Powell at the Park: Cubs enter NLDS as favorites despite Giants recent dynasty; plus pitching matchups and schedule

The Wrigley Field marquee makes it official: The Cubs are the 2016 NL Central Division Champs! (Rick Pearson / Twitter)

The Wrigley Field marquee makes it official: The Cubs are the 2016 NL Central Division Champs! (Rick Pearson / Twitter)

By Kevin Powell

The Cubs have known where and when for a while, the question was who they’d be hosting in the NLDS. After Madison Bumgarner’s dominate performance in the NL Wild Card, it’ll be the San Francisco Giants visiting the North Side this weekend. The Giants topped the Mets in New York, 3-0, after Bumgarner’s complete game and a clutch homerun from former White Sox third baseman Connor Gillaspie, smacking a three-run blast in the top of the ninth.

The 103-win Cubs enter the playoffs as the front-runners. They’ve “Embraced the Target” since spring training. They’ve lived up to the expectations in the regular season. Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are all candidates for major awards. But now it’s the second season, the postseason. Or, as right fielder Jason Heyward put it: “the extra season.”

It’s been 108 years since you know when. Meanwhile, the Giants have won three of the last five World Series. It’s a strange place to be. An organization that has suffered blow after blow and hasn’t even won a pennant in over 70 years, enters a playoff series against a team that has won championships the last three even numbered years (you’re going to hear that a lot) as the heavy favorites.

It doesn’t seem that long ago when the Cubs were swept out of the playoffs by the Mets in last year’s NLCS. Since then, Cubs fans imaginations have run wild. The team’s final attendance at Wrigley this season was 3,232,420, third highest in franchise history. Everyone wants a piece of the 2016 Cubs.

While it has been well over a century since the last title, this is a new refreshing Cubs team. A perfect mix of veterans who respect the past and an equal amount of young players who weren’t even around or can’t remember the bad times, led to a laser-focused approach since day one of spring training. Now, it’s time for this club to embed themselves into sports lore.

Here’s a look at pitching matchups, dates and start times:  

GM 1, Friday at 8:15 PM Giants @ Cubs   Cueto (18-5, 2.79 ERA) at Lester (19-5, 2.44)

GM 2, Saturday at 7:08 PM Giants @ Cubs   Samardzija (12-11, 3.81 ERA) at Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA)

GM 3 Monday, Oct. 10, time TBA Cubs @ Giants   Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) at TBD (likely Bumgarner)

GM 4 (if necessary), Tuesday, Oct. 11, time TBA   Cubs @ Giants   Lackey (11-8, 3.35 ERA) at TBD

GM 5 (if necessary), Thursday, Oct. 13, time TBA   Giants @ Cubs  TBD at TBD (likely Lester)

–Every game will broadcast on either FS1 or MLBN

*We’ll have live coverage throughout each game at wgnradio.com. Tune into 720AM or wgnradio.com to get postgame reaction. Coverage continues in San Francisco, check wgnradio.com and listen every day for live updates from the road!

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720