Cubs poised to play for pennant
PITCHERS Kyle Hendricks and Travis Wood produced on the mound and at the plate on October 8 to propel the Chicago Cubs to a 5-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants and a commanding lead in their Major League Baseball playoff series.
The Cubs, in search of their first World Series win in more than a century, lead the best-of-five National League Division Series 2-0 and will try to book their spot in the NL Championship Series in game three in San Francisco today.
Wood, who took over on the mound after starter Hendricks was hit on the forearm by a line drive off the bat of Angel Pagan in the fourth inning, earned the victory – and also became the first relief pitcher since 1924 to belt a home run in the post-season.
In all the Cubs used six pitchers. Aroldis Chapman retired three straight Giants in the ninth, striking out two for his second save in as many games.
“Obviously the bullpen today was unbelievable,” said Hendricks. “They won that game.”
Before departing, Hendricks delivered a two-run single to spark the Cubs’ three-run second inning.
Jason Heyward belted a leadoff double in the second. Javier Baez walked and Willson Contreras lined a base hit to right to load the bases with none out.
Hendricks, a .138 hitter during the regular season, singled to shallow centre to score Heyward and Baez.
Contreras reached third on Dexter Fowler’s sacrifice and came home on Kris Bryant’s base hit.
That made it 4-0 for the Cubs, who had put one run on the board in the first inning after Fowler doubled and scored on Ben Zobrist’s two-out single.
San Francisco responded with two runs in the third, pulling struggling starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija early for a pinch hitter.
Hendricks’ outing ended with two out in the fourth. After he was struck, he threw several warm-up pitches before it was decided he should seek treatment on his pitching arm.
“When it first hit me I didn’t really feel it,” he said. “Once I started throwing a little more off the mound it just was tightening up on me.
“X-rays were negative though, so hopefully it’s just a day-to-day thing.”
He was replaced by Wood, who in the bottom of the inning belted his 10th career home run to make it a 5-2 lead.
It was his first homer in post-season play – and just the second ever by a relief pitcher in the playoffs, after that of the New York Giants’ Rosy Ryan in game three of the 1924 World Series.
“[The homer] was a special moment for me,” said Wood, who also struck out two and didn’t allow a hit in his one-and-one-third innings. “But just to be able to pull off the win was huge.”
Wood, a former starter who switched to relief roles, has been relied on by Cubs manager Joe Maddon, with 77 appearances in the regular season.
“He’s been outstanding,” Maddon said. “When he goes out there to play even in the tightest situation, he’s very comfortable with it.
“He takes his batting practice, he looks for those opportunities and then he seized it today.”
The winners of the series will face either the Washington Nationals or the Los Angeles Dodgers for a World Series berth. –
Travis Wood takes a curtain call after belting a solo home run in the fourth inning of the Chicago Cubs’ October 8 victory over the San Francisco Giants, played in Chicago’s iconic Wrigley Field.
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