Cubs, Dodgers Could Be On Another October Collision Course

The National League's predominant forces are familiar with each other.

Chris Emma
June 18, 2018 - 10:55 pm
The Dodgers' Enrique Hernandez celebrates a homer in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series in 2017.

Jim Young/USA Today Sports

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By Chris Emma--

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Hey, Cody, Dodgers utilityman Kiké Hernandez yelled out to teammate Cody Bellinger on Monday afternoon. 

Cody! ... Belly! ... Hey, Belly! Finally, he got Bellinger's attention at the top step of the Dodgers' dugout and called him over to a new room added to the corner of the visiting dugout at Wrigley Field. 

"If you ever hit three homers in a playoff game here, you get your own office," Hernandez said to Bellinger as he pointed to the sign outside the door that spelled out "UTILITY" in bold lettering.

From Hernandez and his Game 5 heroics to manager Dave Roberts recalling the smell of champagne capping off a thrilling National League Championship, memories were fresh for the Dodgers as they returned to Chicago and the site of their five-game triumph over the Cubs to win pennant and advance on to the World Series in 2017.

The Cubs are well aware of their opponent for three games at home early this week but refuse to make much of the history together. Despite playing the Dodgers in the NLCS each of the past two years -- the Cubs won in 2016 -- this is just another series in June. 

"Obviously, we met the last two years in the NLCS, but it's 2018," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said before the postponement of Monday's game. "It's not 2016, it's not 2017, it's 2018. They're trying to win their division; we're trying to win our division. There's nothing more to it."

The Cubs and Dodgers have their share of similarities, not only from their two NLCS meetings but with rotations of accomplished pitchers, lineups with a mix of young stars and veteran presences and championship expectations year in and year out.

The Cubs know the Dodgers stand in their way, and the Dodgers know the Cubs are right there too. Both built to contend for 2018 and beyond, these are the predominant forces in the NL and acknowledge each other as such.

"(These) two teams really match up well," Roberts said. "We have a lot of good history recently. It just seems like every game, whether it's regular season -- which always seems like a playoff environment, us two competing against each other -- or in the postseason, games could go either way. We've played each other pretty close."

Since 2016, the Cubs have more wins than any other NL team with 235. The Dodgers are right behind, with 232 victories in that span. The Cubs have Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner. 

The Cubs experienced a World Series hangover in 2017, while the Dodgers endured their own struggles early this season -- many due to injuries -- in the aftermath of a seven-game World Series loss before regaining form and creeping close to first place in the NL West by winning 21 of their past 28 games.

"I don't think anybody was writing them off early, but they've definitely righted the ship and are doing what everybody expected them to do," said Cubs closer Brandon Morrow, a reliever with the Dodgers last season.

It was in April 2017 that the Dodgers stood along the first-base line at Wrigley Field and watched an elaborate ceremony to honor the 2016 World Series champion Cubs, a celebration that included fireworks, video tributes and the entire team raising their flag in the center-field bleachers. 

The Dodgers were there to take it all in, then let it simmer as they played dominant baseball for nearly all of 2017. Morrow described it as a "rocket trajectory," with his team destined to keep going all the way to the World Series. The Cubs ultimately didn't have enough to defend their crown.

This time around, the Cubs are playing better baseball, while the Dodgers are getting healthy and starting to click. There are new contenders in the National League like the Brewers, Phillies and Braves and familiar foes like the Nationals, Giants, Diamondbacks and Cardinals.

There's plenty of baseball ahead for the Cubs and Dodgers, and the playoff picture is far from clear in June. But these two teams know well they could meet again this fall.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.