This is what we've been waiting for, really, since the Cubs were eliminated by the Mets in the 2015 NLCS. That team gave us kind of a bonus year; no one really expected, when 2015 began, for the Cubs to get that far.
But when this year started, expectations were high, and the Cubs did "embrace the target" by posting the season's best record and setting all kinds of team records.
Now everything resets, and while the Cubs are the favorite to win (in some circles, at least), you never know what's going to happen in a postseason series.
Here's all the facts and figures you'll need for this one.
As Al mentioned in his recap of the season series between the two teams, five of the seven games this season were decided by one run, including all four games in the series at Wrigley Field from September 1 through 4. The Cubs won four of the seven games in the season series, three at Wrigley and one at AT&T Park. The Cubs outscored the Giants 23-17 in the season series, due in large part to the 8-1 blowout in the first game of the season between the two teams on May 20.
Possible pitching matchups (stats are regular-season only):
Game 1: Kenta Maeda, RHP (16-11, 3.48 ERA, 1.139 WHIP, 3.58 FIP) vs. Jon Lester, LHP (19-5, 2.44 ERA, 1.016 WHIP, 3.41 FIP)
Game 2: Clayton Kershaw, LHP (12-4, 1.69 ERA, 0.725 WHIP, 1.80 FIP) vs. Kyle Hendricks, RHP (16-8, 2.13 ERA, 0.979 WHIP, 3.20 FIP)
Game 3: Jake Arrieta, RHP (18-8, 3.10 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, 3.52 FIP) vs. Julio Urias, LHP (5-2, 3.39 ERA, 1.455 WHIP, 3.17 FIP)
Game 4: John Lackey, RHP (11-8, 3.35 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 3.81 FIP) vs. Rich Hill, LHP (3-2, 1.83 ERA, 0.786 WHIP, 2.07 FIP)
As mentioned above, these are not the official pitching matchups for the NLDS as the Giants' starters for Games 2 through 4 are still listed as TBD on the MLB.com web site. If the series were to go to a fifth game (which hopefully it won't), I'm guessing that the Game 1 matchup of Cueto vs. Lester would play out once more.
Times & TV channels
Game 1: Friday 10/7, 8:15 p.m. CT, Fox Sports 1. Announcers: Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal
Game 2: Saturday 10/8, 7:08 p.m. CT, MLB Network. Announcers: Bob Costas, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal
Game 3: Monday 10/10, Time TBD, Fox Sports 1. Announcers: Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal
Game 4 *: Tuesday 10/11, Time TBD, Fox Sports 1. Announcers: Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal
Game 5 *: Thursday 10/13, Time TBD, Fox Sports 1. Announcers: Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal
* if necessary
If your cable/satellite package doesn't include MLB Network, but the system does carry it, you will be able to watch Saturday's game as MLB Network is giving a free preview from October 6 through 11.
I'm normally not a fan of making predictions of playoff series, but if I had to make a guess on this one, I'd go with the Cubs in four. I only think it goes that way if the Cubs take care of business at Wrigley Field in the first two, though. I'll be honest, though; if the Cubs don't win the first two at Wrigley, I'm going to be a lot more nervous about this series than I already am. (Full disclosure: I'm nervous about every playoff series. I'm a worrywart like that.)
Hopefully it will be the National League Championship Series against either the Dodgers or the Nationals beginning on October 15 at Wrigley Field. Because the other option would be a pretty big bummer.