Cubs, Dodgers get ready for Game 1 of NLCS
ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 15, 2016 11:28 AM
Chicago Cubs players work out during the team practice before baseball's National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in Chicago. The Cubs host Game 1 of the series against the Dodgers on Saturday. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
JAY COHEN, AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers are set to use Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda as the starter in Game One of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
Ordinarily the Dodgers would start with ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw, but he was called upon to finish off Thursday's game against Washington when Los Angeles clinched that NL Division Series.
"Physically, he feels great," manager Dave Roberts said of Kershaw, hinting he will start Game 2. "We're not prepared to make that decision yet, but he's tracking to start when we all think."
The 28-year-old Maeda went 16-11 with a 3.48 ERA in his first season in the majors. But the Japanese right-hander has lost three straight starts, lasting just three innings in his first career playoff appearance Monday against Washington.
"We've been relying a lot on our relief pitchers to take the load, so I want to be able to — I'm really just focused on throwing quality innings as long as I can," Maeda said through a translator. "And as long as I keep throwing quality innings, then I would be able to throw longer and deeper into the game."
The Cubs have been resting since they finished off their series against San Francisco on Tuesday, so have all pitching options available. Jon Lester is lined up to start Game 1, followed by Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, in a repeat of the Division Series.
Lester pitched 15 innings of one-run ball in two starts against Los Angeles this year, and the Dodgers hit .213 against lefty pitching overall.
"He's good. And right now he's at the top of his game," Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. "From what I've seen, he's had a couple hiccups, which everybody does. But, man, he's been pretty much right on the last couple months, including the first game of the playoffs for him."
There was some question about Hendricks' health after he had a comebacker go off his right forearm in Game 2 against the Giants. But the right-hander, who had a major league-best 2.13 ERA this year, felt fine after a bullpen session on Thursday, allowing the Cubs to finalize their rotation.
"Our staff has been really, really good this year, and I think that, really, if you put all of our names in a hat and pulled one out, I don't think you could go wrong," Lester said. "So, it's a huge honor, especially for an organization like this, to get the ball again and try to go out and give us a good start."
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap