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Hendricks and Wood show off their batting skills in Cubs’ Game 2 win

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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.

Maddon: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again for Angels this year

Shohei Ohtani
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Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again this season for the Los Angeles Angels after straining his right forearm in his second start, manager Joe Maddon says.

Ohtani likely will return to the Angels’ lineup as their designated hitter this week, Maddon said Tuesday night before the club opened a road series against the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels’ stance on Ohtani is unsurprising after the club announced he had strained the flexor pronator mass near the elbow of his pitching arm. The two-way star’s recovery from the strain requires him to abstain from throwing for four to six weeks, which covers most of the shortened 2020 season.

“I’m not anticipating him pitching at all this year,” Maddon said. “Any kind of throwing program is going to be very conservative.”

Ohtani was injured Sunday in the second inning of his second start since returning to the mound following Tommy John surgery in late 2018. Ohtani issued five walks during the 42-pitch inning against the Houston Astros, with his velocity dropping later in the frame.

The arm injury is another obstacle in Ohtani’s path to becoming the majors’ first true two-way player in decades. He made 10 mound starts as a rookie in 2018 before injuring his elbow, but he served as the Angels’ regular designated hitter last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani has pitched in only three games since June 2018, but the Angels still believe in Ohtani’s ability to be a two-way player, Maddon said.

“I’m seeing that he can,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to get past the arm maladies and figure that out. But I’ve seen it. He’s just such a high-end arm, and we’ve seen what he can do in the batter’s box. Now maybe it might get to the point where he may choose to do one thing over the other and express that to us. I know he likes to hit. In my mind’s eye, he’s still going to be able to do this.”

The veteran manager believes Ohtani will benefit from a full spring training and a normal season. Ohtani wasn’t throwing at full strength for a starter when the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training in March because he wasn’t expected to pitch until May as he returned from surgery.

“Going into a regular season with a normal number of starts and all the things that permit guys to be ready for a year, that’s what we need to see is some normalcy before you make that kind of determination,” Maddon said.

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