It’s October in an even-numbered year, and the Giants appear to be following their usual routine. The Chicago Cubs think their time is now.
Welcome to one intriguing National League Division Series.
Both teams feature strong pitching rotations, including All-Star aces in the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner and the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta.
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Fresh off a dramatic wild-card victory in New York, the Giants were brimming with confidence when they arrived in Chicago on Thursday. Bumgarner’s four-hitter in Wednesday night’s 3-0 victory against the Mets means he likely is pushed back until at least Game 3, but the Giants have 18-game winner Johnny Cueto ready to go for Friday’s series opener at Wrigley Field.
The Giants’ sustained success is exactly what the Cubs are hoping to string together. It has been 108 years since they last won the World Series – a number that will chase them around for as long as they stick around in this year’s playoffs – but the Cubs made it to the N.L. Championship Series in 2015 and led the majors with 103 wins this season.
With a deep rotation and young sluggers in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs could challenge for titles for years to come. They want to start right now, and the Giants are standing in their way.
“Every year they’re in it. Every year they’re contending. Every year they have a chance to win the World Series,” said left-hander Jon Lester, who will start Game 1 for the Cubs. “So I think that’s what every team wants, not just us. I think they’re an organization that a lot of teams look after to figure out how, why, how to get to that point.
“It’s a model of consistency. It’s impressive to see what they do.”
The teams are meeting in the postseason for just the second time. The other matchup was in 1989, when the Giants won 4-1 in the N.L. Championship Series.
Friday, Oct. 7: San Francisco (Cueto 18-5) at Chicago (Lester 19-5), 6:15 p.m. (FS1)
Saturday, Oct. 8: San Francisco (Moore 6-5) at Chicago (Hendricks 16-8) 5:08 p.m. (MLB)
Monday, Oct. 10: Chicago (Arrieta 18-8) at San Francisco, TBA (FS1 or MLB)
x-Tuesday, Oct. 11: Chicago (Lackey 11-8) at San Francisco, TBA (FS1)
x-Thursday, Oct. 13: San Francisco at Chicago, TBA (FS1)
(All games can be heard on KNBR 680.)
SEASON SERIES RECAP
The Giants and Cubs met seven times in 2016. Chicago won the season series 4-3.
May 20: Cubs 8, Giants 1 in San Francisco – Jake Arrieta gave up four hits and one walk while striking out eight in seven innings to win his 19th consecutive decision as Chicago Cubs snapped San Francisco’s eight-game winning streak.
The Cubs have won Arrieta’s last 22 starts going back to last season, with their ace going 19-0 in that stretch. Chicago also won on the road for the 24th time in 29 games.
May 21: Giants 5, Cubs 3 in San Francisco – Matt Cain pitched six strong innings and helped himself with the bat, and Buster Posey hit a two-run homer to lead San Francisco past Chicago.
Cain (1-5) got his first victory since July 22, 2015, snapping a streak of 15 consecutive winless starts. The Giants were 3-12 over that stretch.
May 22: Giants 1, Cubs 0 in San Francisco – Madison Bumgarner pitched 7 2/3 dominant innings and doubled in the game’s only run in the fifth to lift San Francisco over Chicago.
The Giants won for the 11th time in 12 games and took two of three from a Cubs team with the best record in baseball.
Sept. 1: Cubs 5, Giants 4 in Chicago – Addison Russell hit a two-run single with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, and three relievers combined for five perfect innings to lead Chicago past San Francisco on Thursday.
The Cubs spoiled a shaky Jeff Samardzija’s return to Wrigley Field and started September on a winning note after going 22-6 to match the 1932 team for the best August in franchise history.
Sept. 2: Cubs 2, Giants 1 in Chicago – Jon Lester pitched 6 2/3 innings of no-hit ball and threw a three-hitter for his second complete game of the season, helping Chicago beat San Francisco on Friday to move a season-high 40 games over .500.
Hunter Pence ended Lester’s bid for a no-hitter with a homer to left on a 1-2 changeup that cut over the plate.
Sept. 3: Giants 3, Cubs 2 in Chicago – Madison Bumgarner outpitched Jake Arrieta with 10 strikeouts over six innings, and San Francisco pounced on rare Chicago miscues to end the Cubs’ five-game winning streak.
Arrieta was charged with three runs (two earned) and four hits in six innings in his first loss since July 30.
Sept. 4: Cubs 3, Giants 2 (13) in Chicago – Jason Heyward tied it with a single in the ninth inning and his liner to left-center in the 13th won it as Chicago beat San Francisco on Sunday to take three of four games in a possible playoff preview.
Compiled by Noel Harris