The Chicago Cubs were far and away the best team in baseball in 2016, winning 103 games. All they have to do to advance to their second straight National League Championship Series is to beat a San Francisco Giants team that has won each of their last nine postseason series.
Those nine series wins don’t even count the two Wild Card Game wins by San Francisco in 2014 and 2016, the latest a shutout by Madison Bumgarner and a three-run home run by Conor Gillaspie to beat the New York Mets in the ninth inning on Wednesday.
Game 1 of the National League Division Series is at Wrigley Field in Chicago at 9:15 p.m. ET, the last of four playoff games on Friday, with FS1 televising the game.
Veteran Jon Lester gets the start for Chicago in the opener on Friday night, after winning 19 games with a 2.44 ERA in 32 starts in his second year with the Cubs. That includes a sublime 1.76 ERA and a 10-1 record 14 starts after the All-Star break.
This is the ninth career Game 1 start for Lester.
Johnny Cueto, signed to a six-year, $130 million contract last winter by the Giants, gave San Francisco a co-ace to go with Bumgarner in 2016, going 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA in 32 starts, with 198 strikeouts in 219⅔ innings.
Cueto allowed one run and five hits in seven innings against the Cubs on Sept. 5 at Wrigley Field, striking out five in a no-decision. Lester faced the Giants just three days earlier, throwing a three-hit complete game, allowing one run in a win.
The Cubs owned baseball’s best run differential in 2016, outscoring their opponents by a whopping 252 runs, their highest in franchise history since 1906.
This is the second time the Giants and Cubs have met in the postseason, and the first since the 1989 NLCS. That best-of-seven series was won by San Francisco in five games, with Will Clark hitting .650 (13 for 20) with six extra-base hits, outdueling Mark Grace and his .647 (11 for 17) performance with five extra-base hits.
In other words, watch out for first basemen Anthony Rizzo and Brandon Belt in this series!
These two teams faced each other seven times, with the Cubs winning four. Home teams won five of their seven meetings in 2016.
NLDS Game 1 info
When: 9:15 p.m. ET
Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago
Streaming: Fox Sports Go app or Postseason.tv
Radio: ESPN Radio