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Javier Baez Lifts Cubs Over Giants In Game 1 Of NLDS

Javier Baez NJ Baseball via


Javier Baez provides only offense as Cubs down Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS

Locked in a pitchers duel in the bottom of the 8th inning, second baseman Javier Baez stepped to the plate for the Chicago Cubs. Up until that point, Johnny Cueto and Jon Lester had thrown dueling shutouts. On a 3-2 count, Baez turned on a Cueto fastball and drove it into the basket in left field. That would turn out to be the only offense in a game dominated by great pitching.

Coming into Friday night, Lester had a 2.44 ERA on the season and a 2.85 career postseason ERA. He was very efficient as he worked 8 shutout innings while only allowing 5 hits and striking out 5 batters on only 86 pitches.

The Giants countered with Johnny Cueto who also worked 8 strong innings only giving up 3 hits and striking out 10 Cub batters. The one major difference between the performances of the starting pitchers, was the home run allowed by Cueto with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning.

Baez has been one of the most flexible players for the Cubs this season. He has played second base, shortstop, and third base while also displaying amazing power. In 421 at-bats during the regular season, Baez hit 14 home runs and drove in 59 RBI’s while hitting .273. Baez got the start in Game 1 of the NLDS because of the fact that Jon Lester was pitching and he was a better defensive option at second base. With Baez playing at second base, that meant that regular second baseman Ben Zobrist would have to be moved to left field. That move almost resulted in a run for the Giants in the top of the 4th.

After a one out single to Buster Posey, Hunter Pence flied out bringing Angel Pagan to the plate. Pagan drove a sinking liner to left field that skipped under the glove of a sliding Zobrist. With two outs in the inning, Posey should have run at full tilt from first base on contact but instead slowed to see if the ball would land. That hesitation allowed Zobrist to recover and hold Posey at third keeping the game scoreless.

That play was huge and eventually lead to the game being tied in the 8th for Baez to drive in the only run of the game.

Once the Cubs grabbed the lead, Joe Maddon brought out closer Aroldis Chapman to nail down the save. After two quick outs, Posey drove a double off the wall to extend the Giants chances. Hunter Pence would then ground out to second base on a 100 MPH fastball to end the game.

Game 2

Game 2 of the NLDS will feature another great pitching matchup. This time, it will be Kyle Hendricks versus Jeff Samardzija. Hendricks went 16-8 on the season and led the National League in ERA with a 2.13. He is known for his finesse style pitching which has seemed to work well for him during the regular season. The former Cub Jeff Samardzija had an average season in 2016. He has mostly been the Giants number 3 starter and has performed well in his role. Samardzija won 12 games compared to 11 loses during the regular season with an ERA of 3.81.

This pitching matchup offers to be another great one. The tension can not get higher than it did in Game 1 but this is October playoff baseball and anything is possible. Even magic.

Coverage of Game 2 will be on MLB Network starting at 8:00pm, Saturday, October 8th.