Schmuck: Cubs sitting pretty, but first World Series trip since 1945 won't come easy

The Cubs defeated the Dodgers, 8-4, in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the National League Championship Series.

The Chicago Cubs delivered a statement victory at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night and head back to Wrigley Field in very promising position to earn their first trip to the World Series since 1945. But long-suffering Cubs fans are still going to have to sweat this thing out.

Clayton Kershaw sent the Cubs offense into a two-game funk when he pitched seven scoreless innings in Game 2. He'll be matched up again against Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who also pitched very well in that tense 1-0 game, giving up just a solo home run to Adrian Gonzalez and two other hits over 5 1/3 innings.


The Cubs are back on an offensive roll, but who are we kidding? Kershaw is the man and you know that this series was destined to go seven games.

Which would almost certainly set up a rematch between former Orioles pitchers Jake Arrieta and Rich Hill, something that no one could have imagined back when Arrieta was a struggling prospect or when Hill was a one-year pick up in 2009 with severe -- and seemingly incurable -- control problems.

Seriously, if Hill had been a right-hander back then, he would probably be coaching a community college team right now. But he stuck around and kept getting chances and finally figured things out in his mid 30s.

In his first season as a regular starting pitcher since he made 14 appearances (13 starts) that year for the Orioles (3-3, 7.80 ERA), he finished with a 12-5 record and an impressive 2.12 ERA.

He didn't pitch particularly well in the Division Series, but was dominant in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, allowing just two hits over six scoreless innings in the Dodgers' second consecutive shutout.

Of course, we're getting ahead of ourselves. It would be a mistake to sell Hendricks short, though the Texas Rangers did that a few years ago when they traded him to the Cubs in a midseason deal for veteran Ryan Dempster.

Dempster pitched OK in a half-season for the Rangers, but Hendricks has emerged as one of the brightest young pitchers in the game. He's 31-17 with a 2.92 ERA in 2 1/2 seasons with the Cubs and was 16-8 with a 2.12 ERA this season.

If he has any advantage over Kershaw, it is the fact that he has pitched just nine innings in this postseason and Kershaw has pitched 19 1/3. But both will be starting on five days' rest, so fatigue should not be a factor.