Following a tight Wild Card Game, the 2016 National League Division Series is set to kick off Friday with a doubleheader featuring a quartet of legitimate aces.

San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner continued his otherworldly postseason dominance with a complete-game shutout against the New York Mets on Wednesday, but the Giants will still trot out a star hurler in Game 1 of the NLDS in Johnny Cueto. The remaining three teams playing Friday are also expected to send out top-options, which could make for some low-scoring affairs.

Take a look below at the Game 1 start times, in addition to the television and live streaming schedules, for the NLDS. The full 2016 MLB playoff schedule can be found at

One would be hard-pressed to find a heavyweight pitching matchup like the one expected at Nationals Park, as Clayton Kershaw will battle Max Scherzer.

Kershaw is well established as arguably the premier arm in the game, and he was on his way towards a possible fourth Cy Young honor before a back injury hampered his 2016 season. He was 11-2 with 1.79 ERA before he missed the entire months of July and August. Kershaw went 1-2 in five starts since his return on Sept. 9, but he only allowed four earned runs in that span. 

The 28-year-old finished with 172 strikeouts and a staggering 11 walks allowed, which gives him the best such ratio ever for a starting pitcher, per’s Jordan Bastian:

Scherzer was certainly comparable, finishing 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA while leading the majors with 284 strikeouts. This put Scherzer, who is challenging for his second ever Cy Young Award and first in the NL, in historic company as well, which MLB Network’s Jon Morosi noted with some help from the network’s research team:

However, both pitchers have not brought their best stuff in the postseason. 

Kershaw is 2-6 with a 4.59 ERA in 13 playoff appearances. He put together a decent run with a 1-1 mark and a 2.63 ERA in two starts last year, but he posted ERAs of over 6.00 in the 2013 and 2014 postseasons.

Scherzer is 4-3 with a decent 3.73 ERA in 12 appearances, but he was rocked for five earned runs in his last playoff start in 2014. Each star will be looking to make a statement on Friday, which could result in a fierce pitching duel.

As for the late game, Cueto takes the hill as he looks to bring his solid playoff performance with Kansas City last season to the Giants. He takes on a bonafide ace in Jon Lester, who finished second in the majors this season behind teammate Kyle Hendricks with a 2.44 ERA.

In his lone start against Chicago this season, Cueto allowed only one run on five hits in seven innings, but he did not earn a decision in the Giants 3-2 loss on Sept. 9. Lester was 1-1 this year against San Francisco, totaling six runs and nine hits allowed in 11.2 innings. He also posted a porous strikeout-to-walk ratio with five punch-outs and five walks.

Getting runners in scoring position could be a difference in this matchup. Cueto sports a 9.82 ERA in 44 innings pitched with runners in scoring position in 2016, while Lester posted a 7.44 mark in 42.1 innings pitched.

Both teams were mediocre in this category offensively. The Cubs finished 21st in the majors with a .252 team batting average with runners in scoring position, while San Francisco came in a spot behind the Cubs with a .250 mark.

With Cueto having inferior numbers in this situation than Lester, and with Chicago being marginally better here at the plate, the Cubs should have a slight edge Friday at Wrigley Field.


Statistics are courtesy of

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