Cubs Strike First Behind Lester and Baez to Take Game 1 of NLDS, Hendricks and Samardzija Set for Game 2

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D. 

In the regular season, the Cubs and Giants played seven games and five out of those seven were one-run games, so it was not a surprise that Game 1 of the National League Division Series ended up being a 1-0 game. As mentioned in the previous article, the pitching staffs are basically neck-and-neck in terms of talent and, as a result, the difference in this series will be intangibles and bullpen. Both came into play as the Cubs beat the Giants in an exciting game before an electric Wrigley Field crowd.

Starting pitchers Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto put on dazzling performances, matching zeros across the board until the eighth inning. Lester gave a masterful performance of eight innings of shutout ball. He struck out five while walking none and retired the last 13 batters he faced. Cueto was just as impressive as he also threw eight innings and struck out ten with no walks as well. The difference of the game was a mistake to Javier Baez whose blast was blown back by the wind coming in. Luckily, he gave it enough of a ride that it fell into the leftfield basket just over the reach of left fielder Angel Pagan, which set the Cubs fans into pandemonium. The run allowed Joe Maddon to bring in hired gun Aroldis Chapman to come into the ninth inning to preserve the shutout and win despite surrendering a two-out double to Buster Posey.

Besides Baez’s home run breaking the 0-0 tie and giving the Cubs the win, the run was the first against the Giants in postseason play in 23 innings. As stated previously, the intangibles are what allowed the Cubs to win. First, it was the defense of David Ross who threw out a runner in the first inning and picked off another in the third to prevent the Giants from getting runners in scoring position. Second, the versatility of Baez allowed Maddon to start him at second base and move Ben Zobrist to left field. Baez’s home run was the second of his career in the post season and both gave the Cubs a lead.

NLDS Game 2
Game 2 is now the all important game. If the Cubs can go up 2-0 heading to the Bay Area then they set themselves up nicely. According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, out of the 18 series in which a 100-win team went up 2-0 in a best of five series only one team has lost the series—the 2001 Oakland A’s to the New York Yankees.

The game will feature ERA title winner Kyle Hendricks against former Cub Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs faced Samardzija back on September 1 where he only made it through four innings in a 5-4 loss. Much of the talk today will be about how Samardzija turned down an $80 million extension with the Cubs in 2014, which set in motion his trade to the Oakland A’s that brought over Addison Russell. However, the present team today is almost wholly different than the team from 2014. Thus, it would be unfair to suggest that Samardzija passed up an opportunity to play for the Cubs in the postseason when they were nothing close to the team they are today.

Overall, a number of Cubs players have found success against Samardzija. Against him, Kris Bryant is 3-for-6 with a double and RBI, Dexter Fowler is 7-for-24 with two triples and home run, and Miguel Montero is 3-for-11 with a triple. The player with arguably the most success against Samardzija has been Chris Coghlan who is 4-for11 with a double and two home runs and 5 RBI. That won’t necessarily mean Coghlan gets the start today, but he could once again become the first guy off the bench if Maddon needs a hit off of Samardzija.

On the other side, Hendricks has largely kept the Giants hitters in check throughout his career. The Giants batters have had a total of 44 at-bats against him and Hendricks has only given up one home run and five RBI. The lone player that has had success against him is first baseman Brandon Belt who is 3-for-7 with a triple, a home run, and two RBI. In a small sample size, Hunter Pence is 2-for-2 against Hendricks. Most importantly, Buster Posey is only 2-for-8 against Hendricks with only a double and one RBI. Hendricks will need to continue to be at the top of his game today as the Giants always seem to play better with their back against the wall.

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