The Series Continues: Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

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Two of the National League’s best teams continue a three game set in sunny Los Angeles this weekend. The Chicago Cubs (82-45), already guaranteed a winning record this season after Friday night’s extra-innings victory, will look to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers (71-57) in what could possibly be a matchup we see come October. Here’s what you need to know for the rest of the weekend series.

Friday night featured Mike Montgomery making another spot start for the injured John Lackey.  For the Cubs, Montgomery will be making his second start since joining the Cubs in July, coming off 4.1 innings of one-run ball with 5 strikeouts last weekend in Colorado.  Despite some command issues and annoying sequencing, Montgomery only allowed three runs on groundouts against the Dodgers offense.  Eventually, Jason Heyward‘s late game heroics allowed the Cubs to tie the game:

The offense, inexplicably shut down by Dodgers righty Bud Norris for a while, finally went ahead for good on MVP candidate Kris Bryant‘s go-ahead shot in extras:

Stay to the end of the video for the awesome Vin Scully call!

Saturday’s contest features lefty 20-year old rookie Julio Urias (4-2 3.95 ERA) against Jason Hammel (13-6 3.07). Urias will be making the 12th start of his young career, coming off a great outing on Aug 21st. In his last start in Cincinnati, Urias hurled six scoreless innings while striking out six in the win.  The Dodgers have needed their entire rotation to step up in the absence of their ace Clayton Kershaw, but that has not intimidated Urias. Urias has impressively led the league in pickoffs despite only pitching 57 innings for the Dodgers.

Hammel has had a great season (which Cub hasn’t?), but is coming off his worst start in his last eight starts. After three straight starts of not letting up any runs, the Rockies put a 10 spot on the board against Hammel in his last start (6 earned), letting up 2 home runs in 3.1 innings. In Hammel’s only start this season against the Dodgers, he left after two innings due to a hamstring cramp.

The third game of this series would have featured the best pitching matchup, but Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda (13-7 3.37 ERA) will get an extra day…

Instead, another pitcher, Brock Stewart, will take on the veteran Jon Lester, who is having a fantastic season (14-4 2.81 ERA). Stewart had been very good in AAA Oklahoma City, but got wrecked in his brief stint in MLB (0-2, 11.25 ERA).  Maeda looks to stay hot in August against the Rockies in Colorado instead, as he has won all four decisions this month. It will be no easy task for the spot starting Stewart, as Lester is 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA in August, and struck out eight in his last outing.

The Dodgers have been one of the only National League teams that have been able to keep MVP candidate Kris Bryant at bay this season, containing him only to only two hits in 15 at-bats before Friday night’s liftoff. Bryant has been the hottest hitter in the league in August, recording a .372 average, 7 home runs, 18 RBIs, and 1.136 OPS.

The Dodger had won four straight, outscoring opponents 32-14 during their winning streak, before the Cubs came to town and spoiled a victory. The Cubs have had the Dodgers’ number this season (well, they have had everyone’s number this season), as the Dodgers are 1-3 against them this. The Dodgers can send a message to the National League that they can contend with the Cubbies with a big series this weekend, but the North Siders most likely have different plans for that.  Depending on what happens with the Cardinals, the Cubs could reduce their magic number below 20 by the end of this series.

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