Even after shaky beginnings, Cubs and Dodgers are once again near the top of the National League

during game five of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 19, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

CHICAGO – Before the 2018 season, many felt like the road to the World Series went through the North Side of Chicago or Los Angeles.

After all, it has the past two seasons.

The Cubs and the Dodgers were the league finalists during the 2016 and 2017 season, meeting in consecutive seasons in the National League Championship Series. Most prognosticators had both teams competing for the same spot again in 2018.

While it hasn’t been the cleanest road for either squad, once again the teams are meeting as a pair of the best in the league as the first half of the season starts to wind down. The first of a three-game series at Wrigley Field begins on Monday night, with the teams meeting at night Tuesday then during the day on Wednesday. Next week the Cubs return the trip to Los Angeles for four games starting on June 25th.

It’s been a split of the reign of the National League the past two seasons between the teams, with the Cubs besting the Dodgers in six games in the 2016 NLCS for their first pennant since 1945. They’d go onto win the World Series but Los Angeles didn’t when they exacted some revenge on the Cubs in a five-game NLCS win in 2017, losing seven games to the Houston Astros in the Fall Classic.

Dave Roberts’ Dodgers team then endured a nightmare start to the season where Corey Seager was lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery and Clayton Kershaw hit the disabled list with more back problems. A 16-26 start had Los Angeles eight games out of first place on May 16th, but they’ve managed to rally back even with the infielder and ace out of the lineup.

They won 11 of their last 14 games and are 21-7 since May 16th, climbing within a game-and-a-half of the Arizona Diamondbacks for first in the National League West.

Joe Maddon’s Cubs team is just a half-game out of first after they split their six games with division frontrunners Milwaukee and St. Louis this past week. The Cubs themselves were slow out of the gate, struggling with consistency as their two main offseason free agent starter pickups – former Dodger Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood – struggle to find their rhythm.

At 16-15 on May 6th after a walk-off loss to the Cardinals, the Cubs are 24-16 since and have now climbed to 12 games over .500. One of the consistent parts of their team is another former Dodger – Brandon Morrow – who has shined as the team’s primary closer in 2018.

He’s converted 16 of 17 save opportunities and has a 1.59 ERA, taking the place of Wade Davis in what has been a strong Cubs’ bullpen so far.

Whether he gets the chance to meet his former team in the playoffs is still a question that has time to be answered, but over the next three games and then four next week, you’ll once again see two of the NL’s best teams in action together again.