CHICAGO — It is October in an even-numbered year, and the San Francisco Giants appear to be following their usual routine. The Chicago Cubs think their time is now.
Welcome to one intriguing NL Division Series.
Fresh off a dramatic wild-card victory in New York, the Giants were brimming with confidence when they arrived in Chicago on Thursday, albeit a bit late due to travel problems. Madison Bumgarner’s four-hitter in Wednesday night’s 3-0 victory against the Mets means he is likely pushed back until at least Game 3, but the Giants have 18-game winner Johnny Cueto ready to go for Friday night’s series opener at Wrigley Field.
San Francisco stumbled in the second half of the season, and then closed with five wins in six games to hold onto the second NL wild card. The Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and manager Bruce Bochy and company feel as if this is their part of the calendar— again.
“The moment won’t bother these guys,” Bochy said.
The Giants’ sustained success is exactly what the Cubs are hoping to string together. It has been 108 years since the North Siders last won the World Series — a number that will chase them around for as long as they stick around in this year’s playoffs — but the Cubs made it to the NL Championship Series in 2015 and led the majors with 103 wins this season.
With a deep rotation and young sluggers in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs are positioned to challenge for titles for years to come. They want to start right now, and the Giants are standing in their way.
“Every year they’re in it. Every year they’re contending. Every year they have a chance to win the World Series,” said left-hander Jon Lester, who will start Game 1 for the Cubs. “So I think that’s what every team wants, not just us. I think they’re an organization that a lot of teams look after to figure out how, why, how to get to that point.
“It’s a model of consistency. It’s impressive to see what they do.”