If you thought life would get easy for the San Francisco Giants just because they put the Los Angeles Dodgers in the rearview mirror, well ... think again. The schedule eases up considerably starting next week, but standing between now and then is a four-game set against the Chicago Cubs who are, for lack of a more nuanced term, good.
The Cubs are also playing their best baseball of the year right now, as they’ve won 9 of their last 10 games, and 14 of their last 17. That’s good, because it means they just swept the San Diego Padres.
It’s bad because ... well, you know.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Chicago Cubs
Where: Oracle Park, San Francisco, California
When: Thursday (6:45 p.m.), Friday (6:45 p.m.), Saturday (4:15 p.m.), and Sunday (1:05 p.m.)
National broadcasts: Saturday (Fox)
Where they stand
San Francisco Giants
Record: 34-21, 1st in the NL West
Run differential: +62, 3rd in the NL
Postseason standing: 1st seed
Momentum: 1-game losing streak, 6-4 in their last 10 games
Record: 32-23, 1st in the NL Central
Run differential: +38, 4th in the NL
Postseason standing: 2nd seed
Momentum: 3-game winning streak, 9-1 in their last 10 games.
Three(ish) Giants to watch
Evan Longoria and Mike Yastrzemski: At the time of writing this, it’s unclear what the health status is for two of the Giants best players. Longoria was initially expected to return on Thursday or Friday, so hopefully that holds true. Yaz is a little bit more of a question mark after suffering a thumb injury, but the fact that he’s avoided the Injured List (knock on wood) is a good sign. To beat one of baseball’s top teams the Giants really need their top contributors. Longoria’s absence not only leaves the Giants without one of their best hitters, but really highlights their infield defensive struggles. And Yastrzemski being out in a four-game series in which four right-handed pitchers are slated to pitch would be a brutal blow. Hopefully they’re both on the field.
Kevin Gausman: Gausman is fresh off of winning National League Pitcher of the Month after posting a 0.73 ERA in May. An April 13 start — nearly two months ago — in which he allowed 5 earned runs not only represents the last time he gave up more than a single run in a game, but the only time he’s done so in his 11 starts. The Cubs are a good-not-great offense, so Gausman will be tested, but also favored.
Brandon Crawford: Two months into the season Crawford is still playing All-Star level baseball, rocking the second-highest on-base percentage of his career, and the highest slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+. The Giants need his glove given the defensive slippage lately, and they need his bat against four righties.
Three(ish) Cubs to watch
Kris Bryant: I wanted so badly to put the Cubs third baseman here, but sadly Matt Duffy — who is having a lovely bounceback year — is injured and will miss the series. So instead we turn to their former third baseman turned superstar utility player. Bryant has only made the All-Star game one time in the last four seasons, after winning MVP in 2016. But he’s been sensational this season: he’s played all three outfield positions plus both corners of the infield, is hitting .317/.398/.598, leads qualified (read: no Buster Posey) National League hitters in OPS+ (177), and is third in the league in position player fWAR with 2.6. He’s very good, it seems.
Joc Pederson: I was open about wanting the Giants to sign Pederson in the offseason when they were rumored to be interested in him. Instead, he ended up in Chicago, where he’s had some big moments but is also hitting below league average (94 OPS+). Pederson is a career .244/.342/.498 hitter against the Giants, but it feels like he’s been even more of a Giants killer than that. With San Francisco throwing all four of their right-handed starters against Chicago, the hometown slugger will have a chance to add to that reputation.
Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks: Arrieta and Hendricks both have some exceptional seasons in their past, but there’s reason to think the Giants could find success against each pitcher. Both sport FIPs that begin with a “5” — 5.17 for the former and 5.51 for the latter, and each struggles with an area the Giants always like to exploit. Hendricks has already given up 16 home runs this year — 2.3 per 9 innings — while Arrieta has issued 20 walks — 3.5 per 9 innings.
Who wins the series?
This poll is closed
Giants win 3-1
Cubs win 3-1