The 87-win San Francisco Giants are facing off against the 103 win Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series. This is definitely a lopsided series, but it’s only best of five so anything can happen.
These clubs took different paths to where they’re at now. One, the Giants, had the best record in baseball in the first half (57-33), but collapsed in the second (30-42) resulting in them having to play the New York Mets in the Wild Card game. Meanwhile, the Cubs strolled through the regular season, winning the division by 17.5 games and taking home-field advantage in the postseason. While the Cubs were getting ready for the division series at home, the Giants had to battle it out against the Mets in Queens, ending in a 3-0, hard-fought win. Now it’s time to decide the roster for the NLDS.
For the Wild Card game, the Giants didn’t need much. They cared 11 pitchers, but only needed one and never used a pinch hitter or pinch runner. But the upcoming series won’t be the same. It’s a five-game series with the best team in baseball and they don’t have any weaknesses other than the Even Year (Curse) invading Wrigley and their own well-covered curse.
Johnny Cueto is going game one against lefty Jon Lester, and the matchups aren’t too shabby after that. Manager Bruce Bochy hasn’t announced a game-two starter yet, but it will either be Matt Moore or Jeff Samardzija. I’ll predict it’s Moore, because that leaves Samardzija able to come out of the pen at any time, which he has experience doing. He won’t be starting until game four on October 11, so he could conceivably throw 20+ pitches in game one or two then still make his scheduled start. The Cubs are sending out Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, and John Lackey in the first four games. Deep breath. That won’t be easy for San Francisco. Not to mention they have Aroldis Chapman and Hector Rondon lurking in the bullpen.
Enough about the scary Cubbies — here are my predictions for the Giants roster:
I’d feel more comfortable with three catchers, but that would be a risk-averse decision to make. In all likelihood, it would be a waste to add a third catcher, but I’m sure Madison Bumgarner could do it.
* Adrianza in if Nunez is left off due to injury
Bochy already said that wild card game hero Gillaspie will start game 1 due to Nunez not being ready, but it’s unknown whether Nunez will be left off the roster entirely. Nunez could be a weapon on the bases against Lester, due his inability to throw to bases.
Gregor Blanco might have a case after four consecutive two-win seasons, but struggled this year. He might be in if Nunez is out, but Adrianza being a switch-hitter could be the difference. Other than that, Hernandez could get the call against Lester in game one, but Span has had success against the tough lefty in the past. Parker will be the pinch hitter off the bench.
Not much to say here except that they will all likely throw tons of pitches against the patient and powerful Cubs lineup.
Notable relievers left off include Cory Gearrin, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy and Joe Nathan The latter three were expected, but it’s a surprise that there’s no room for Gearrin. We might see Okert left off, but that would leave the club with two left-handed relievers — not including Bumgarner — and Bochy prefers three in postseasons situations.
Chicago took four out of seven during the season series, but the run differential was six. And that includes the 8-1 win by the Cubs in May.
It all starts tonight, the finale of the day, and it should be highly entertaining. Tension will be high. Wrigley will be on fire. And you can see it on FS1.