Series Status: Cubs lead 2-0
W: Travis Wood (1-0, 0.00)
L: Jeff Samardzjia (0-1, 18.00)
S: Aroldis Chapman (2)
MVP: Cubs Bullpen: 5.1 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 6 K, 0 BB
The Cubs took the field Saturday night with a chance to take a 2-0 lead on the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series. Kyle Hendricks, fresh off a Cy Young-caliber regular season, battled former Cub lightning rod Jeff Samardzjia. Shark was very unhappy when leaving Chicago and Saturday’s game probably didn’t improve his opinion of the Windy City.
Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the 1st with a double to right field and left fielder Ben Zobrist blooped a two-out single over second base to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Hendricks gave up a hit and a catcher’s interference to put two men on with one out in the 2nd inning, but he Professor was able to coax Conor Gillaspie to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to escape the jam.
The Cubs bats got to Samardzija in a big way in the bottom of the 2nd. Jason Heyward, yes that Jason Heyward, ripped a double into the corner to open the inning. Javy Baez drew a walk and Willson Contreras singled to load the bases for Kyle Hendricks. As everyone expected, the Dartmouth product fisted a single to center to score two runs. Kris Bryant the singled to right, scoring Contreras to give the Cubs a 4-0 edge.
The Giants, as they are wont to do, answered immediately in the top of the 3rd. Joe Panik doubled down the left field line to open the frame. Gregor Blanco, hitting for Samardzjia, followed with a double of his own to left center to score Panik. Blanco would score on a Brandon Belt sacrifice fly to cut the lead in half.
Hendricks seemed to be settling in by the 4th inning before disaster appeared to strike. With two out, Angel Pagan lined a ball off Hendricks’ right arm for a base hit. The Professor tried to throw a few warmup tosses but had to come out of the game. Everyone feared the worst, but it appears the injury is just a bruise. Still, the Cubs pen was thrown into the fire in the top of the 4th.
Travis Wood entered to replace Hendricks and struck out Gillaspie to end the inning. Then in the bottom of the inning, Wood got a chance to bat and cranked a home run into the left field bleachers. Wood was able to protect the 5-2 lead he helped create with a clean top of the 5th.
The Cubs’ pen was lights out from the 5th inning on as CJ Edwards, Mike Montgomery, and Hector Rondon gave up nothing the next three innings. Aroldis Chapman came in and got a clean top of the 9th to secure the Cubs 5-2 win.
What is there to say about the Cubs bullpen Saturday? When Hendricks went down so early I know I felt a sense of impending doom. From Travis Wood on, however, the Cubs pen was unstoppable. They even tacked on to the lead with their bats. The Chicago pen allowed only 3 men to reach base the last 5 innings. While the beleaguered Giants relief corps actually pitched well, the Cubs were better.
No hitters really stood out, but everyone contributed in the Cubs rallies Saturday. Dexter Fowler had the leadoff double and made a huge sliding catch in the 9th inning. Jason Heyward only had one hit, but he struck the ball well on Saturday. Willson Contreras had two hits and caught a good game behind the plate. Javy Baez stood out again, especially with a great baserunning play on Hendricks’ RBI single.
This Bob Costas guy is not my favorite announcer. Costas almost went out of his way to bring up the Cubs’ title drought every chance he could. His piling on Javy Baez after he got thrown out at second on a single in the 6th also put me off. Should Javy have admired his deep drive to left? Probably not. Still, it was hardly a mistake worthy of 15 minutes of conversation. I may put Bob on mute next time he announces the Cubs game.
I think everyone held their breath when Hendricks took that liner off his arm. I wasn’t the only one with Mark Prior flashbacks. After the game, the Professor said the X-rays were negative and he definitely will be able to make his next start, which would be in the NLCS. Let’s hope he gets that chance.
Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) has a chance to close out the series Monday night at AT&T Park against Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA), who is only the greatest postseason pitcher of the last 30 years. After a complete game shutout in the Wild Card game, MadBum is not going down without a fight. Arrieta has had some struggles late in the season, but a huge effort from him can bury the Giants. The Cubs are in good position but the final win is the hardest one.