The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 or played in one since 1945, but have now advanced to consecutive postseasons for just the fourth time in franchise history. After leading MLB with 103 regular season wins, the Cubs are favored to win the World Series and finally end the Curse of the Billy Goat, but history and the pesky Giants stand in their way.
It's hard to live up to expectations in the postseason, even for 100-win teams.
Of the last 27 teams with at least 100 wins in the regular season, only two went on to win the World Series (Yankees in 1998, 2009). Can the Cubs buck the trend, or will it be the Giants heading to the NLCS looking for their fourth consecutive World Series title in an even-numbered year?
Players to watchJake Arrieta has regressed since his superhuman Cy Young campaign last season and is somewhat struggling entering the postseason. Over Arrieta's final eight regular-season starts, the right-hander owned a 4.74 ERA with a dismal 41:24 K:BB ratio that included a seven-walk outing against the Brewers at Wrigley.
Kris Bryant is just the second Cub over the last 85 years to amass at least 120 runs, 35 doubles, 39 homers and 100 RBIs in a single season. The MVP candidate batted .292/.385/.554 during the regular season. He and Anthony Rizzo are the first Cubs duo with 75 extra-base hits in the same season since 1930.
If you need any other reason to watch Madison Bumgarner pitch in the postseason, here it is. Following a complete-game shutout in the wild-card game, the southpaw now has six career postseason starts without allowing a run, tying Tom Glavine for most all time. Bumgarner is 8-2 with a 2.25 ERA against the Cubs, including 7 2/3 innings to outduel Hendricks for a 1-0 win May 22.
Key statsOpposing batters hit just .209 against Chicago pitchers this season, which is the second-lowest batting average against of any NL team in modern baseball history. Cubs pitchers also allowed the fewest runs (556) and hits (1,125) during the regular season.
It's hard to find weaknesses for the Cubs, but with their tendency to blow out opponents comes with the inability to win close games. Chicago is 22‐23 in one-run games during the regular season and were 15‐37 when trailing after six innings. This stat could loom large as the final five games between the clubs during the regular season were all decided by one run.
Cubs relievers owned the sixth-worst walks per nine innings ratio (3.81) this season and have the fourth-worst home run to fly ball rate (14.2 percent). The Giants' pen was the biggest issue in the second half, with the team setting a franchise record by losing nine games it led after eight innings, including five in September.
Despite a near collapse in the second half, momentum is on the Giants' side, having rattled off five straight wins, outscoring their opponents 29-6, including a 3-0 win over Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.
The Giants have won all 11 postseason rounds under manager Bruce Bochy, tying Yankees manager Joe Torre (1998-2001) for the longest streak in major league history.