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NL Division Series Preview: San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs
- Updated: October 7, 2016
MLB Postseason action continues Friday night as the National League Division Series opens at Wrigley Field. The Central Division Champion Chicago Cubs (103-58-1) host the Wild Card San Francisco Giants (87-75) in a best three-out-of-five series.
Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago
When: Friday, October 7, 2016 at 8:00 pm CT.
Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA, 197 K, 52 BB in 202.2 IP). Lester has been outstanding in his second season as a Cub.
Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto (19-7, 2.79 ERA, 198 Ks, 45 BB in 219.1 IP). The master of deceptive delivery has thrived as a Giant.
A little history:
The Cubs won four out of seven regular season games against the Giants in 2016. When the two franchises last met in postseason, 1989, the Giants won the National League Championship four games to one. In the year of the Cubs last World Series title, 1908, the Cubs tied for first place with the New York Giants and defeated the Giants in the final regular season game before beating the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
The Giants and Cubs rank third and fourth, respectively, in National League ballpark attendance, each exceeding 3.3 million served in 2016.
San Francisco Giants top position players:
Buster Posey, C (.288 BA 14 HR 80 RBI) is one of the top receivers in the game and a top run-producer among catchers.
Brandon Crawford, SS (.275 BA 12 HR 84 RBI) owns a team-leading 2.7 defensive WAR (wins above replacement) and is always a threat at the plate.
Brandon Belt, 1B (.275 BA 17 HR 82 RBI) has a keen batting eye (.394 on-base percentage) and has gap power to all fields. Belt racked up 41 doubles and eight triples in 2016.
Hunter Pence, RF (.289 BA 13 HR 57 RBI) until last season’s injury was the Giants iron man; this year hamstring surgery limited Pence to 106 games.
Chicago Cubs top position players:
Kris Bryant, 3B-OF (.292 BA 35 HR 102 RBI) Last year’s Rookie of the Year is now an MVP candidate. Power, plate discipline, and astute base running make him a run machine.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B (.292 BA 32 HR 109 RBI) is also in the MVP conversation and forms the other half of the dangerous “Bryzzo” duo. Rizzo and Bryant finished 2016 with identical batting averages and on base percentages (.385).
Dexter Fowler, CF (.276 BA 13 HR 48 RBI) rewarded the Cubs front office with his lead-off skills (.393 OBP) and center field play after they signed the veteran to a two-year extension.
Addison Russell, SS (.238 BA 24 HR 95 RBI), is still developing at only 22 years old. In addition to his haul of RBI, like Crawford he posted a team-leading 2.7 defensive WAR.
The Giants played better in the first half of the 2016 campaign but lately have returned to early season form with a sweep of the Dodgers last weekend and a stunning 3-0 elimination game victory against the Mets Wednesday night.
Bruce Bochy‘s offense strikes out less than any team in the post-season and should keep the Cubs’ much-improved defense busy. San Francisco flashes the leather as well with stalwarts Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Denard Span creating strength up the middle.
The Giants vulnerability is the bullpen, with a closer carousel that currently features Sergio Romo; expect the patient Cubs hitters to work counts in an effort to get Cueto out of the game early. The Cubs have strengthened their own bullpen with the mid-season acquisitions of lefties Aroldis Chapman and Mike Montgomery, and side-arm righty Joe Smith (not on playoff roster), who join workhorse Travis Wood and set-up men Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon.
The Cubs weaknesses are the batters’ high strikeout rates and – some might say – their comparative youth, though skipper Joe Maddon handles young talent well and has made the most of veterans like Ben Zobrist, Miguel Montero, and David Ross as mentors.
The Giants have made a habit of winning titles in even-numbered years while the Cubs (sigh) well-documented post-season futility streak simply has to end some time. Will this be the year?
Feature photo credit: David Banks, USA Today Sports
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