Pitching took center stage in Game 2 of the NLDS, not with pristine outings by either starter, but with a bevy of power-hitting pitchers.
Cubs’ right-hander Kyle Hendricks took the mound for his first appearance of the postseason, allowing two runs on back-to-back base hits by Gregor Blanco and Brandon Belt before exiting in the fourth inning when Angel Pagan lined a ball off of the starter’s right forearm. Hendricks was diagnosed with a forearm contusion after undergoing tests during the game, but there is no word yet on just how long the right-hander will be sidelined.
Prior to the injury, Hendricks swung against Giants’ starter Jeff Samardzija, whose fastball up and away was lobbed into center field for a two-run base hit. It was the first hit of Hendricks’ postseason career, and the first postseason knock Samardzija had given up to an opposing pitcher.
With Hendricks out and a two-run deficit, Joe Maddon turned to right-handed reliever Travis Wood. Wood polished off the tail end of the fourth inning on a strikeout to Conor Gillaspie, then unleashed a 393-foot bomb off of George Kontos in the bottom of the inning. Combined with a pair of base hits by professional hitters Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant, the Cubs rested on a three-run cushion to see them through the last five frames of the game.
While the Giants couldn’t quite find their footing against Chicago’s bullpen, they didn’t want to be left out of the fun, either. Game 3 starter Madison Bumgarner came off the bench in the fifth inning to pinch hit for Kontos against Travis Wood. On the second pitch, he made contact on a hard-hit ball to third, where it deflected off of Bryant and was subsequently thrown wide of first base.
All told, the Cubs and Giants issued nine relievers to shut down the last five innings, both instigating and suppressing rallies by Javier Baez, Brandon Belt, and Kris Bryant to preserve the 5-2 final score. The flawless defense that played such a pivotal role in Game 1 was scarcely seen, giving way to a handful of fielding errors that dinged the Cubs’ otherwise-dominant performance.
Both teams will get a breather tomorrow before meeting again in San Francisco on Monday, when Madison Bumgarner will square off against Jake Arrieta for Game 3 of the NLDS. If the Giants have any chance of keeping this series alive, it’s with a pitcher who holds a 2.99 career ERA and .542 career OPS. After all, hitting — and pitching — is what he does best.