By Todd Johnson
I don’t think anybody saw last night coming. If you had picked Travis Wood to be the hero of the game, I think you would’ve been a very wealthy person by the end of the night. You could also throw in Mike Montgomery, Hector Rondon, and Aroldis Chapman as the bullpen stepped up after Kyle Hendricks’ forearm injury. I will definitely take a 5-2 victory over the Giants to put the Cubs one win away from the NLCS. Even though I was nervous and anxious on Friday morning, at the end of Saturday night, I was extremely comfortable with where the Cubs are at heading into game 3 in San Francisco.
First off, I’d like to think Mediacom for not carrying the MLB Network. It allowed me not to see the game, but rather to follow it on Twitter, the radio, and the MLB At Bat app. It would’ve been nice to watch it, but I enjoyed all the other ways to immerse myself in the action.
I said yesterday morning that the Cubs could get to Samardzija early. And they did. Dexter Fowler began the game with a 9 pitch at bat that resulted in him getting on base and later coming around to score the first run in the first inning. The Cubs added 2 more runs in the second on a Kyle Hendricks bases-loaded single. Kris Bryant then singled a run later to make it 4-0.
With a 4 run lead, I started feeling comfortable listening to the game and envisioning what was happening. Even though Hendricks gave up two runs to cut it to 4-2, I still felt good about where the Cubs were. Growing up listening to Lou Boudreau and Vince Lloyd on the radio, it did not make me nervous to sit and listen to Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer at all. Even when Hendricks was injured, I still felt confident that the Cubs could get it done, especially if they could get it to the seventh inning with a one-run lead.
I said in Friday’s preview that I thought the Cubs bullpen would be the strength of the series for them. When I typed those words, I was thinking more of Strop, Rondon, and Chapman. But last night was about Montgomery, Edwards, Rondon, and Wood. They came in and did not allow a run or a walk. In fact, the Cubs have not yet walked anyone in the NLDS.
The only thing that worried me about the bullpen this series was that they really hadn’t worked since last Sunday, except for Chapman. They showed rustiness after six days off. In fact, I think it’s been a blessing for them. Carl Edwards was sharp as could be. Rondon looked filthy in his 2/3 of an inning.
With a 2 game lead, the Cubs now head to San Francisco to face Madison Bumgarner. I’m not nervous at all. I think with Arietta pitching, Jake is going to be ready this time. It’s going to be a pitcher’s duel and it’s going to come down to the bullpen or extras. I still think this is the Cubs greatest advantage in the series. They’ve got to just keep it close to get to work some counts if they can, but they’ve also got to take advantage of any situation whether it’s an error, HBP, or a walk. Like game one, it’s will be close. Someone will have to step up.
However, I think the surprise for San Francisco is that the Cubs can match up better with Bumgarner with Soler, Baez, and just 2 lefties in the lineup in Montero and Rizzo. With Fowler and Zobrist switch-hitting, the Cubs don’t really lose anything in facing a lefty.
It’s going to be a fun night on Monday!