The march of top pitchers in the National League Championship Series will continue tonight at Dodger Stadium as Jake Arrieta faces off against Rich Hill in a matchup that could trigger some interesting memories.Arrieta has had an unusual recent history with the Dodgers. The last time he threw a pitch
The march of top pitchers in the National League Championship Series will continue tonight at Dodger Stadium as Jake Arrieta faces off against Rich Hill in a matchup that could trigger some interesting memories.
Arrieta has had an unusual recent history with the Dodgers. The last time he threw a pitch at Dodger Stadium, he was soon swarmed by his teammates to celebrate a no-hitter in the peak of his 2015 Cy Young Award-winning season. The last time he faced them was earlier this year, when the Cubs lost with him on the mound for the first time in 24 regular-season starts, despite his seven shutout innings.
Meanwhile, the Cubs are one of several teams that can call Hill an old friend, as the former journeyman's incredible career turn has taken him into his first career NLCS. This is actually his first postseason since 2007, when he started a game for ... the Cubs.
• NLCS Game 3: tonight at 8 ET/7CT/5PT on FS1
:: NLCS: Dodgers vs. Cubs coverage ::
Regular season stats
Arrieta: 18-8, 3.10 ERA, 197 1/3 IP, 190 K, 76 BB
Hill: 12-5, 2.12 ERA, 110 1/3 IP, 129 K, 33 BB
Arrieta against the Dodgers
2016: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 IP, 8 K, 4 BB
Career: 1-2, 3.24 ERA, 25 IP, 29 K, 15 BB
Loves to face:Chase Utley, 0-for-13 (.000), 3 K; Howie Kendrick, 1-for-6 (.167), 2 BB
Hates to face:Josh Reddick, 4-for-9 (.444), HR; Adrián González, 6-for-21 (.286), 2B, HR
Why he'll win: Arrieta's 2016 season wasn't quite up to the standards of his Cy Young season, but he remains one of the top pitchers in the National League. He led the league in hits allowed per nine innings for the second straight year with 6.3 and finished in the NL's top 10 in ERA, strikeouts, innings pitched, and WHIP (1.084).
Pitcher beware: As strong as Arrieta has been, his command has left him at times. He walked at least four batters in at least eight of his 31 starts this season and finished with 16 wild pitches, the highest mark in the NL.
Pitch repertoire: Arrieta boasts five pitches, none of which batters are hitting more than .221 against. His sinker and four-seamer usually hit around 93-95 mph, according to Statcast™, and are backed up by, in descending order of use, a slider, curveball, and changeup.
Bottom line: Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester both finished with lower ERAs, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a player on the Cubs who still doesn't think Arrieta is an ace. It also helps that he's taking on a team he hasn't allowed a run to in 16 total innings over the last two seasons.
Hill against the Cubs
2016: Hasn't faced the Cubs this year.
Career: 1 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2/3 IP, 2 K
Why he'll win: There were few pitchers in baseball better at run prevention than Rich Hill this season than Hill. He was acquired by the Dodgers from Oakland at the non-waiver Trade Deadline along with Reddick, and has looked exactly like the pitcher the team envisioned as its No. 2 starter, putting up a 1.83 ERA with Los Angeles while striking out 39 batters in 34 1/3 innings.
Pitcher beware: While Hill has been amazing when he's on the mound, he hasn't been on the mound all that much since July, when he hit the disabled list with a finger blister on his pitching hand. That blister problem has continuously haunted him with the Dodgers as they try to keep him healthy for the playoffs, missing starts and once even pulling him after seven perfect innings. Now, he's making his third start in nine days after starting Game 5 of the NL Division Series on short rest.
Pitch repertoire: It's hard to pick what's more incredible about Hill's arsenal: that he's a two-pitch starter or that it works so well. During the regular season, Hill threw 900 curveballs, 812 four-seamers, and less than 100 of what could be called "other." To succeed with that arsenal, he regularly changes his arm angle and can drop his curveball in at any point in the count. That buoys a fastball that actually got more whiffs than the curveball this season despite coming in at an average of just 90.68 mph, according to Statcast™.
Bottom line: Hill's story as a player is as amazing as it gets. Fourteen months ago, he was pitching in the independent leagues for the Long Island Ducks. Then he signed a Minor League deal with the Red Sox and figured out a way to use his curveball to devastating effect with pitching guru Brian Bannister. If that continues to work against one of baseball's top offenses in the Cubs, it will be another chapter in a story that defies belief.
Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com.