After a successful first season under manager Joe Maddon in which they reached the National League Championship Series, the Chicago Cubs entered 2016 as a heavy favorite to win the World Series.
The Cubs lived up to that hype, pacing the Majors with a 103-58 record. Chicago was the only team to eclipse 100 wins this season, and they’re now just one win away from their first trip to the World Series since 1945.
They have a Los Angeles Dodgers club that overcame countless injuries this season to win the NL West, on the ropes.
Some projected the Arizona Diamondbacks or San Francisco Giants would end the Dodgers’ run of division titles.
That Los Angeles has advanced to this stage in the postseason is an accomplishment in and of itself. But of course, they too, have World Series aspirations.
Beyond that, the Cubs and Dodgers share several similarities. Both have focused on organizational depth, developing prospects, and supplementing a competitive Major League roster with veterans.
What’s more, Maddon and Roberts are the lone managers Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has ever hired. Prior to the NLCS beginning, Maddon spoke fondly of Roberts and the Dodgers roster.
Roberts returned the favor this week. “They’ve got a nice mix of youth and some veteran players. But under Joe, his leadership, those guys play the game the right way. It’s a fun team to play against,” the rookie manager said. “They’ve been the class of the National League all year. And obviously (Javier) Baez is a very talented, special player.
“I wouldn’t say that their speed or athleticism kind of flustered us. It’s just more they made plays when they needed to, and Baez has made some very nice defensive plays. Fowler in Game 1 made some great plays. Bryant plays the game the right way, gets down the line, legs infield singles out. And, again, I think our guys did the same thing. So this series certainly isn’t over. But it’s fun to compete against guys like that.”
Led by Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill and backed by a dependable bullpen and Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers stifled the Cubs’ offense during Games 2 and 3 to take a lead in the NLCS. However, Chicago came to life in Games 4 and 5.
Now Kershaw faces the challenge of keeping them in check during Game 6, and if he’s able to succeed, Hill will need to follow suit in a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday.