The Chicago Cubs have come into the playoffs as an underdog to win it all. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, and Arizona Diamondbacks are all considered better shots to win the NL Pennant. The Cubs have been the underdogs before and it appears their World Series run a year ago has made getting through the playoffs that much easier, at least for one game.
Game one of the NLDS against the Nationals was the first pitcher’s duel of this year’s playoffs, as Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg and Cubs start Kyle Hendricks dueled to a 0-0 tie through five innings. In the sixth inning, Strasburg, who was also going for a no-hitter, looked just human enough for the Cubs to take advantage.
As the New York Times reports, Javier Baez reached on grounder that wasn’t fielded cleanly. Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant then broke up the no-hitter with a single that drove Baez in and made the score 1-0. He was followed up by Anthony Rizzo who stroked a double that made the game 2-0 and that turned out to be all the Cubs would need, even though they did eventually tack on an insurance run.
Hendricks, who started game one for the Chicago Cubs thanks to a strong second half of the regular season, went seven innings without allowing a single run. That performance looked an awful lot like his performance in last year’s NLCS game 6, when he outdueled Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw to help send the Cubs to the World Series.
The win in Washington puts the Nationals behind the eight ball. Even if they are able to win game two, they will still have to head to raucous Wrigley Field and win at least one game in Chicago in order to keep their postseason alive. It makes sense that former Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker, who is currently the head man in Washington desperately wanted to get off to a good start in the series.
Instead, an offense that has plenty of talent, but has struggled in the latter part of the year continued to struggle. While the team has Hendricks in trouble every now and then, they were never able to mount a real challenge. Game 2 will feature Gio Gonzalez going up against the Cubs opening day starter in Jon Lester. Beating Lester certainly won’t be an easy task, especially considering the Cubs appear to have all the momentum.