The next hurdle for the Cubs looms significantly larger than the one they just cleared after edging the Nationals 9-8 on Thursday night in Game 5 of the NL Division Series.
Oh, and the Dodgers are well-rested and have home-field advantage.
Here are some key storylines heading into Game 1 on Saturday at Dodger Stadium:
Here’s the pitch: By going the distance with the Nationals, the Cubs’ starting rotation is in flux. One thing for certain is that ace Kyle Hendricks, who started against the Nationals on Thursday, won’t be on the mound for the Cubs in Game 1 and Jake Arrieta can be ruled out as well after pitching four innings Wednesday night.
Jose Quintana was next in line to start before manager Joe Maddon used the left-hander in a relief role to help close out the Nationals. That likely leaves Maddon to decide between Jon Lester, who threw 55 pitches in relief Wednesday, and John Lackey.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ starters are locked and loaded with Clayton Kershaw leading the way, likely followed by Rich Hill and then Yu Darvish.
Different Dodgers: This isn’t the same Dodgers team the Cubs eliminated in the 2016 NLCS. While some of the same characters remain, including Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager and Justin Turner, the Dodgers added some firepower to their lineup and pitching staff. The biggest addition is rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger, who burst onto the scene with 39 home runs and 97 RBIs and anchors the Dodgers lineup.
Darvish came to the Dodgers at the trade deadline and was masterful in the clinching game against the D’backs. The veteran right-hander threw five strong innings and allowed one…