For a long while this season, the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants were the best teams, until the summer arrived, and the Giants began to struggle. But it’s an even year, and it’s playoff time, something both Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto know very well and thrive in, entering game 1 of the NLDS.
The Cubs finished the season with the best record in the majors, opting to go with Lester after Jake Arrieta had a rough second half this season. The same can be said about the Giants, who led the majors at the All-Star break, but finished the second half of the season with a losing record, barely making it in through the wild card playoffs. However, they did play one do-or-die game already, winning 3-0 against the New York Mets.
Regular season: The Giants took the first series of the season (in San Francisco), winning 2-of-3. In the 4-game series that opened September at Wrigley Field, the Cubs took 3-of-4, with all four games decided by one run.
Starting pitchers: Johnny Cueto won the world series with the Kansas City Royals a year ago. He had a great season with the Giants, posting a 2.79 ERA through 32 starts and 219.2 innings, looking commanding on the mound again, impressively striking out 8.1 batters to 1.8 walks. His only game against the Cubs wasn’t bad at all, giving up one run in 7 innings, but the Giants lost it. Of Cubs batters he has more than 10 at bats against, no one has a batting average better than .250.
Jon Lester will start for the Cubs. He’s a 2-time World Series champion with the Red Sox, coming off a terrific season, posting a 2.44 ERA through 202.2 innings. Lester made two appearances against the Giants this season. In the most recent one, he tossed a three-hitter, giving up just one run in nine innings. As with Cueto, there isn’t a Giants pitcher that’s had consistent success against him over the years.
Hot bats: The Giants had only 5 hits in their 3-0 win over the Mets, but a 3-run homer from Conor Gillaspie means he’s hot enough. Brandon Crawford (1-for-3, 1 BB) looked sharp as well. The Cubs two most consistent hitters heading into the playoffs are Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. Fowler has a 1.010 OPS over the last 20 games, batting .319 and hitting 3 home runs. Zobrist is batting just .254 over the last 19, but he does have 4 home runs, and when he hits, it usually gets something going.