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Cubs know they're facing a tough series vs. Giants

Madison Bumgarner complete game and Conor Gillaspie's three-run blast in the ninth inning sets up Giants to face Cubs in National League Division Series.

Lying on their comfy couches watching Madison Bumgarner duel Noah Syndergaard in Wednesday's National League wild-card playoff game was a bit more stress-free for the Cubs than facing either ace in person.

They didn't need a scouting report or copious notes to know Bumgarner may be the best postseason pitcher in history, or that Syndergaard was the game's hardest-throwing starter.

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All they had to do was sit back, relax and enjoy the show, happy in the knowledge they wouldn't have to face either until Game 3 of the National League Division Series.

Bumgarner and Syndergaard staged a delicious knockout game classic before 44,747 at Citi Field, with Bumgarner throwing a shutout and Conor Gillaspie hitting a three-run home run in the ninth inning to give the Giants a 3-0 triumph.

The Cubs will take on the Giants in Game 1 on Friday night at Wrigley Field, facing a veteran team that knows exactly what it takes to win in October.

"They had an incredible season and are a great team," Giants outfielder Hunter Pence said of the Cubs. "We had a really great series, a lot of one-run games and a lot of amazing baseball played between us and them. Looking forward to the opportunity. Playoff baseball, the best vs. the best. Enjoy it.

"Wrigley Field is a great atmosphere. They're rowdy out there and it's historic. It's really a pretty special place to have playoff baseball."

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Jon Lester is expected to face Johnny Cueto in the opener.

Syndergaard threw seven shutout innings Wednesday and didn't allow a hit until Denard Span singled with two outs in the sixth, but it didn't matter. The Mets couldn't figure out a way to solve Bumgarmer either. He needed only 14 pitches to retire the first six hitters, and cruised to the end, allowing only four hits.

"I've been blessed with a lot of opportunities," Bumgarner said. "But I've played this game long enough to know anything can happen, especially this time of year, so I'm not going to take anything for granted or expect it to come easily."

But this was vintage "Bum,'' just as the Giants expected.

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"That's a pretty standard performance out of him," former Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija said. "It's great when you expect that out of a guy and he lives up to it.

"It's very rare to see, if ever, so to see in person, the way he goes about his business. One in a billion."

Bumgarner, who is 6-1 with an 0.66 ERA in the postseason in his last nine appearances since Game 2 of the 2012 World Series, is expected to go up against Jake Arrieta in Game 3.

With the game scoreless in the ninth, Brandon Crawford led off with a double off closer Jeurys Familia and Joe Panik drew a one-out walk. Gillaspie, the former Sox third baseman, crushed a pitch for a three-run homer to start the Giants packing for Chicago.

In the postgame celebration, the players chanted "Conor, Conor, Conor" over and over. When was the last time he had heard that?

"This would the first," Gillaspie said. "What a moment. I'll never forget it. I've worked my whole life to have an opportunity to play in a postseason game. I try to trust everything I do off the field, behind the scenes, and work so hard at it.

"To have a moment that pays off, it's pretty special. It's kind of overwhelming."

Samardzija said he didn't know which game he would pitch in the series against the Cubs, and played down the fact he was facing his old team.

"Just playing in my first (NLDS) since playing against the Dodgers in '08," he said. "I'm just excited to have this experience. You can't take these things for granted. I've played six or seven years in the league and I understand these things don't come around too often. Enjoy 'em while you can and take full advantage of them."

The Cubs and Giants will face off in the postseason for the first time since 1989, when Will Clark hit .650 to pace San Francisco to a 4-1 victory in the NL Championship Series. Giants coach Shawon Dunston was on that Cubs team, and remembered it well.

"Let's repeat '89," he said. "We don't have Will Clark, but we have Madison Bumgarner."

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