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.
|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|| |
| 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|| |
| Game 5* ||Thurs., Oct. 13||TBD||Wrigley Field||TBA vs. TBA|| FS1 || |
* 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.
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:
Obviously Bumgarner and Cueto can't start all five games, but make no mistake -- the Giants have two elite starters, not one.
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.
In other words, consider this the inverse of the injury-ravaged Dodgers-National series.
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|
|No. of Games||4||5||5||5||5|
Should be a fun series.