CHICAGO – The Cubs have clawed their way back to the .500 mark at 10-10. Putting .500 in the rearview mirror is going to take some doing in the near future.
After taking Monday off, the Cubs will welcome the hard-hitting Los Angeles Dodgers to Wrigley Field for a three-game series beginning Tuesday night.
Dodgers sluggers Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson are 2-3 in home runs in the National League with 11 and 10, respectively, entering Monday.
The Dodgers lead the National League West as they look to represent the league in the World Series for a third straight year.
The Cubs and Dodgers have been joined at the hip in recent years. The Cubs won the 2016 NL pennant by beating the Dodgers in the championship series. The Dodgers turned the table in 2017.
The NL West has belonged to the Dodgers for each of the past six seasons. Their team president, Andrew Friedman, was Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s boss when both were in Tampa Bay.
The Cubs have four straight postseason appearances and one World Series title over the past four years.
So the comparisons are going to be there.
“They’re good,” Maddon said of the Dodgers. “They’re really well balanced. They start-pitch well. They relief-pitch well. They have balance, yin and yang, on the field, with right- and left-handedness. They can start different lineups versus whatever, and they can pinch hit game in progress.
“They’re really nice, but I’m sure they’re saying the same things about us. We didn’t win that many divisions, but we’ve been kind of step for step in the playoffs for four consecutive years. So I’m really pleased with that.”
The Cubs and Dodgers represent two of the biggest markets in baseball. At the moment, the Cubs find themselves looking up at Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and St. Louis. The San Diego Padres, right down the road from L.A., are challenging the Dodgers.
The big-market teams get most of the ink.
“We’re among the better teams; they’re among the better teams in baseball right now,” Maddon said. “I think it is good for baseball. When Tiger Woods wins the Masters, it’s always good. When traditionally large-fan-base teams do well, it’s normally good for the game, whatever that game may be.”
Chatwood’s long road back: Time will tell whether Tyler Chatwood gets another start for the Cubs in the coming games.
Starting in place of the injured Jon Lester on Sunday, Chatwood opened some eyes with six innings of two-hit, shutout ball. He didn’t get the decision in the Cubs’ 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he lowered his ERA from 6.00 to 3.00.
Chatwood walked the first batter of the game on four pitches but allowed only two more walks the rest of the way. His control problems, which cost him his rotation spot last year, are well documented.
He said after Sunday’s gem that it wasn’t easy going through that.
“It’s not fun,” Chatwood said. “I don’t think anybody likes to do that. But it kind of made me not take it for granted. Everything I do now, there’s a purpose to it. There’s a reason why I’m doing it. I had good people around me all offseason to help me get back to where I want to be, and I feel like I’m on the right path.”
Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field
TV: NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday and Thursday; WGN on Wednesday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs’ Jose Quintana (2-1) vs. Kenta Maeda (3-1) at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday; Cole Hamels (3-0) vs. Walker Buehler (2-0) at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday; TBD vs. Ross Stripling (1-1) at 1:20 p.m. Thursday
At a glance: The Dodgers arrive from Milwaukee, where they took three of four over the weekend. They lead the National League West at 15-9. Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson lead a Dodgers' offense that ranks first in the NL in runs and home runs. Bellinger is at .424/.500/1.071 with 11 homers and 28 RBIs. Pederson has 10 homers and 16 RBIs. Closer Kenley Jansen has seven saves. The Cubs are 10-10, but they have a run differential of plus-17. They rank eighth in the NL in runs scored and 11th in homers. It’s possible Jon Lester could come off the injured list and start Thursday.
Next: Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field, Friday through Sunday