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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Giants Series Preview

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And, perhaps, a preview of a postseason matchup.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Just who are the Giants? Grant Brisbee, who runs our SB Nation Giants site McCovey Chronicles, poses a question to you.

The question before us today is this: "Are the Giants any good?"

...

I'm sorry, that's my question. It's for you. I'm asking it, and I'm on a deadline, so I'm kind of hoping for a quick turnaround on this. Are the Giants any good? You don't have to write a novel. Just a couple paragraphs.

...

Ugh, fine, I'll wing it. See, I don't know if the Giants are any good. At the All-Star break, they had the best record in baseball. The All-Star break was a month-and-a-half ago. If you asked me then if the Giants were any good, I would have looked at you like you were wearing a cloth diaper over your chin. Of course they were. They have the best record. They're 20 games over .500 and on pace for 100+ wins. Of course they're good.

The season is 45 games older, which shouldn't make that much of a difference. What can 45 games prove? Other than that the team that had the best record in baseball was secretly the worst team in baseball. I'll be honest. Didn't see that coming.

If the Giants really are good, there's a fair chance you won't see it in the first parts of this series. Jeff Samardzija is a tall, stuff-laden man-mountain who throws hard but has a problem with ... oh, you're familiar? He's been better lately with the rediscovery of a curveball and a renewed interest in his split-change-what-have-you. It's harder to time a power arm if there's at least a chance of something slow, and it's seemingly helped quite a bit. Against the Cubs' lineup, though, it's hard to say that my cup overfloweth with optimism.

Then in the Friday game, you'll see Albert Suarez, who is Right-Handed Pitcher #4 in the credits, a generic-if-useful-enough arm who's doing a mediocre job making the Giants forget about Yusmeiro Petit. The Giants could have started Ty Blach, a low-strikeout success story in Triple-A, but they wisely chose not to send him against the Cubs death lineup for his first major league start. (There's a chance Matt Cain will come off the DL to make this start.)

The Giants might win one or both of these starts, mind you. They won the vaunted Matt Cain/Jon Lester matchup, after all. But it doesn't look good on paper.

After that is where the series gets especially interesting, with Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto pitching. The former shut the Cubs down in May, and you haven't seen the latter for about a year. If the Giants really are good, a huge chunk of that would be because of those two guys. How they perform against the best team in baseball is a pretty good litmus test for the Giants being good or not.

Other than that, Joe Panik and Angel Pagan are hot, most of the other Giants are not. It's still a lineup that should score runs when everyone's right; they're just waiting for everyone to get right at the same time.

If it happens, the Giants will be good again. If they have the capacity for good baseball. Because they might not. Are the Giants any good? That's not a rhetorical question setting up the closing sentence. It's an honest question. And I'm hoping you can figure that out for me because Al wants this soon. Don't make me submit it with this placeholder of an ending. I just want to know if the Giants are any good.

Fun fact

The Giants' home-run leader is Brandon Belt, who has 14. That would be tied for fourth on the Cubs with Ben Zobrist. The Giants are second-to-last in the N.L. with 109 home runs. The Cubs rank fifth in the league with 167.

Pitching matchups

Thursday: Mike Montgomery, LHP (4-5, 2.60 ERA, 1.205 WHIP, 3.48 FIP) vs. Jeff Samardzija, RHP (11-9, 4.00 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, 4.17 FIP)

Friday: Jon Lester, LHP (14-4, 2.70 ERA, 1.069 WHIP, 3.61 FIP) vs. TBD

Saturday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (16-5, 2.84 ERA, 1.048 WHIP, 3.46 FIP) vs. Madison Bumgarner, LHP (13-8, 2.49 ERA, 1.044 WHIP, 3.25 FIP)

Sunday: TBD vs. Johnny Cueto, RHP (14-5, 2.98 ERA, 1.101 WHIP, 3.09 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Thursday: 7:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago Plus, MLB Network (outside Chicago and San Francisco markets)

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, WGN

Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago

Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago, TBS (no blackouts)

Prediction

The Saturday pitching matchup is particularly intriguing, especially since Bumgarner has already thrown one scoreless outing against the Cubs this year and Arrieta has struggled at times. John Lackey is likely Sunday's starter, if his bullpen session scheduled for later today goes all right. Montgomery and Samardzija are wild cards -- hard to say how either will do. As noted, the Giants will likely throw rookie Albert Suarez against Lester on Friday, though that's not yet listed on the Giants list of probables. The Cubs are on a roll and the Giants just finished an 11-16 August. The Cubs will take three of four.

Up next

The Cubs travel to Milwaukee for a three-game series against the Brewers that begins with a Labor Day holiday matinee Monday afternoon.