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Ready or Not (and They’re Not), the Weary Cubs Take On the Dodgers

What, Lester was asked, did he make of all this? His reply spoke for the rest of his exhausted, exhilarated team: “I have no idea. I blacked out.”

After ending a 108-year title drought last year, the Cubs have been through a daunting 2017 regular season and postseason. It was harder than in 2016 for them to emerge as division champions and harder, too, to advance past the first round.

And now they are going up against the Dodgers, who paced baseball with 104 victories in the regular season and then swept their first-round playoff opponent, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Dodgers last played on Monday, and they were fully rested for the start of the N.L.C.S., while the Cubs were just the opposite.

“That was pretty much of a heavyweight fight,” Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said as he looked back on all that happened in Game 5, including a Cubs lead that kept shrinking as the Nationals fought to overtake them but fell short.

Even getting to Los Angeles on Friday was a challenge for the Cubs. At one point in the morning, their flight west from Washington was forced to stop in Albuquerque because a family member on the plane fell ill, Maddon said.

At that point, the pilots on the plane had to be replaced to comply with regulations on hours worked. Another delay ensued.

“We understood all that,” Maddon said. “I was really, really proud of the guys. They rallied around the person that was ill. There was a lot of support going on.

“So in spite of the inconvenience,’’ he added, “and it was, and in today’s world, with all the events that are thundering down upon us, I thought it was kind of a bunt, so I thought we handled it well.”

In the end, the Cubs arrived in Los Angeles well into the morning, and the players skipped their workout at Dodger Stadium to get some needed rest. That left a bleary-eyed Maddon to speak for the team.

“Hopefully, I’ll speak some English today,” he told reporters.

And he did as he addressed how the Cubs, who beat the Dodgers in the 2016 N.L.C.S., would try to do so again. They used two of their starters — Lester and Jose Quintana — in relief in the final two games of the first round, which complicated Maddon’s plans to line up his pitching for the first two N.L.C.S. games.

Maddon mentioned John Lackey, a starting pitcher who went unused in the previous round, and Quintana, who threw 12 pitches in Game 5. By Saturday morning, indications were that Quintana, a pitcher superior to Lackey, would start Game 1 on Saturday night.

He also had to wonder about his bullpen, which allowed 13 runs in 17⅓ innings against the Nationals. Most worrisome, perhaps, was that the setup man Carl Edwards Jr., who had a strong regular season, looked increasingly ineffective against the Nationals.

Davis was also hardly indomitable against the Nationals, but in the end he was the one who got the Cubs to Los Angeles. Maddon said the Cubs would be careful with Davis as the N.L.C.S. got underway, mindful that he had to throw 44 pitches in Game 5.

“That took a lot of pride, a lot of heart and a lot of love of the game,” said one of Davis’s fellow relievers, Pedro Strop. “To put your career on the line, your arm, your health, it took a lot of heart, and I have a lot of respect for him.”

At the Dodgers’ workout on Friday, both Manager Dave Roberts and the Game 1 starter, Clayton Kershaw, acknowledged that their team was well rested and that the Cubs were not. Still, Kershaw said, he didn’t expect that to be much of an edge. Neither, for that matter, did Maddon.

“It’s so exhilarating to win the way we just did, I think that will supply the energy, hopefully, for the next two days,” Maddon said.

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