San Francisco (0-0) at Chicago Cubs (0-0)
When: Friday, October 7th 2016
Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Time: 9:15 ET | TV: FOX Sports 1
The Chicago Cubs, who had a Major League-leading 103 wins this season, will face-off against the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of their National League Division Series on Friday night. Chicago hasn’t won a World Series since 1908 and the Giants have already won three this decade. Chicago was the favorite since Spring Training and they didn’t disappoint. Led by superstar third baseman Kris Bryant, the probable NL MVP after having 39 homers and 102 RBIs in only his second big-league season. Anthony Rizzo is also a legitimate star after hitting 32 homers and driving in 109 with a .292 batting average. San Francisco had 16 less wins than Chicago in 2016, but they certainly have the experience to win a seven-game series. Madison Bumgarner continued his postseason dominance on Wednesday by pitching the Giants to a Wild Card win over the New York Mets. Conor Gillaspie was the hero with a three-run ninth inning homerun off Mets closer Jeurys Familia. Gillaspie is expected to start at third base as Eduardo Nunez (hamstring) isn’t ready to return. The Cubs won four of the seven regular-season meetings with two of their defeats coming against Bumgarner. The Giants have won five straight overall while the Cubs dropped three of their last five meaningless regular season games.
Pitchers: Giants – Johnny Cueto (18-5, 2.79 ERA) | Cubs – Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44)
Johnny Cueto was red-hot down the stretch going 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA over his final four starts to reach 18 wins – the third-highest victory total of his nine-year career. Cueto is 2-3 with a 5.35 ERA in seven career postseason starts and struggled badly in his first three in last year’s postseason with Kansas City before coming up big in Game 2 of the World Series with a complete-game two-hitter. Cueto is 9-8 with a 3.24 ERA in 24 career starts against the Cubs and is 5-5 with a 3.07 ERA in 15 outings at Wrigley Field.
Lester was fantastic in the last two months before his last start in Cincinnati (5 runs, 5 innings), but was nearly un-hittable at home. He was 10-2 with a 1.74 ERA at Wrigley and that helped make him an easy Game 1 choice for manager Joe Maddon. Lester, who is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA in five career starts against the Giants, dropped both starts last postseason for the Cubs but is 6-6 with a 2.85 ERA in 16 career appearances (14 starts).
The Giants come in hot, but they’ll run into a tough lefty here tonight in Lester. Cueto’s postseason record worries me and these young Cubs are ready to come out and hit after getting swept by the Mets in last year’s NLCS.
Pick: Cubs -1.5 +127