In case you didn’t know this is an even year, the San Francisco Giants reminded you of this on Wednesday night. In the top of the ninth with runners on second and third, in a scoreless game, Conor Gillaspie smacked a three-run homer off of New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia. Then Madison Bumgarner, in typical postseason fashion, finished off another complete game shutout. Step one for the Giants is complete. Next up is the Chicago Cubs, the best team in baseball.
The Giants seem to be peaking at just the right time after a mostly brutal second half of the season. The Cubs have seemingly been peaking all year. The drama will be high in this best-of-five series with great pitching matchups. The Cubs have been one of the best offenses in baseball this season. They ranked in the top five in runs, home runs, on-base percentage, and slugging in the National League. The Giants offense has firepower, too, although it didn’t show in the regular season in the form of power numbers. They did, however, rank in the top five in the NL in both average and on-base percentage.
The pitching staffs for both team are outstanding, with Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija leading the way for the Giants. The Cubs counter with Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta. Both staffs ranked in the top five in ERA in the NL, with the Cubs leading the league.
The deciding factor in this series could be the Cubs’ ability to knock the Giants big three starters out early to get to the bullpen. The Giants only converted 43 of a possible 72 save opportunities this season, using multiple arms after Santiago Casilla lost his closer job in early September. Sergio Romo took over as full-time closer on September 20 and was 4-for-4 in save chances down the stretch. The save king from the Giants 2012 championship run holds a career 2.11 ERA in 21 postseason innings, including four saves.
The Giants might not want to wait for ninth innings rallies against the Cubs. One of the best in the business will be waiting for them: Aroldis Chapman. Chapman had a 1.55 ERA this season with 36 saves and 90 strikeouts. If you are looking for a possible weakness, he has very little postseason experience, with his last appearance coming in 2012 against the Giants. Plus, the weight of Cubs nation will be on his shoulders each and every game he appears in.
If you are a baseball fan and this series doesn’t excite you, you may need to check your pulse. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since (look away Cub fans) 1908 and the Giants are going for their fourth title in the last four even years. You couldn’t write a better movie script if you tried.
The series kicks off under the bright lights of Wrigley Field on Friday night.