No matter which team represents the National League in the World Series, the winner of the NL pennant will end a World Series drought.
The Chicago Cubs will be looking to make their first trip to the Fall Classic since 1945. They will be looking to win the World Series for the first time since 1908. This is the second straight season the Cubs have reached the NLCS, after being swept by the New York Mets a season ago.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are seeking a return to the World Series for the first time since winning it in 1988. The Dodger return to the NLCS for the first time since 2013, where they were ousted by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Going into the 2016 season, the Cubs were the best team on paper and the favorites to win the World Series and thus breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat. They proved they were the best team in the MLB by winning 103 games.
Los Angeles won the NL West for a fourth straight season, despite battling numerous injuries all season long. One of the key injuries was to ace Clayton Kershaw, who only made 21 starts due to a back injury. Kershaw is back and helped the Dodgers defeat the Nationals to earn a meeting with the Cubs.
These two storied franchises have met just once in the postseason, with Los Angeles sweeping Chicago back in the 2008 NLDS. That year, the Cubs won an NL-best 97 games. However, that was eight years ago and both teams look completely different.
The Cubs will obviously have home-field advantage in this series and that could spell trouble for the Dodgers. Chicago was 57-24 at the Friendly Confines this year, outscoring the opposition by 142. Los Angeles was one of two teams in this postseason (Orioles) that had a sub-.500 record on the road, finishing 38-43.
The Dodges were 53-28 at Dodger Stadium, outscoring their opponents by 89 runs. ON the flip side, Chicago had the second-best road record with a +110 run differential.
After losing Game 3 of the NLDS in extra innings to San Francisco, the Cubs trailed by three runs in the top of the ninth, with a do-or-die Game 5 looming. That game was never played as the Cubs rallied for four runs in the inning, aided by a throwing error by Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. Closer Aroldis Chapman came in and struck out the side to advance the Cubs.
Los Angeles battled back and forth with the Nationals, with the series going the distance. In the decisive Game 5, Los Angeles scored four times in the top of the seventh and won 4-3. In that seventh inning, closer Kenley Jansen got the ball and pitched into the ninth inning, before handing the ball over to Kershaw. Yes, the ace that won Game 4 for LA pitched on short rest and recorded the save. Talk about using your best player when it matters the most.
Now we get a star-studded series for a right to advance to the Fall Classic. Both teams are loaded with talent, so this has the makings to be a series for the ages.
The Cubbies are led by their youth movement, which includes third baseman Kris Bryant, who could very well win the MVP award in the NL this season. Bryant had a slash line of .292/.385/.554 with 39 home runs, 102 RBIs, 176 hits and 121 runs scored. He will likely be named the NL MVP here in a few weeks.
Along with Bryant, the Cubs are loaded with young talent including first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Addison Russell, and second baseman Javier Baez.
The Dodgers are led by the likely NL Rookie of the Year, 22-year old shortstop Corey Seager. In his first full season in Dodger Blue, Seager had a slash line of .308/.365/.512 with 26 home runs, 173 hits, 72 RBIs and 105 runs scored. The rest of the Dodgers lineup can be potent with the likes of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Josh Reddick and center fielder Joc Pederson.
Toeing the rubber for each team in Game 1 will be Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA, 197 K) for the Cubs and Kenta Maeda (16-11, 3.48 ERA, 179 K) for the Dodgers. Lester is in his second season with the Cubbies after spending most of his career with the Red Sox. Maeda pitched his first MLB season after coming over from Japan. This matchup favors the Cubs as the Dodgers did not hit left-handed pitching well.
One of these two team will end World Series droughts and the other will continue to search for answers going forward. The Cubs have been the favorites all season long, but the Dodgers will look to play spoiler on those parade plans in the Northside of Chicago.