Chicago Cubs will learn a lot about themselves against the Dodgers

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs will look to cement their place as one of the National League’s best teams this week as they take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field.

Over the last few years, the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers have become familiar foes. First, the Cubs ended their season en route to a World Series title in 2016. The Dodgers got their revenge the following October, ending the Cubs’ hopes of advancing to their second straight Fall Classic.

Last year, after the Cubs saw their season end in the Wild Card game, Los Angeles advanced to a third consecutive NLCS and clinched another National League pennant. But they failed to get over that final hurdle, falling to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. But heading into the 2019 campaign, they remain one of the NL’s best clubs – and represent a clear hurdle as Joe Maddon looks to lead the club to another deep October run.

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Chicago (10-10) has turned things around after a rocky start. They enter Tuesday’s series opener against the Dodgers just two games out in the division and hand the ball to a white-hot Jose Quintana.

The Cubs southpaw has not allowed a tally in his last two outings, spanning 14 innings. He’s put together an unthinkable 18-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio during that stretch that can only be called dominant.

Cole Hamels follows Quintana in the rotation. He’s been equally lights-out lately and, at least early this season, is proving to be worth every penny of the controversial $20 million team option the club picked up this winter.

Thursday’s starter is yet to be determined, but it’s not out of the question that Jon Lester could make his return from the IL to close out the series at Wrigley Field.

As for the offense, Chicago is hoping Kris Bryant gets things going at the dish. Fellow slugger Anthony Rizzo is coming off a 2-for-3 showing on Sunday, raising his average on the year to .197. The club desperately needs both of these guys to find a rhythm at the plate. As a team, the Cubs rank seventh in the NL in OPS, third in on-base percentage and sixth in average.

On the other side of the diamond, the Dodgers come to town at 15-9, in first place in the NL West. Clayton Kershaw recently returned to the mound for Los Angeles. The Cubs won’t see him this week, but will square off against hard-throwing right-hander Walker Buehler on Wednesday.

There are few hitters hotter than Cody Bellinger. The former Rookie of the Year is scorching hot to open the season, hitting .424 with 11 home runs and 28 RBI through the season’s first three weeks, making him an early MVP candidate. Keeping him off the board will be a key all week if the Cubs want to come away with a series win.

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These two clubs have represented some of the best the National League has to offer in the last three years. Each of the last three NL pennants were captured by one of them – a trend both clubs undoubtedly want to see continue in 2019. But first, they’ll go head-to-head this week in the first of seven regular season meetings.