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The Dodgers beat the Cubs in a game LA had to win

Monday’s Say Hey, Baseball sees we’ve got ourselves a series in the NLCS, and previews ALCS Game 3.

NLCS - Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs - Game Two Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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The Dodgers lost Game 1 of the NLCS, and they really should have won it. They came back against Aroldis Chapman, and that’s the kind of event you can only count on happening once — if even that often — in a playoff series. Instead, they lost on a pinch-hit grand slam and went down 0-1 in the series to the Cubs, but on Sunday night, Los Angeles rebounded behind their ace, Clayton Kershaw. Now, the series is all tied up, as the Dodgers won a game they had to — not mathematically had to, mind you, but had to because of context.

Jake Arrieta hasn’t pitched yet. John Lackey, who threw more innings than anyone on the Dodgers and posted what would have been their second-best ERA+, is the Cubs’ fourth starter and hasn’t pitched yet. Things don’t get easier for Los Angeles in this series, so winning these Kershaw starts is crucial. From what we can tell, he’s physically capable of starting Game 5 on short rest and then, if the series goes that far, contributing in Game 7 in a win-or-go-home situation. There probably is no Game 7 if the Cubs go up 2-0 before even getting to Arrieta — and maybe not even a Game 5, depending on how the next couple of games go — so a Game 2 win was crucial for the Dodgers.

Now, they get a day off to rest closer Kenley Jansen. Kershaw gets three days off before a Game 5 we now know will happen. They get to head home to Los Angeles, where they were 53-28 this season: that was tied for the second-best home record in 2016, behind only the Cubs at 57-24. Rich Hill starts Game 3, and it’s not difficult to envision a scenario where the Dodgers win behind him to guarantee the series will at least be even by the next time Kershaw takes the mound. We know anything can happen in a single game or series — again, Game 1 featured Aroldis Chapman blowing a lead in the same game we got a pinch-hit grand slam to win it — but the Dodgers have to be feeling pretty good on Monday morning.