The National League Division Series begin on Friday and in a matchup decided on Wednesday we'll see the Giants face off with the Cubs. The Cubs had the best record in baseball at 103-58, while the Giants crept in to the playoffs at 87-75.

Here is the schedule and broadcast information for the Giants vs. Cubs best-of-five NLDS matchup. All start times are Eastern Time.

Date Time Venue Starting Pitchers TV Streaming Radio
Game 1 Fri., Oct. 7 9:00 p.m. Wrigley Field Jon Lester vs. Johnny Cueto FS1 Fox Sports
ESPN Radio
Game 2
Sat., Oct. 8 8:00 p.m. Wrigley Field Kyle Hendricks vs. TBA MLBN

Fox Sports

ESPN Radio
Game 3
Mon., Oct. 10 TBD AT&T Park Madison Bumgarner vs. Jake Arrieta FS1/MLBN Fox Sports ESPN Radio
Game 4*
Tues., Oct. 11 TBD AT&T Park TBA vs. John Lackey FS1

Fox Sports

ESPN Radio
Game 5*
Thurs., Oct. 13 TBD Wrigley Field TBA vs. TBA FS1

Fox Sports

ESPN Radio

* if necessary

The Giants are likely to tap Cueto in Game 1 and use Bumgarner on full rest for Game 3. The spaces in between are less certain, with Bruce Bochy tasked to decide if he'd rather spin the wheel with Matt Moore or Jeff Samardzija. Don't sleep on the Giants bringing back Cueto and Bumgarner on short rest late in the series, either -- provided that's needed. As for the Cubs, the question is which of their Cy Young candidates would start a decisive Game 5. Ho hum.

Jon Lester will get the ball for the Cubs in Game 1. USATSI

The Giants have a matchup problem

Here's the Giants' issue in a nutshell: they acquired Gordon Beckham during the final week to start against left-handed pitchers.

Granted, Beckham's presence was required because Eduardo Nunez was hurt, but it also speaks to the Giants' woes against left-handed pitching. On the season, the Giants were a league-average lineup when faced by a righty. And against lefties? They were in the bottom third with a 92 sOPS+ -- think OPS+, except on a team level. (The Cubs, conversely, had a 106 sOPS+ versus righties and a 119 mark against lefties.) You can see how that would be a potential sore spot in a series that could well feature two starts from Jon Lester, one of the best southpaws in baseball.

But San Francisco's blemish could be exploit further by smart managing. Joe Maddon figures to have a trio of lefties at his disposal, in closer Aroldis Chapman (.450 OPS against lefties during the regular season), Travis Wood (.447), and Mike Montgomery (.637). Maddon has shown a willingness to get aggressive with his bullpen, and there's no reason to think he'd hesitate before doing the same in this series.

Cueto isn't Bumgarner but ...

There's a seeming belief that the Cubs caught a break by avoiding Bumgarner in Game 1. Maybe. But the real break is avoiding Bumgarner and Cueto in Games 1 and 2. The ever-quirky Cueto doesn't have Bumgarner's big-game reputation -- again, the latter is the closest thing this generation has to a transcendent, Teen Wolf-like clutch performer -- but his regular-season numbers were comparable:

Bumgarner 6.7 74% 2.74 3.24
Cueto 6.9 69% 2.79 2.96

Obviously Bumgarner and Cueto can't start all five games, but make no mistake -- the Giants have two elite starters, not one.

Johnny Cueto isn't Madison Bumgarner, but he's really, really good. USATSI

The season series was highly competitive

The Cubs hectored most every team who was placed in front of them during the regular season. Not the Giants though. The Cubs won four of the seven games, and technically owned a plus-six run differential. That margin is misleading, however, since six of those games were decided by two runs or fewer -- including five by one run. Throw out a lopsided 8-1 Cubs victory in May, and it's the Giants who owned the run-differential advantage -- albeit by an inch of a beanstalk.

These two squads most recently met to begin September, with the Cubs taking three of four in Chicago. Was that a preview of things to come, or just noise? We'll find out soon.

The Cubs dominated at Wrigley Field

As previously noted, the Cubs steamrolled almost any and every team standing in their path. This was especially true when the hosting venue was Wrigley Field. The Cubs won more than 70 percent of their games played at the down-to-Earth and friendly confines, resulting in the best home record in baseball. Of course, the Cubs also boasted the second-best record on the road -- so, hey, the team with the most wins is capable of playing quality ball no matter the stadium.

  • Cubs at home: 57-24, 142 run differential
  • Giants on the road: 42-39, 19 run differential
  • Giants at home: 45-36, 65 run differential
  • Cubs on the road: 46-34, 110 run differential

The Giants, conversely, played much better on the road when you take their run differential into account. Still, there's no way around, they'll have to take at least one game on the road in order to advance to the NLCS.

Both teams are relatively healthy

On San Francisco's side of the ledger, the question is whether third baseman Eduardo Nunez will be hearty and hale -- or at least well enough to see action at third base. If not, the Giants will be in a pickle. During the final week, Bochy used Conor Gillaspie in a platoon with Gordon Beckham, while also giving Kelby Tomlinson starts at second base in relief of Joe Panik versus left-handed pitchers. Beckham is ineligible for the postseason, meaning Bochy will have to find another arrangement that works for him.

The Cubs are without Kyle Schwarber, obviously, and that's about it. Jorge Soler played on Sunday, as if to say, "I'm fine. Really!" Soler had been dealing with a side injury.

In other words, consider this the inverse of the injury-ravaged Dodgers-National series.

Six of the seven regular-season Giants-Cubs games were decided by two runs or fewer. USATSI

Depth favors the Cubs

When Bochy goes to his bench, he'll likely be choosing between Gorkys Hernandez, Jarrett Parker, and Kelby Tomlinson. When Maddon does the same, he'll be picking between two of Chris Coghlan, Jorge Soler, and Javier Baez, as well as potentially David Ross and Tommy La Stella. You don't have to see the numbers to know which group is superior, but just in case you wanted to anyway:

Player Team OPS+ (PA) Player Team OPS+ (PA)
Jorge Soler Cubs 105 (264) Jarrett Parker Giants 102 (151)
Javier Baez Cubs 96 (450) Kelby Tomlinson Giants 90 (120)
Tommy La Stella Cubs 105 (169) Gorkys Hernandez Giants 100 (57)
David Ross Cubs 109 (205) Gregor Blanco Giants 67 (274)
Miguel Montero Cubs 85 (284) Trevor Brown Giants 72 (184)

So yes, advantage Cubs -- a big advantage at that, given how much Bochy likes to play matchups in the late innings.

Strength versus strength

The Giants' lineup had the fourth-highest batting average and lowest strikeout rate in the NL. They like to -- and excel at -- putting the ball in play. Contrariwise, the Cubs are stupendous at smothering everything put into play. Their .745 defensive efficiency was the best in the majors this season by nearly three percentage points -- and by some metrics they had the best defense of all-time. It sounds silly and obvious and stupid, yes, but this series could come down to whether the Giants' batters can find empty space.

CBS Sports predictions

What would a preview post be without some predictions? Here's what the five CBS Sports baseball scribes expect the outcome of this NLDS to be:

R.J. Anderson Mike Axisa Jonah Keri Dayn Perry Matt Snyder
NLDS Winner
No. of Games 4 5 5 5 5

Should be a fun series.