NLDS Game 1: Baez Blast Settles Duel as Cubs Beat Giants, 1-0
There is still something exotic about watching the Chicago Cubs play a postseason game at Wrigley Field. After 200 regular season victories in two years, however, the sight of blue pinstripes in October may soon just seem natural.
Friday night second baseman Javier Baez hit a home run against the famous Wrigley wind that was louder than it was long, breaking a 0-0 deadlock in the eighth inning and sending the Cubs to a 1-0 victory over the Giants. Flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman came on and picked up a save, though not until after Buster Posey added some drama with a two-out double. Chicago takes a 1-0 lead in the NLDS, which continues Saturday night in Chicago.
Though the game started late to accommodate the Dodgers-Nationals NLDS matinee, the contest zipped right along as both starting pitchers worked quickly and efficiently. There were no bases on balls, few hits, no fans on the field, and no replay challenges to slow things down.
Defensive showcase early
The Giants put men on base early but two assists by veteran David Ross erased the runners, one on a steal attempt and the other a pick-off. The latter play was a Joe Maddon bunt situation shift: first baseman Anthony Rizzo traded glove types with Baez and played on the infield grass while Baez covered first base, taking the rocket throw from Ross to nab baserunner Conor Gillaspie.
A Giants first-and-third threat in the fourth ended on Brandon Belt‘s grounder that the hustling first baseman nearly turned into an infield hit.
Gorkys Hernandez made the defensive play of the game in the third on a sharply hit drive by Ross to the left-field gap, the Giants center fielder snaring it with a perfectly timed slide on the warning track.
Johnny Cueto was in top form. The big right-hander struck out the side in the sixth and allowed just two hits and no walks in the first seven stanzas. Left-hander Jon Lester, appearing in his fourth consecutive post-season, answered with equally effective control and yielded just a few more hits. Cueto started by retiring the first ten Cubs he faced. Kris Bryant hit a ringing double the second time through the order but the Cubs failed to pick him up thanks to a slick stop by second baseman Kelby Tomlinson. Javier Baez singled in the fifth but was stranded on first.
In the 8th Javier Baez worked a 3-2 count against Cueto, then hit his very loud home run to the left field basket. As the Wrigley crowd erupted, Baez stood just up the first baseline, watching as the wind nearly blew the towering drive back into the field of play.
Aroldis Chapman came on in the ninth. Buster Posey nearly got all of Chapman’s high slider, settling for a double. After Hunter Pence grounded out to Baez, the Cubs put their first 2016 NLDS game win in the books.
Cubs: Lester (W, 1-0): 8 IP 0R 5H 0BB 5K; Chapman (S) 1 IP 0R 1H 0BB 1K
Giants Cueto (L, 0-1): 8 IP 1 R 3H 0BB 10K
Mets fans may feel a bit of schadenfreude. The Cubs stole a victory from the Giants after a dominant performance by the starter, similar to the way Noah Syndergaard‘s gem went for naught Wednesday night after Conor Gillaspie‘s 3-run shot off Mets reliever Jeurys Familia.
Up next: San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs, Game 2, NLDS, Wrigley Field, Chicago, 7:00 P.M. CT
feature photo WGN Sports