It was not pretty, but the Chicago Cubs staved off elimination and remain alive to defend their World Series crown.
A stressful eighth inning saw the Los Angeles Dodgers close the gap in Wednesday's Game 4, but the Cubs survived to force one more game at Wrigley Field in the National League Championship Series. Now they will try to get another starting performance like the one Jake Arrieta tossed in Game 4 to try to move the series back to Los Angeles.
Is that plausible? Perhaps, but familiar issues still exist for Chicago. With that in mind, here is how you can catch the rest of the NLCS action, with OddsShark.com providing the latest chances each will go all the way.
When: Thursday, Oct. 19 at 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: TBS Live
When: Saturday, Oct. 21 at 4 p.m.
Live Stream: TBS Live
When: Sunday, Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Live Stream: TBS Live
Game 5 Preview
If not for Arrieta, this series could already be over.
The righty was nearly perfect in Game 4, allowing just three hits over 6.2 innings. His lone blemish was leaving one pitch up in the zone for Cody Bellinger to go yard in the third frame.
Unless the Cubs can get similar production out of Jose Quintana in Game 5 with an extra inning or two of work, they could be trouble.
Offense is still a serious problem for Chicago in the NLCS, as they have only scored seven runs thus far. The team is not generating enough hits to get men on base, which has resulted in all seven of those runs coming off of home runs, including five solo shots.
As Christopher Kamka of NBC Sports Chicago pointed out, consistently getting on base has been the death of the Cubs' lineup:
A lack of offensive support has left the glaring weakness of relief pitching exposed. The Cubs bullpen has given up a porous eight earned runs in just 13.1 NLCS innings, including 13 walks. To make matters worse, the team's most reliable reliever, Wade Davis, is coming off a 48-pitch save on Wednesday, which likely makes him unavailable for Game 5.
If all of that is not enough reason for Quintana—who owns an excellent 1.59 ERA this postseason but allowed both of his runs in the Game 1 loss—to throw the game of his life, then adding in Clayton Kershaw on the other side certainly suffices.
With a 2.36 ERA in 10 seasons, Kershaw is the greatest pitcher of this generation, but he has lost his dominance in the postseason. In 100.1 career playoff frames, his ERA is a pedestrian 4.57, and he has not been great in 2017, with six runs allowed in 11.1 innings. That includes two runs in five innings in a Dodgers comeback 5-2 victory in Game 1.
In fact, the Cubs franchise has had Kershaw's number throughout his career, per ESPN's Jesse Rogers:
Still, this is Kershaw, and he should strike fear into any lineup he faces. He is also pitching with much more room for error than Quintana, considering the Dodgers' bullpen has allowed just three hits and no runs over 14 innings in the NLCS.
Even if Kershaw allows a run or two, he should still be fine. Los Angeles' two runs were its lowest output of the postseason, as the Dodgers are averaging just under four runs a game this postseason. Having Justin Turner put up MVP-caliber numbers also helps.
In 26 at-bats this postseason, Turner is hitting .423 with three homers and 11 RBI to go with six walks. He's kept in going in the NLCS, batting .385 with two homers and six RBI.
This is no fluke for Turner, who is among the greatest playoff hitters in MLB history, per ESPN:
Everything about this series has pointed to the Dodgers advancing, especially now since only the 2004 Boston Red Sox have ever come back from a 0-3 deficit. Los Angeles is getting much better hitting and pitching on a consistent basis, while the hostile confines of Wrigley Field have not had much of an effect. The team owned the NL's second-best road record this season, and it already took a game in Chicago while nearly coming back in Game 4.
Look for Kershaw to throw at least six solid innings to allow the bullpen to close it down. Quintana has only thrown at least seven innings three times since joining the Cubs in July, and he will be hard-pressed to do so in Game 5 against such a potent Dodgers lineup.
Expect Los Angeles to take advantage of the Chicago bullpen late, thus securing a trip to the World Series.
Statistics are courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.
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