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Know Your Enemy: San Francisco Giants

The Giants will be a very good team again in 2017.

Scottsdale Stadium, spring training home of the Giants
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — It’s somewhat of a sobering thought to consider that if the Cubs don’t have that amazing four-run rally in the ninth inning of Game 4 of their division series against the Giants, they’d have had to come back to Wrigley Field for Game 5 and face Johnny Cueto. Sure, they’d have had Jon Lester going, but that would not have been easy to win.

But it did happen, and so the Cubs went on to win the World Series and break the Giants’ string of winning in all the even-numbered years since 2010.

Since we’re on the subject, let’s have a look back at that great NLDS Game 4 rally (ignore the note that says “Cubs win pennant, they’d still have to win one more series before that happened):

One of the reasons the Giants faded in the second half, and gave up that four-run rally, was a bullpen that simply could not shut things down. To address that, the Giants signed free-agent closer Mark Melancon. That signing will help the bullpen issue, and the Giants’ solid offense returns, minus Angel Pagan, who moved on via free agency (and has yet to sign with anyone). Mac Williamson is the prime candidate to take over in left field from Pagan, though Jarrett Parker could get some outfield playing time in San Francisco as well.

But the Giants’ real strength is their rotation, which was bolstered by the acquisition of Matt Moore late last year. You saw how good Moore can be from that performance in Game 4. With Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija and Cueto leading the rotation, the key to the Giants’ success there will be whether Matt Cain can return to his pre-injury level of 2012 and earlier. If not, top prospect Ty Blach will take over the fifth spot in the rotation, and Blach has No. 1-level velocity.

Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik are the centerpieces of this team, with tons of postseason experience. People call the Dodgers the best team in the league, but the Giants aren’t that far behind. As is the case with the Dodgers, it’s entirely possible the Cubs and Giants could have another October date this fall.

Cubs vs. Giants in 2017:

May 22-23-24-25 at Wrigley
August 7-8-9 in San Francisco