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Playoff preview? Joe Maddon downplays Cubs-Dodgers series

Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- As much as it would make for a good storyline this weekend, it’s hard to call the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers series a playoff preview. Technically, it could be, of course. Both teams are in first place so meeting in October is a possibility, but it simply won’t be with all of the same players -- especially on the mound.

“We’re missing people. They’re missing people,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Friday’s game. “At the end of the day, I always like our best group against their best group. Let’s go.”

Maddon, of course, is alluding to pitcher Clayton Kershaw above anyone else. Kershaw still is on the disabled list with no known return date, but if the Dodgers are going to go far in October then you would have to believe they'll need Kershaw to be there with them. Maddon actually prefers seeing him on the mound instead of in the dugout.

“I’ve always wanted us to play the other team’s best team,” Maddon said.

Bud Norris is certainly not part of the Dodgers’ best team. He started on Friday, while the Cubs opposed him with lefty Mike Montgomery. He won’t be a playoff starter, either, just as there’s a good chance Saturday’s pitcher, Jason Hammel, may not start a postseason game. It makes it very hard to give a lot of meaning to the series overall.

Not to mention, the Cubs have a double-digit lead in their division, while the Dodgers are in a dogfight with the San Francisco Giants out west. However, Maddon still will be keeping a close eye on some things. It’s not like the series is completely void of information.

“Yeah, I’ll be watching,” he said. “I’m always watching. What does it feel like? How our guys react to them. That kind of stuff.”

That “feel” is what interests Maddon about these matchups -- certainly not the outcomes. Even if the Cubs played the Dodgers a month from now -- closer to the postseason -- it’s doubtful he would come away with some grand knowledge to take into a playoff series.

“We beat on the Mets (in the regular season) then we can’t even touch the Mets (in the playoffs),” Maddon said referencing last year’s postseason. “It’s such a different animal. People get hot, or people get cold. The weather gets cold, and everything does change. Things change.”

Things change, but Maddon won’t, despite his team’s huge lead. He will rest guys a little -- just a little -- more than he normally would since he views August as a month to scale back anyway. As for learning much about the Dodgers, right now the Cubs manager isn’t buying into any of those narratives.

“Trends can be so trendy, to quote Yogi (Berra),” Maddon joked. “I don’t get too far ahead because things can change very quickly.”