The Cubs (73-53) are in second wild card position, four games behind the first wild card Pirates and 5½ games ahead of the Giants. They have a 94.4-percent chance of reaching the postseason per FanGraphs, and 92.6 percent per Baseball Prospectus, in both cases all but about two percent tied up in the wild card.
The Dodgers (70-56) lead the National League West by 2½ games over the Giants, with an 86.8-percent chance to make the playoffs per FanGraphs and 82.5 percent per Baseball Prospectus. All but between 1-2 percent of the Dodgers' chances are tied to the division, since they are currently three games behind the Cubs.
Chicago has been the National League equivalent of the Blue Jays of late, a hard-charging supernova that won 21 of 25 games before dropping the last two games in San Francisco. The Cubs are 18-6 in August.
The Cubs hot streak has coincided quite nicely with the return of Kyle Schwarber for good at the All-Star break. The rookie is hitting .273/.368/.500 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI in 44 games.
Schwarber has started 13 games at catcher and 18 games in left field, sort of a rich man's Evan Gattis, only with plate discipline, a 12.1-percent walk rate.
Clayton Kershaw gets the start in the series opener on Friday night, though we need only look back to the series in Chicago from June 22-25 to show how the best laid plans sometimes go awry. The Dodgers lost the first two games of that series, started by Kershaw and Zack Greinke, then beat Jon Lester en route to splitting the series.
The Dodgers missed Jake Arrieta in Chicago, but he'll start Sunday night in this series. The Cubs miss Greinke this time around. Lester goes on Saturday.
Kershaw has won his last three home starts, allowing no runs in any of the three starts, with 28 strikeouts and one walk in those games. His scoreless streak at Dodger Stadium is 28 consecutive innings, dating back to July 3.
Jason Hammel starts Friday for the Cubs. Since the All-Star break the right-hander has 34 strikeouts and 11 walks in 33⅓ innings, but also eight home runs allowed and a 4.86 ERA in seven starts.
Hammel held the Dodgers scoreless for 7⅔ innings on June 23 at Wrigley Field, with six strikeouts while allowing only four batters to reach base.
The Dodgers have not lost a season series to the Cubs since dropping five of seven regular season games in 2008, the last time Chicago made the playoffs, an appearance that was limited to three games.
Time: 7:10 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA