Javier Baez home run gives Cubs 1-0 win over Giants in NLDS

CHICAGO – Eleven wins is the Cubs’ goal this month as they look to erase 108 years of futility.

One down, 10 to go.

The Cubs kicked off the National League Division Series with a Game 1 win Friday night, beating the Giants, 1-0, thanks to Javier Baez’s eighth-inning solo home run that broke up what had been yet another classic postseason pitching duel.

With Bill Murray, Eddie Vedder, Dwyane Wade, Mike Ditka and Kerry Wood among the celebrity fans in attendance at Wrigley Field, Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto kept the crowd of 42,148 on the edge of their seats all night, not giving in against their formidable foes.

Cubs will have work cut out for them with Giants

Baez finally gave the fans a reason to cheer, launching a solo home run off Cueto with one out in the eighth, only the third hit allowed by the Giants’ All-Star righthander. Cueto’s final line: eight innings, three hits, one run and 10 strikeouts.

Aroldis Chapman – the star closer acquired by the Cubs in a late-July trade with the Yankees – finished off the win, throwing a scoreless ninth against the top of the Giants’ lineup.

Lester allowed five hits and no walks, striking out five in eight innings. He threw only 86 pitches, 60 for strikes.

“He’s a real strike thrower,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Lester leading up to Game 1. “Repetition of delivery, he’s got the cutter/slider, whatever you want to call it; it’s really the location.”

Aroldis Chapman focused on playoffs, keeps in touch with Betances

Jon Lester tosses eight scoreless innings in a classic pitcher's duel at Wrigley Field.

Jon Lester tosses eight scoreless innings in a classic pitcher’s duel at Wrigley Field.

(Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

The Cubs will try to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series on Saturday night, sending Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks — 9-2 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 games at Wrigley this season — to the mound against the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija.

Having disposed of the Mets in Wednesday night’s wild card game, the Giants came to Wrigley Field looking to continue their even-year magic – while dashing the Cubs’ hopes of ending their 108-year championship drought in the process.

“The great thing about the game right now is it’s all new now,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said leading up to Game 1. “You start from zero. We both have the same record. So it doesn’t matter how you get here.”

Just as it was in the wild card game, zero was a popular number again Friday night.

Joe Maddon, Bruce Bochy bring contrasting styles to NLDS

Lester and Cueto traded one scoreless inning after another, though the Giants made Lester work hard, putting the leadoff man on in each of the first three innings and runners at second and third in the fourth.

The Cubs’ lefty worked out of each jam, getting help from catcher David Ross, who caught Gorkys Hernandez trying to steal second base in the first inning, then picked off Conor Gillaspie with a snap throw to first base in the third.

Cueto had a much easier time early on, retiring the first 10 Cubs he faced before Kris Bryant’s one-out double in the fourth gave the Cubs their first baserunner. Bryant moved to third on a groundout, but Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson stranded him there, making a diving stop on Ben Zobrist’s grounder in the hole, keeping the game scoreless.

Jonny Cueto makes one mistake--a home run in the eighth--and it costs the Giants in Game 1.

Jonny Cueto makes one mistake–a home run in the eighth–and it costs the Giants in Game 1.

(Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)

“He’s got such a variety of things that he does, he’s kind of probably the latter day Luis Tiant,” Maddon said before Game 1. “What he’s able to do; body control and different kind of pitches and command them all.”

The two starters took the scoreless duel into the sixth, lending the same feel to the game as Wednesday’s Noah Syndergaard-Madison Bumgarner battle – minus the season-ending stakes, of course.

Cueto struck out the side in the sixth, giving him eight Ks and only two hits allowed to that point.

Lester worked with great efficiency as he retired the side in order in the seventh, giving him 10 consecutive outs. He had only 79 pitches through seven, while Cueto – whose perfect seventh gave him seven straight outs and 11 out of 12 – had thrown 99 pitches.

A seven-pitch eighth for Lester sent the Cubs back to the plate looking for the game’s first run.

Cueto retired Jason Heyward for his eighth straight out, but Baez worked the count full before socking a 92 mph fastball to left field, where it cleared the wall to send the crowd into a frenzy.

Chapman sat down the first two batters in the ninth before Buster Posey put a scare into the ballpark, hitting a double off the wall in left-center. But Chapman got Hunter Pence to ground out to second to seal the win.

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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