Javier Baez slugs out a solo to the basket in the eighth for the Cubs 1-0 shutout over the Giants - Game One of the NLDS series.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
MLB 2016 Playoffs in full swing in the American League and the National League. The Chicago Cubs, with home field advantage, host the NL Wild Card winners, the San Francisco Giants. Two very determined teams. Two teams with an abundance of talent; and, personally this series will be one of the best of the playoffs. These two teams, in regular season, Cubs held a 4-3 series lead. However, as we all are aware, postseason play is a whole new level of play.
The pitching, as expected, very strong for both teams. Cubs Jon Lester facing Giants Johnny Cueto, both holding a scoreless game through the seventh, both completed eight frames. Lester only allowing five hits with five strikeouts. Cueto only allowed three hits and fanned ten. Neither of the two issued any free passes as they went head to head. The one major difference, Cueto was stung with one home run, one earned run in his eighth for the Cubs victory, 1-0, shutout. The last game, in a divisional series to end in a one run shutout, was in 2001 ALDS, by New York Yankees Jorge Posada against the Oakland Athletics in Game Three.
Last night's Game One, Cubs Javier Baez added his name to the postseason record book with his solo shot in the eighth into the wind at Wrigley Field.
Baez was 1-2 for the night; but, with patience by the 23 year old, he got what he was looking for on Cueto's 3-2 pitch. Behind Lester's great stand, he alone handed Lester; and, the Cubs, their win to start them off with a 1-0 series lead. Is their work finished, not by any means. I believe the first game just added fuel to the fire.
Being a Cardinals fan, I'm not a fan of either team. However, I am a fan of baseball and some of the players. I have watched this young Baez, infielder, ever since he was brought up from the Cubs farm system. His first "yo-yo" visit was in 2014. He made his major league debut, August 5, of that season. He was just amazing to watch. At best, with an occasional hit, one quickly saw he was the strikeout king with his long and loopy power swing. But; there, was something there, demeanor, love of the game, that gave way to a bright future. Even though, some work with his bat was obviously needed.
In 2014, he did have 9 HR/20 RBI, but only a .169 BA with a healthy 95 strikeouts, for his .227 OBP/.374 SLG in 52 games. He has so much speed and energy. Not only in the field, but at the plate. I thought at the time, if he could harness that, concentrate in the field, tweak his bat, he would definitely be a force in the Cubs line-up. This young player probably has faced more adversity than most in the minors and majors. Not only injury; but, the loss of his sister, Noely, whom he was very close to. Even though, as hard as it was for him, he found baseball was his way to heal from her passing. For Baez full journey: "After loss and injury, is Javier Baez finally ready for the Cubs?", (Kevin Van Valkenburg, ESPN Senior Writer, Aug. 2015). Excellent article.
In 2015, in the Cubs Iowa Triple-A and Arizona ROK leagues, he put his heart into the game. Between the two leagues, he held a .328 BA/.391 OBP/.526 SLG/.917 OPS. He had 13 HR/62 RBI but still had a collection of 76 SO in his 293 AB. He was called up again to re-join the Cubs. He was only in 28 games, with an improved offensive slash line, .289/.325/.408/.733 in 76 AB with 22 hits. This past season, he has been on the Cubs every day roster for 142 games. With 115 hits in his 421 AB for 14 HR/59 RBI holding a .273 BA/.314 OBP/.423 SLG/.737 OPS. Still, he collected 108 strikeouts. I have a feeling this slight blemish will always follow him in his career. But, he did have 12 stolen bases and only caught three times. He's a marvel that is still developing, in my opinion. And, he has traveled a long road to get to his destination.
I believe, not only for Baez' family; but, for Noely, he crunched out the Hit of the Game ~ and, she was watching. Last night's game, he was 2-3/1 HR/1 RBI - and no strikeout. This kid doesn't have the natural ability of Cubs Kris Bryant; or, even Addison Russell. But, I feel, he plays with heartfelt love for his job and his for his team.
NLDS ~ GAME TWO AT WRIGLEY FIELD
NLDS at Wrigley Field ~ Game Two
Cubs Kyle Hendricks will face Giants Jeff Samardzija. Hendricks, in his regular season, was 9-2/1.32 ERA at home. Facing the Giants, he held a 1.69. Samardzija, returning to face his former team. His first appearance in postseason. The last he faced the Cubs in regular season at Wrigley Field, September 1, he was retired after four frames with giving up three earned runs. On the road, he was 7-5/4.03 ERA. However, in August he held a 2.76, followed by a 2.95 in September. But, as we all know, the playoffs are a whole different type of play. Mindsets are stronger, play is defined by efficiency and no degree for errors. Baez, with patience, took advantage of the one mistake Cueto made in Game One. Will the Giants be able to retaliate with a payback facing Hendricks in Game Two?