Who needs the DH?
The game was a battle of the bullpens as the Cubs knocked former Cub Jeff Samardzija out of the game after scoring one run off of him in the first inning and three in the second. Samardzija turned in a very solid season for the Giants this year but one thing is clear: he doesn’t do well against his former team.
The Cubs got a run in the first when Dexter Fowler led off the game with a double and he scored two batters later on a Ben Zobrist bloop hit. The Cubs went on to load the bases with no outs in the second inning, although pitcher Kyle Hendricks was at the plate. Hendricks, a career .099 hitter, hit a soft line drive to center field to score two runs. The Cubs would add another run in the inning when Kris Bryant’s liner clanged off Hunter Pence’s glove in right field.
The Giants, whose offense had been quiet to that point, got two runs back in the top of the third inning when Kyle Hendricks allowed back-to-back doubles to Joe Panik and Gregor Blanco, who was pinch-hitting for Samardzija. Blanco would later score in that inning on a Brandon Belt sacrifice fly.
The Cubs got a huge scare in the fourth inning when Angel Pagan hit a line drive (travelling 93 mph according to StatCast) right back at Hendricks, hitting him in his right, pitching arm. Hendricks wanted to continue, but manager Joe Maddon thought better of it and went to the bullpen. Hendricks went for x-rays which came back negative. He’s got a contusion, which is fancy talk for a bad bruise.
In the BCB roundtable discussion we had on Thursday, I said that Travis Wood and Mike Montgomery would be huge in this game because of the left-handed character of the Giants lineup. I was right, but in more ways than I could have imagined. Wood got the final out for Hendricks in the fourth and then came up to bat in the bottom of the inning. Wood batted for himself in the bottom of the inning and he launched one into the left-field bleachers. It was the third postseason home run by a Cubs pitcher (Kerry Wood 2003 NLCS, Rick Sutcliffe 1984 NLCS) and the first home run by a relief pitcher in the postseason since Rosie Ryan hit one for the New York Giants in the 1924 World Series against the Washington Senators. Wood joins Ryan as the only relievers to homer in a postseason game.
And here it is:
But Wood pitched well too. He faced five batters and retired four of them. The only one to reach was pinch-hitter Madison Bumgarner (I’m sensing a trend here) who got to second when Kris Bryant booted a ground ball and then threw it away at first for two errors. No matter; Wood retired Span and Belt and no damage was done.
Carl Edwards Jr. pitched a perfect sixth. Mike Montgomery pitched a perfect seventh and started the eighth, exiting after a Brandon Belt double with one out. Hector Rondon, who had been shaky since returning from injury, was anything but tonight, getting Buster Posey to strike out and Hunter Pence to ground out.
Aroldis Chapman threw a 1-2-3 inning (with a little help from Dexter Fowler) in the ninth to seal the win.
So that’s it. The Cubs are up two games to none in a best-of-five series. The last time that’s happened was . . .oh, forget it. It was the 1984 NLCS. But look at it from the Giants point of view. The last time they were down 0-2 in a best-of-five series was against . . .man, no one should be overconfident. It was 2012 against the Reds. They also came back down 0-2 and 1-3 against the Cardinals in the best-of-seven NLCS that year too.
So nothing is decided yet. The Cubs are in a commanding position, but they’ve got to go to San Francisco and finish it off. They’ve only got to face Madison Bumgarner in game three. Game four will likely be easier against Matt Moore, but let’s not worry about that. The Cubs should go for the sweep on Monday. Jake Arrieta is going for Chicago, and he’s found a lot of success in the state of California recently.
Until Monday though, go celebrate. This Cubs team is not any other Cubs team. This Cubs team has never broken your heart. They’ve given you no reason to doubt their quality. This team is a keeper.