Cubs Game 1 Notes vs. San Francisco
* With their 3-0 win over the Mets in the Wild Card game, the Giants have now won 11 straight playoff rounds, joining the New York Yankees (1998-2001) as the only teams to ever do so (although the Yankees’ wins all came in consecutive postseasons). San Francisco had the best record in MLB at the All-Star break but finished the season by going 30-42 after the break (the fourth-worst record in MLB over that span).
* The Cubs enter the playoffs with the best record in baseball, winning eight more games than anyone else, as they attempt to end their famous World Series drought. Chicago posted the highest run differential (+252) of any team since the 2001 Mariners, and the lowest team ERA in the league (3.15). The Cubs clinched the NL Central on September 15, the earliest of any team, but had to wait until Wednesday’s NL Wild Card game to see who their opponent would be.
* The Cubs won the season series versus the Giants, 4-3, this season, going 3-1 versus San Francisco at Wrigley Field. The last five games in the season series were decided by one run, and the final game played was not decided until the bottom of the 13th inning, when Jason Heyward hit a walkoff single. The Giants and Cubs have met in the postseason once before, with San Francisco winning in the 1989 NLCS, four games to one.
* The Cubs are 3-3 all-time in postseason series when they win Game 1, and just 1-12 when they lose Game 1; last year’s 3-1 series win over the Cardinals in the NLDS is Chicago’s only series win after a series-opening loss. The Giants are 14-9 when winning a series opener and 3-8 when losing Game 1, but they have won each of their last two series when losing Game 1 (the 2012 NLDS versus the Reds and the 2012 NLCS versus the Cardinals).
* Kris Bryant hit .292 with 39 homers and 102 RBI this year after winning Rookie of the Year in 2015; if he wins MVP this season, he will join Ryan Howard, Dustin Pedroia and Cal Ripken, Jr. as the only players to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in back-to-back seasons, although Ichiro Suzuki and Fred Lynn each won both awards in the same year.
* The Giants’ second-half swoon was not limited to a few players – among their qualified batters, only Denard Span had a higher batting average after the All-Star break than before, jumping from .248 to .287. He finished the year at .266, his lowest single-season batting average since hitting .264 in 2011 with Minnesota. In 70 games with the Nationals last season, Span hit .301, and in 11 career postseason games, he has hit .255.
* Johnny Cueto has made seven career postseason starts, all with the Reds and Royals. One of those came against the Giants (Game 1 of the 2012 NLDS), when he struck out the only batter he faced before leaving with a back injury. Overall, he’s 2-3 with a 5.35 ERA in the playoffs, but his last postseason start was a complete game against the Mets in Game 2 of the 2015 World Series, when he allowed just one run on two hits.
* Jon Lester will be making his 15th postseason start; among pitchers in the 2016 playoffs, only Cole Hamels (16) and teammate John Lackey (20) have made more playoff starts. In his 14 starts, Lester is 6-6 with a 2.85 ERA, but is winless in his last three. Lester went 1-1 in two starts versus the Giants twice this season, but pitched a complete game in his last start against them in September (a Cubs win).