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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Giants Series Preview

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The Cubs have not faced the Giants in nearly a year.

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The last time the Cubs and Giants met, Tarp-Gate was the word of the day, a game was rain-delayed till after 1 a.m., the Cubs won it, then it was suspended, then it was delayed again, then the Cubs won it again.

I like pennant races better. Don't you?

I asked Grant Brisbee, proprietor at SB Nation's Giants site McCovey Chronicles, to write me a few paragraphs about his team. You're likely familiar with Grant's work. He doesn't disappoint here.

In the post-Bonds era, when the Giants were absolutely lousy, they couldn't hit or pitch. Or field. Or follow generally accepted rules of basic hygiene. Everything they touched turned to Uwe Boll, and it was painful. But then Tim Lincecum fell in the draft, and the Giants built around him and Matt Cain. Jonathan Sanchez helped for a bit, and then Madison Bumgarner emerged. They were the 2015 Mets for a while, overloaded with pitching talent and desperate for runs. 

That changed in 2010, when they turned over more than half the projected starting lineup during the season, and they married that pitching-first team with a dinger-happy lineup. They were better offensively than people gave them credit for. 

Since then, the trend lines have gone completely in the other direction. Now they're a team that struggles to pitch, but the offense isn't a problem, especially on the road. You guys won't see Madison Bumgarner, so you'll get the maximum Giants experience. They're in postseason contention because they can hit (second in the league in runs, despite playing in an extreme pitcher's park) and because they can field. They added a sinkerballer in Mike Leake to slot behind Chris Heston, their surprisingly effective sinkerballer. Both are good fits for the infield defense. 

It's the hitting, though, and in a slightly unconventional way. They're all about the singles and doubles, with only Brandon Crawford and possibly Buster Posey likely to hit 20 homers. When they're stringing the hits together, it's fun to watch. When they go into a funk together, they're abysmal, which is why the Giants have suffered through three different losing streaks of five games or longer. 

Right now they're hitting. Don't screw that up, Cubs. Be nice.

Pitching matchups

Thursday: Jason Hammel (6-5, 3.13 ERA, 1.042 WHIP, 3.27 FIP) vs. Chris Heston (11-5, 3.24 ERA, 1.179 WHIP, 3.22 FIP)

Friday: Jon Lester (6-8, 3.26 ERA, 1.168 WHIP, 2.94 FIP) vs. Mike Leake (9-5, 3.56 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, 3.90 FIP with Reds)

Saturday: Kyle Hendricks (5-5, 3.67 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, 3.34 FIP) vs. Matt Cain (2-2, 4.91 ERA, 1.455 WHIP, 4.43 FIP)

Sunday: Jake Arrieta (12-6, 2.50 ERA, 1.002 WHIP, 2.64 FIP) vs. Jake Peavy (2-4, 3.77 ERA, 1.191 WHIP, 3.87 FIP)

Prediction

Four-game series between good teams tend to split, so I'm calling for a split.

What? You mean that's it? No further analysis?

OK, here's what I think. The Cubs are a hot team right now despite Wednesday's loss, and the Giants have a tendency to be streaky this year, as Grant noted: They started 4-10, then won 10 of 13, then lost six of nine, then won eight in a row and 13 of 15, then lost five in a row, then... well, you get the idea. The Giants are good on the road (29-25) and the Cubs haven't yet been consistently good at home. The Cubs ought to have the advantage in at least two of these pitching matchups (Lester/Leake and Arrieta/Peavy). Lester has already faced Leake twice this year and had one not-so-good outing and one very good start.

Like I said. Split.

Up next

The Cubs have a rematch with the Milwaukee Brewers, who they swept in Miller Park last week. The Brew Crew comes to Wrigley for a three-game series starting Tuesday night.