Who do the Chicago Cubs want in the playoffs?

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AP: The Year of the Cub?

The Chicago Cubs are beginning to run away with the best record in baseball, sitting at 81-45 coming into play this past weekend. That places them at 7.5 games ahead of the next closest team, the Washington Nationals, which almost completely assures that they'll have the home-field advantage in the NLDS. All contenders come with their share of concerns, but for the Cubs the biggest question may have to do with who they end up drawing in the first round of the postseason.

So who do the Chicago Cubs want to face in the playoffs? Here is the case for each of their four likely opponents.

NL-BASEBALL/

MIAMI MARLINS

The Marlins are still close — albeit on the outside — in the wild-card chase. Losing Giancarlo Stanton for the season won't help their chances, but at this point anything is possible. Should they make it to the wild-card game and then into the NLDS, the Chicago Cubs would match up against a young, inexperienced team with a thin pitching staff beyond ace Jose Fernandez, who would presumably pitch, leaving him only really available for Game 3 of the series.

Miami is nothing special in the run-scoring department, either, ranking No. 11 in the National League despite having several hitters in the regular lineup with individual good seasons. Seven of their eight starters this season — counting those on the disabled list — have an OPS over .750. Considering all the facts, the Marlins might be one of the more ideal matchups for the Chicago Cubs in the postseason.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

The Dodgers are currently leading the NL West, but there are two scenarios in which the Chicago Cubs could play them in the NLDS. First, the Dodgers could fall out of the division lead and end up a wild card, and second, the Cubs could hit a skid that lands them just the second-best record in the National League. If this scenario shakes out, it's probably one of the better options for the Cubs as well — at least based on what we know now.

The Dodgers have had a slew of pitching injuries, with Clayton Kershaw not having pitched since late June and no official timetable for when he may return. Rich Hill just came off the disabled list — finally — and they're still waiting on Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir, and Brandon McCarthy. There's a decent chance that should the Dodgers end up playing the Cubs, they won't have their full complement of pitchers available.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Facing the St. Louis Cardinals would be a rematch of last year's NLDS, which the Cubs won 3-1. The Cardinals have experienced a rough time with the pitching this year, getting a good year from starter Carlos Martinez but not much from anybody else. They've had injuries to their position players and poor years from Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk, but somehow Brandon Moss and Jedd Gyorko have combined for 47 home runs in less than 700 plate appearances.

Facing the Cardinals doesn't seem like an ideal matchup. Outside of the team's familiarity with each other (the Cardinals at leading the season series, 7-6), there's the fact that the Cards have recently called up pitching prospects Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes. A rotation featuring those two, plus Martinez and veteran Adam Wainwright, could be the kind of "lightning in the bottle" that a clearly inferior team like the Cardinals could use to beat the Chicago Cubs in the postseason. As fun as seeing these rivals play in the postseason again might be, it's not ideal.

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SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Another less-than-ideal matchup for the Chicago Cubs would be the San Francisco Giants. As of right now, the Giants would play against the Cardinals in the wild-card game with the winner heading to Chicago. That likely means that Madison Bumgarner would have pitched already and wouldn't be able to go again until Game 3. But they also have Johnny Cueto on their pitching staff, meaning that the Giants could throw Cueto and Bumgarner in three of the five potential games in a series against the Cubs.

And that's not what you want. Toss in the fact that former Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija — likely out for some sort of revenge for being traded two seasons ago — would be another pitcher they'd face, and this series has all kinds of potential for disaster. It's also worth pointing out that it's an even year, meaning the Giants are on schedule to win another World Series trophy this season; they've won it every even year going back to 2010. Of all the potential teams that the Cubs could face in the NLDS this season, the Giants are the worst possible matchup.

RANKING THE BEST MLB STADIUMS:

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Ranking MLB stadiums

30. Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay Rays

The playing surface is a mixture of grass and artificial turf, and there are fire inspection rings in play over head. Must be a joy to play in.

(AP Photo)

29. Rogers Centre, Toronto Blue Jays

The only things worse than this warehouse-looking place are the metric measurements on the outfield walls.

(Shutterstock)

28. O.co Coliseum, Oakland A's

Any place sewage seeps back through the clubhouse drains probably isn’t a suitable location for pro sports.

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

27. Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas Rangers

Remember when this place was state of the art? Neither do we.

(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)

26. U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox

What’s more bland than the Chicago White Sox? Their uniforms. What’s worse than that? The stadium.

(AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

25. Turner Field, Atlanta Braves

This place won’t live to see its 20th birthday. Good luck to the Braves’ next home, which will probably still always be empty, too.

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

24. Marlins Park, Miami Marlins

Makes perfect sense for an orange and teal team to play in a stadium with neon green everything. Also, has anyone ever figured out what exactly this is? 

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

23. Angel Stadium, Los Angeles Angels

Nothin’ like some fake rocks in center field to really set the mood for a baseball game.

Flickr

22. Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians

The fact that it’s no longer Jacobs Field bumps this down at least five spots.

Flickr

21. Busch Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals

Can this place just stay out of the playoffs just once?

Flickr

20. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati Reds

How cheap is that wind tunnel?

 (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

19. Chase Field, Arizona Diamondbacks

Center field is the deepest part of the stadium, guys. The wall doesn’t need to be that high.

Clintus McGintus/Flickr

18. Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees

Great place to see the best baseball players of the 20th century.

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

17. Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers

Bernie sliding down that slide for every home run is ridiculous and awesome at the same time. Every time.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

16. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies

Once you get over the fact that some little league parks have deeper fences? Cool place to catch a game.

 (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

15. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers

They should probably just name it Vin Scully Stadium at this point. Might help them out in these rankings.

 (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

14. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City Royals

The scoreboard being shaped like a long crown is a bit odd, but you can’t blame them for playing up the whole royalty thing.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

13. Coors Field, Colorado Rockies

If it’s not a blizzard in Denver, Coors Field is still pretty impressive. But let’s lose those humidors and get these balls flying like its 2001. 

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

12. Comerica Park, Detroit Tigers

Credit to the grounds crew for making sure the infield didn’t collapse through the ground while Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera manned the corners. That approached a good 600 pounds of man.

 (AP Photo/Matt Halip)

11. Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros

Get back to us next year, once that ridiculous hill and flag pole are scrapped.

(AP Photo/Bob Levey)

10. Target Field, Minnesota Twins

You probably won’t want to sit outside in Minnesota until about mid-June, but after that, Target Field is tough to beat.

 (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

9. Citi Field, New York Mets

Ownership may be fresh out of cash, but at least its stadium has an awesome selection of $12 beers. 

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

8. Nationals Park, Washington Nationals

It’s been seven years, and the team just can’t sell these naming rights. Strangely, this makes the park even cooler.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

7. Safeco Field, Seattle Mariners

For a stadium that opened up in 1999, the Mariners’ digs have held up pretty well -- even when their roster hasn’t.

 (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

6.. Petco Park, San Diego Padres

Fun fact: An old candy factory building was physically moved to make room for the stadium. 

(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

5. Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox

Relax, Fenway is definitely an amazing place to watch a game. But sitting directly behind a pole and/or facing the left-center field wall just isn’t always appealing.

(Shutterstock)

4. Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs

We’re glad the Cubs decided to keep their old home intact, but there’s no two ways about it: Until renovation is complete, Wrigley is a dump.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

3. PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates

After two decades under .500, the Pirates are finally playing some winning ball again. Good thing, because their park deserves as many games as possible.

 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

2. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles

Still as beautiful as the day it opened in 1992, Camden Yards is headed toward becoming the next legendary American ballpark. 

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

1. AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants

Already 15 years and three names later, AT&T Park remains the best place to watch a Major League Baseball game. Between the amazing food, packed-out stands and the glistening bay in right field, San Francisco is lucky to call it home. 

(AP Photo)

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