Dave McCullough recaps Game 2 of the NLDS between the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants behind the pitching – and hitting – of Kyle Hendricks.
Unlike the high drama of Game 1, Chicago Cubs fans did not need to seek out the antacids for Game 2. After starter Kyle Hendricks set down the visiting Giants 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning, the baby bears wasted no time in jumping on San Francisco’s starter, Jeff Samardzija, as Dexter Fowler led off with a double. After a Kris Bryant ground out and an Anthony Rizzo strikeout, Ben Zobrist delivered the run-scoring single, lacing a ball into right field – allowing Fowler to scamper home with the first run of the game.
In the second, Giants outfielder Hunter Pence led off with a soft single to right, but he was quickly erased by a Brandon Crawford grounder to first. The next play, however, gave the Giants runners at first and second, as Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras was called for catcher’s interference on Angel Pagan. The Giants left fielder was awarded first and NL Wild Card hero Conor Gillaspie had a chance to equalize for San Francisco, with two on and one out. However, Hendricks bore down and induced an inning-ending double play to snuff out the threat.
Leading off the home half of the second, Jason Heyward lined a sharp double to right. After Game 1 hero Javier Baez walked, Contreras atoned for his mistake in the top half of the inning by drilling a single to right, scoring Heyward and moving Baez to third. On the throw home, Contreras advanced to second. The pitcher Hendricks was due next, and maybe Samardzija relaxed a bit, thinking he could get out of this jam by retiring his opposite number. But Hendricks proved the wisdom and majesty of letting pitchers hit for themselves by blasting a soft fly ball into short center field. With two outs, the runners were off on contact and scored easily, making the score 4-0 Cubs. Samardzija finally notched the first out of the inning by forcing Fowler to fly out, but Bryant singled to possibly rekindle the rally. However, Rizzo and Zobrist were quickly retired and the Giants finally got out of the inning.
Hendricks, having helped his own cause, took the mound to start the third inning. He immediately yielded a double to 8-hole hitter Joe Panik, allowing Giants skipper Bruce Bochy to pinch hit for his starter without any qualms. Gregor Blanco immediately made his manager look brilliant by doubling to deep centerfield, bringing home Panik and cutting the Cubs lead to three runs. Centerfielder Denard Span then grounded out, moving Blanco to third, where he was able to score on Brandon Belt’s sacrifice fly. Hendricks then induced a Buster Posey groundout to first, ending the threat with the score 4-2 in favor of the Cubs.
Reliever George Kontos retired the Cubs in order in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the fourth Hendricks easily retired the first two hitters but the third hitter of the inning, Pagan, smashed a line drive back through the box, striking Hendricks on the forearm. Cubs manager Joe Maddon had no choice but to replace his starter, summoning Travis Wood to take over. The reliever immediately struck out Gillaspie to end the top of the fourth. Leading off the home half, Contreras grounded out to third. Kontos then faced Wood, and grooved an 86-mph cutter which Wood blasted into the left-center field bleachers for a 5-2 Cubs lead.
That would do it for the scoring. In the top of the fifth, Bochy sent out his ace Madison Bumgarner to pinch hit for Kontos, and Mad Bum promptly reached on a error by Bryant. However, he was lifted in favor of reliever Ty Blach before taking the mound. The brief appearance of the best active playoff pitcher in baseball had to give Cubs fans heart palpitations, if only as they remembered that Bumgarner was looming as the Game 3 starter when the series shifts to San Francisco. However, the drama of Game 2 was over, as the Cubs went first to Carl Edwards, then Mike Montgomery, then Hector Rendon, and finally to closer Aroldis Chapman – all of whom held the Giants scoreless.
The Cubs securing two wins in two opportunities at home greatly increases their chances of winning the series. Facing Bumgarner in Game 3 is a stiff test – the classy lefty has a streak of 22 consecutive scoreless innings in elimination games rolling – but even a loss to Mad Bum wouldn’t greatly damage the Cubs chances of moving on to NLCS. Game 3 starter Jake Arrieta is no slouch himself, and the pitching matchup should provide another low-scoring, high-drama game.