Good soup things.
For most people, the story of this weekend’s day-game exclusive series between the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs is the return of Kris Bryant to the team that drafted him, developed him, won a World Series with him as league MVP, and then decided to rebuild rather than pay him and his star teammates.
It will be exciting and emotional. There will be a lot of ovations, and the first one will be very much worth watching. Some tears will likely be shed.
But for the Giants — and probably even for Bryant — the story is this: the Giants have 22 games left to pull off the Herculean task of beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, a feat that no team has done since the Giants did it en route to their 2012 World Series.
The Giants have 22 games left, and a 2.5 game lead to protect. They can have a losing record the rest of the way out and still clear 100 wins, and there are a lot of permutations that get them to winning the division.
It’s more tense, exciting, and meaningful baseball than we could have possibly predicted when the season began. So enjoy it.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Chicago Cubs
Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois
When: Friday (11:10 a.m. PT), Saturday (11:10 a.m. PT), and Sunday (11:10 a.m. PT)
National broadcasts: Friday and Saturday (MLB Network, out of market only)
Where they stand
San Francisco Giants
Record: 90-50, 1st in the NL West
Run differential: +157, 2nd in the NL
Postseason standing: 1st seed
Momentum: 4-game winning streak, 6-4 in their last 10 games
Record: 65-76, 4th in the NL Central
Run differential: -95, 13th in the NL
Postseason standing: 10 games out of the Wild Card, 21 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game winning streak, 8-2 in their last 10 games
Season series: Giants lead 3-1
Three Giants to watch
Kris Bryant: Bryant is the man of the hour because of his long history with the Cubs, and this being his return to Wrigley Field. But he’s also the man of the hour because he’s one of the best players on the Giants, and therefore a pretty key element in their quest to finish the season strong. You know he wants to lead the Giants to success this season, and this series in particular.
Evan Longoria: Speaking of veteran third basemen with long track records of success, Evan Longoria! Longoria is still trying to find his rhythm after a short IL stint that started while he was trying to find his rhythm after a long IL stint. But before that? He was right up there with Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey. The Giants have proved to not be overly reliant on any one (or two, or three…) players, but Longo finding his pre-injury groove would make the team that much more dynamic.
Kevin Gausman: Gausman has been pretty awesome the last two starts, and is looking more and more like the first half Cy Young candidate every day. Against the Milwaukee Brewers, he allowed just 5 baserunners in 5 innings, while striking out 7. Against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, he gave up just 6 baserunners in 7 innings with 9 strikeouts, with 19 swinging strikes. It seems his kill pitches have been activated again.
Three Cubs to watch
Matt Duffy: The Giants didn’t get to see Duffy, a beloved former Giant, when they played the Cubs earlier in the season. But he’s healthy now, which means that, five years after being traded in a move that many Giants fans still haven’t gotten over, he’ll get to take his first career at-bat against the team that drafted him. Duffy is having a subpar offensive season (.265/.340/.330), but he’s been versatile, playing all four infield positions, plus the outfield, and even making a pitching appearance.
Kyle Hendricks: The idea of Hendricks is really good, but the execution — in 2021, at least — has been bad. Hendricks received Cy Young votes last year, but this year has 4.65 ERA and a 4.95 FIP. He’s struck out just 118 batters in 160.2 innings, and has allowed 29 home runs on the season, to go with an MLB-worst 180 hits.
Jason Heyward: Mostly I just feel bad that Heyward got stuck in LA while other veterans like Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Báez got moved to competitive teams. And it’s always a good time to point out that his brother, Jacob, is in the Giants organization, currently playing for AA Richmond.
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