NL Playoff Preview: Will The Cubs Finally End Their Drought?

2015 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta needs to bring his A-game if he wants to end the Cubs’ World Series drought. 

2015 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta needs to bring his A-game if he wants to end the Cubs’ World Series drought. 

Eric Fishbin

CUBS

108 years later and the storyline heading into National League postseason play is still the same: is this the year the Chicago Cubs win the World Series?  Disappointment is no stranger to Cubbie nation, but after being swept by the New York Mets in last season’s NLCS, it is World Series or bust for the team that owns the league’s best regular season record. 

The Cubs have been dominant all season on the offensive and defensive fronts, having the third most runs, second best OBP, and best ERA, WHIPs and BAA in all of baseball.  Las Vegas has the Northsiders as 5-2 favorites to win the World Series, with the next closest team at 9-2 (Texas Rangers). 

A possible rematch of last season’s NLCS will start in Chicago on Oct. 7 if the Mets beat the Giants. A quick run down the lineup of Chicago makes it obvious as to why this team has such high expectations: Rizzo, Zobrist, Bryant, Arrieta, Lester, Hendricks.  It is a Cubs team that will be remembered by fans forever.  The team has the best pitching in baseball and backs it up with batting. The Cubs will be facing the winner of the Mets-Giants match-up on Wednesday.

METS

The Kings of Queens find themselves in the post-season for consecutive seasons for only the second time in franchise history (1999-2000).  Hampered by injuries to Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Steven Matz, Neil Walker, David Wright and more, the Mets found a surprising yet delightful spark from Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera.  The team took a risk with Reyes, but his youthful spirit and energy that fans remembered and loved him for has reemerged at a perfect time.  Although fans were thrilled to see the squad turn it around in time for October, the season likely will not last longer than Oct. 11: Cubs in four. 

GIANTS

A historic collapse ruined a chance for home field advantage for the Giants, and almost withheld the team from the postseason.  Leading the Majors with the best record at the All-Star break instilled confidence throughout the Bay Area, but the team followed up its first half dominance with demise and collapse.  It took 162 games to figure out who would claim the second NL Wild Card spot, but the Giants outlasted the Cardinals by a less-than-comfortable one game margin.  Leaning heavily on Madison Bumgarner, the Giants can top the Mets in a winner-take-all battle in Queens. The

disappointment that has now come to be expected by Giants fans should not waver just because six is an even number: Cubs in four.   

Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully has called it a career after 67 years, but the Los Angeles Dodgers will carry on with their season, nonetheless, and visit the Washington Nationals in the NLDS.  The showdown will feature power pitching from both sides, as each team ranks within the top five for ERA, WHIP and BAA.  During the regular season, the Dodgers won five of six, featuring a three game sweep at home in late June.  

Probable starters for Game 1 on Oct. 7 in Washington are Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer.  Each has won at least one Cy Young Award, but only Scherzer has pitched in a World Series game.  Kershaw is hoping to lead his Dodgers to its first World Series since 1988.    

The Nationals’ combination of hitting and pitching has placed the team in the top three in run differential.  Daniel Murphy’s hot streak started in October last season and has not faltered.  He leads the Nats in HRs, batting average and RBIs over preseason MVP favorite, Bryce Harper. Teams have walked Murphy to get to Harper at points in the season, but if both bats can spark up, the Dodgers will be in trouble against one of the league’s best lineups.

Low scoring should be expected, and the teams will rely on bullpen success to carry them onward to face, presumably, the Cubs in the best of four NLCS: Nationals in five.

The Warren C. Giles Trophy will go to the champion of the National League, and that team will fight for the World Series title starting on Oct. 25.  The NL Champion will be the visiting team due to a 4-2 defeat in the All-Star Game on July 12.