Friday night at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs bested the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the best-of-five NLDS (CHC 1, SF 0). It was a classic pitcher's duel between Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto, and it wasn't until Javier Baez's solo home run in the eighth inning that the scoreless tie was broken. What a wonderful game of baseball. They should all be like this.
Here are eight things to know about Game 1. The Giants and Cubs will play Game 2 on Saturday night. Here's how you can watch.
1. Baez hit the biggest homer of his life
What a brilliantly pitched game by both Lester and Cueto. Their pitching lines are a thing of beauty:
Lester: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K
Cueto: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 10 K
The Giants have played two postseason games this year and they were both Grade-A pitchers' duels. Just two great pitchers doing their thing. This was baseball at its best.
Anyway, Baez untied the game with one out in the eighth inning, when he hit the biggest home run of his life. To the action footage:
The camera work wasn't the best on that one -- the ball looked like it was going to land on Waveland Avenue before settling into the basket -- but it doesn't matter. A homer is a homer, and that homer game the Cubs a 1-0 series lead. Baez is now only the 12th player in history to hit a home run in a 1-0 postseason game:
Home Runs in 1-0 #Postseason Games.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 8, 2016
Javy Baez on a list of twelve. pic.twitter.com/qVrJ3wSzqp
That's some list of names. That Jorge Posada game in 2001 was the Derek Jeter flip play game, you know.
2. The Giants were robbed of a leadoff walk in the ninth
Even with supercloser Aroldis Chapman on the mound, the Giants did not go quietly in the ninth. Buster Posey smoked a two-out double to left-center that looked like it had a chance to leave the yard off the bat, putting the tying run in scoring position.
Earlier in the inning, Gorkys Hernandez very nearly drew a leadoff walk, but first base ump Adam Porter called this a swing ...
Robot umps are coming. #SFGiantspic.twitter.com/qxKKxuYAHV— mattjennings (@mattjennings) October 8, 2016
... resulting in a strikeout. That's a borderline swing at best. Who knows how the inning would have played out had Gorkys been awarded first base -- the Cubs would have pitched the following batters differently with Hernandez on base, so who knows if Posey would have doubled, etc. -- but still. The Giants sure would have appreciated the leadoff baserunner.
3. Posey made a costly baserunning mistake
The Giants very nearly took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. With Posey on first, Angel Pagan lifted a soft line drive to left field that Ben Zobrist failed to catch. He slid forward and the ball got under his glove, then rolled behind him and into left field. It was a rare defensive miscue for the Cubbies.
There were two outs at the time, yet replays showed Posey hesitated on the bases between first and second, as if he was waiting to see whether the ball was caught so he could tag up. Simply put, it looked like Posey lost track of the outs. He should have been running all the way with two outs, and once the ball got by Zobrist, he would have had a good chance to score. Instead, Posey only got to third, and the Giants couldn't get him home.
4. The Giants tested Lester early
Lester's issues throwing to bases are well-documented. Lots of pitchers struggle throwing to the bases, but Lester's problems are extreme. Naturally, the Giants tested him early. Hernandez reached base to start the game by pushing a bunt in Lester's general direction. Right away they forced Lester to make a play.
Hernandez again tried to take advantage of Lester's throwing issues by stealing second base, though catcher David Ross threw him out by a wide margin. Runners have stolen 72 bases in 96 attempts against Lester the last two seasons, or 75 percent. Good idea by Gorkys, just didn't work out. Great throw by Ross.
5. San Francisco's baserunning was abysmal
Being aggressive against Lester: good! Running the bases like the Giants did Friday night: bad!
The Giants made three poor baserunning plays Friday night. Hernandez was thrown out trying to steal in the first, Posey ostensibly forgot how many outs there were in the fourth, and Wild Card Game hero Conor Gillaspie was picked off first on a snap throw by Ross in the third.
That's two outs on the bases and one runner not advancing as far as he should have within the first four innings of the game. Rough. Little things like that are often the difference between winning and losing in a tight game like this. Ross, by the way, is the first catcher with a caught stealing and pickoff in same postseason game since Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett in 1935.
6. Rizzo played second base, sort of
Despite being one of the best defensive teams in history, the Cubs didn't shift a whole lot this season. In fact, according to Baseball Info Solutions, Chicago ranked dead last in baseball with 399 shifts used in 2016. Dead last! The Marlins used the next fewest shifts at 453. Crazy, huh? Those extreme shifts didn't follow manager Joe Maddon from the Rays to the Cubs, apparently.
Anyway, the Cubbies did use a shift in the third inning, and it was a pretty interesting one. First baseman Anthony Rizzo moved way in on the infield -- he was maybe 40 feet away from home plate -- in anticipation of Cueto laying down a sac bunt. He even changed gloves and used an infielder's mitt, not a big clunky first baseman's mitt.
The sac bunt never did get laid down because Gillaspie got picked off, but for that one play, Rizzo was officially a second baseman. Baez, the second baseman, was covering first on the play and was officially the first baseman for one batter. Crazy, huh?
Anthony Rizzo was the first left-handed thrower to play second base in 33 years. Officially, he moved there for one out on Ross' pick-off.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 8, 2016
The last time a lefty thrower played second base was, coincidentally enough, the George Brett pine tar game in 1983. Yankees manager Billy Martin was upset MLB upheld the Royals' protest, so when the game resumed, he made a mockery of it by moving his players around. First baseman Don Mattingly moved to second base, hence the lefty thrower at second. Ron Guidry played center field in that game too.
7. Both teams put on a defensive clinic
If you're a fan of great defense -- and really, who isn't? -- this was the game for you. The two clubs traded excellent defensive plays all night. Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson made at least two fantastic diving stops, Hernandez made a sliding catch on the warning track, Ross threw two runners out ... this game had it all defensively. Lester and Cueto were fantastic. They also got some big time help from their fielders. This game was a joy to watch.
8. Bill Murray was at the game
Comedian and diehard Cubs fan Bill Murray was at Wrigley Field for Game 1 on Friday night. He was also wearing an A+ t-shirt. Check it out:
Bill Murray at Wrigley 🐐⚾️ pic.twitter.com/ukFJQzM4ud— Manny Chang (@Manny560q) October 8, 2016
That's awesome. Such a great shirt. Murray is a huge baseball fan, you know. Not just the Cubs either. He is part owner of several minor league teams, including the Class A Charleston RiverDogs (Yankees) and Hudson Valley Renegades (Rays).