 3, depending on the staff. But when you get pull happy trying to hit home runs, great pitchers try to keep the ball off the barrel of the bat. So you have to take what they give you and let the game come to you. That way it slows down.”
If there is a Game 7 on Sunday, Jake Arrieta would oppose Rich Hill. The last time the Cubs had a chance to clinch an NLCS at home, the Steve Bartman incident occurred.
Is the curse actually on the Cubs’ minds these days?
“Well, none of those kids was around for that,” Sheffield said. “But the thing is, you’re reminded every day from the media, so it creeps in your head. It takes your heads guys – your managers, front office – to get these kids to understand you guys are good enough to win, don’t buy into that, just play every pitch at a time, make sure you make the plays, get the timely hitting and just focus on the moment and not the past.”
The NLCS winner will face Cleveland in the World Series. Sheffield believes the Indians should be rooting for Los Angeles.
“They should want to face the Dodgers,” Sheffield said. “They have a better chance of beating them over the Cubs. The Cubs are so deep in their pitching staff. The Cleveland Indians, they have a lot of pitchers that’s been out. The pitcher that had the drone incident, Trevor Bauer, I don’t see him pithing at all. So Cleveland is not that deep as far as starting pitchers are concerned, they have capable guys. But I just don’t see them overtaking what the Cubs bring to the table. I think they have a better chance with the Dodgers because the only reliable guys that they have is Kershaw and Hill.”