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Cubs Playoff Rapid Recap: Cubs 3, Nationals 0

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The Cubs take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series by shutting down the Nationals offense.

MLB: NLDS-Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs started their defense of their World Serie title with a 3-0 victory over the Washington Nationals in game one of the best-of-five National League Division Series. The Cubs won this game with terrific pitching and clutch hitting from Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs were the first road team to win a game this postseason. Home teams were 6-0 before the Cubs won game one.

Cubs pitching held the powerful Nats offense to just two singles and none after the second inning.

Let’s tip our hat to Nats starter Stephen Strasburg. For five innings, the man was filthy. How filthy? Strasburg was so filthy that if Dusty Baker hadn’t bribed the inspector, the DC Health Department would have shut him down. The Cubs didn’t have a hit through five innings and they didn’t look even close to having one. Strasburg struck out eight in and walked just one over those five innings. On his final line, he struck out ten in seven innings. He gave up two runs, both unearned.

But while Hendricks wasn’t as dominating as Strasburg, he was just as effective in keeping the Nationals from scoring. His fastball was sitting 88-90 mph (as fast as it’s been this year) and he kept the Nats off balance by hitting his spots and uncorking a vicious changeup when necessary. He allowed some baserunners, but the only real threat the Nats had was in the second inning when he hit Matt Wieters and allowed a single to Michael Taylor after two were out. But that brought up Strasburg who grounded out easily for the third out. Taylor’s hit was the final Nationals hit of the game.

The Cubs broke through on Strasburg in the sixth inning. Javier Baez led off the inning with a chopper down the third base line that third baseman Anthony Rendon dropped for an error. TBS broadcaster Ron Darling seemed to think the ball should have been called foul, but I didn’t see that from the replay.

Hendricks then bunted Baez over to second base and the Cubs got a chance to face Strasburg a third time.

Indeed. While Ben Zobrist hit a lazy fly ball for the second out (and Zobrist did not look good tonight), Kris Bryant came through with an RBI single to right-center and he went to second on the throw. The play at second was close and the Nationals challenged the call, but it was really close and the call stood. Then Anthony Rizzo came through with a sinking line drive to right field that Bryce Harper played on a short hop. With Bryant running on contact, he easily scored the second run.

The final line on Hendricks was seven scoreless innings. He gave up two hits, walked three and hit one batter. He struck out six.

The Cubs tacked on a run in the eighth inning when Jon Jay pinch hit for Hendricks. Jay doubled to lead off the inning and then two batters later, Nationals manager Dusty Baker made one of those head-scratching in-game moves. With two outs and Jay on third and Rizzo at the plate, he had reliever Ryan Madson pitch to Rizzo. He could have intentionally walked Rizzo and gotten a righty-on-righty matchup with Contreras. (Or loaded the bases to face defensive replacement Leonys Martin.) Or he could have gone to a left-hander like Oliver Perez or Sean Doolittle to face the lefty Rizzo. Instead, he let Madson pitch to Rizzo and he lined a double the other way to make it 3-0.

Carl Edwards Jr. faced the heart of the Nationals order in the ninth: Trea Turner, Harper and Rendon. He retired them in order, striking out Turner and Rendon.

Wade Davis pitched a perfect ninth. There was a bit of controversy when Ryan Zimmerman struck out and was hit in the back by the Willson Contreras throw. Dusty Baker complained and the Nats fans booed, but the play wasn’t reviewable and Zimmerman was clearly running outside the lane anyway.

The Cubs plan in Washington had to be to win at least one of the first two games and head back to Wrigley Field with the chance to close out the series in Chicago. Mission accomplished. Now the goal will be to win both games in Washington and put the Nats in a terrible position.

Let’s Fly the W. One down, ten more wins to go.