By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Logic would tell you the Cubs are under more pressure than the Dodgers to win Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday night. After all, if Chicago loses, its season is over.
Still, the Cubs believe otherwise. As Los Angeles leads the series 3-1 with ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw taking the mound in Game 5, the Cubs believe the onus is on the Dodgers, who disputed that notion themselves.
“I wouldn’t say the pressure is on us,” Roberts said. “I think we are in a pretty good spot. We have got our No. 1 pitcher going. We have the two guys at the back end (of the bullpen in Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen) rested.
“I can’t speak to their mindset, but I like the position we are in.”
Since the League Championship Series went to a seven-game format, only the 2004 Red Sox have come back to win after trailing 3-0. The Cubs have a massive challenge just to get past Kershaw in Game 5, let alone think about taking four straight yet.
That’s why they’re preaching about their focus of staying in the moment.
“This is going to sound really crazy, but I think all the pressure is on the Dodgers,” Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. said after a Game 3 loss. “You look at the 2004 Boston team. The pressure was on the Yankees to finish the job. By the looks in the eyes of the media and fans, the season is over for us. I know there is nobody in this clubhouse that believes that. The pressure is still on them to finish us off. But each day, we are going to come with our best to keep this series going.”
The Cubs have experience beating Kershaw. They did so a year ago in Game 6 of the NLCS to advance to the World Series, and they chased him after five innings in this series opener.
“We just have to make him throw the ball over the plate,” Cubs infielder Javier Baez said. “We know what he has got. We also know he is one of the best pitchers in MLB. We have faced him a lot during the regular season and playoffs.”
For his part, Cubs manager Joe Maddon wants his team to embrace the pressure of winning the four straight games it needs to advance.
“Pressure, like I have said before, is a good word,” Maddon said. “So if they are taking that word and channeling it in the proper direction, I am all about it. If you are taking that word and it causes you to clam up, not be yourself, go attempt different methods, I don’t like that word.”
Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana opposes Kershaw in Game 5.
“We have always said one game at a time,” Quintana said. “I see that even though we were down 3-0, nobody panics. We have a really good team and a lot of talent, so we can do it. We need to minimize our mistakes and try to win this series one game at a time.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.