The San Francisco Giants are the hated ones, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are the irrelevant ones, the Arizona Diamondbacks are the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Chicago Cubs are public enemy No.1, no longer the lovable losers of baseball, sitting at the top of the list of teams you love to beat, for now, if you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
As good as its feels for a Cubs fan after a win over the St. Louis Cardinals, or as delightful as it may be for a Dodgers fan to pound the Giants on a night when Madison Bumgarner takes the mound, both fan bases know that deep down a win against one another feels just as good or better, because the path to the World Series in the National League will inevitably run through Los Angeles or Chicago.
The 103-win Cubs team in 2016 outclassed the Dodgers in route to their first World Series championship in 108 years. The 104-win 2017 Dodgers’ returned the favor with a gentleman’s sweep of Chicago on the way to their first World Series appearance since 1988. In the last three years, two of the highest winning percentages in all baseball belong to the Dodgers (.591) and Cubs (.601). Outside of a couple of new faces added into the mix, with a select few (Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow) deciding to trade in one hat for the other, a lot of the same faces from both sides look geared up for battle in 2018, once again.
On Tuesday night, 53,904 fans packed Dodger Stadium, to attend the second game of the four game set between the two National League powers. It was the largest MLB regular-season crowd for a game since Aug.30, 2012 (also at Dodger Stadium). The schedule makers decided to pack all seven regular-season games between them into a two-week span but how can you blame them. There’s a reason why ESPN has broadcasted three consecutive games in Los Angeles. The Dodgers and Cubs bring everything to the table for even the average fan, start power, flair, drama, and a mutual respect for each other.
Not surprisingly, none of the games have disappointed, thus far. Each one bringing a high intensity not usually seen until late September postseason pushes take full effect.
The first two games were played as a doubleheader at Wrigley Field, on Jun.19. The Dodgers needed a pinch-hit single from Kyle Farmer in the ninth inning to come away with a 2-1 win in the first game. The Cubs responded with an extra-inning walk-off single from Albert Almora Jr. in game two to split the doubleheader in a 4-3 win. On the following day, the Cubs shutout the Dodgers with a 4-0 win to take the first series.
The two heavyweights have continued to trade blows in the first three games of the series at Dodger Stadium this week. On Monday night, the Dodgers pulled out another 2-1 nail bitter, thanks to two solo home runs from Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor, respectively, on top of Kenta Maeda’s seven scoreless innings of work on the mound. The next night belonged to Javier Baez of the Cubs. He finished the night 4-for-5 with five RBIs, two home runs, including a grand slam in the 9-4 win.
The Dodgers countered on Wednesday night with a 7-5 win, backed by three home runs, Max Muncy’s solo shot in the first inning, Joc Pederson’s two-run blast in the second, and Cody Bellinger’s solo homer in the eighth inning for good measure. A game that began with Justin Turner and Willson Contreras having words with each other after a play at the plate in the first inning. Words was all it was. Otherwise it was just another day in the month of June where the Dodgers have now hit 51 home runs in 23 games, the most in franchise history since, well, they hit 53 in 28 games last season in June.
Six games, three wins a piece.
On Thursday afternoon, the final game of the regular-season between the familiar foes will feature the biggest star in games newest rivalry. Three-time Cy Young Award winner, 2014 NL MVP, Clayton Kershaw will make his second start since returning from the DL on Jun.23. He’ll be on a pitch count, and yes, everyone is aware that this is a game in June and not October. But every pitch, hit, run, steal, any advantage, disadvantage, one way or the other could be sealed away for when it matters most four months from now. These games do matter. Kershaw will face a lot of the same dudes he’s faced before, the result may be the same or likely different, but either way each guy wont skip over video of the last time he faced him and vise-versa across the board for every matchup that has occurred over these seven regular-season games.
So if you’re a Dodgers fan you should cheer a little louder when Javy Baez whiffs at a slider for the fifth time in a row, when Addison Russell can’t field a ground ball, or whenever Jon Lester attempts to make a pick-off throw to first base, because at the end of the day it should feel better to beat the team that you know you’re destined to face in October.