WASHINGTON (AP) — Kyle Hendricks outpitched Stephen Strasburg, and the Chicago Cubs opened defense of their first World Series title in 108 years by beating the Washington Nationals 3-0 on Friday in Game 1 of their NL Division Series.
Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo produced RBI singles in the sixth inning for the first two hits off an otherwise-dominant Strasburg. Hendricks was even better, giving up only two singles in seven strong innings.
Rizzo added an RBI double off reliever Ryan Madson in the eighth. Carl Edwards Jr. threw a perfect inning and Wade Davis finished the two-hitter for a save.
Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Saturday, with Jon Lester set to start for Chicago against fellow left-hander Gio Gonzalez.
Strasburg didn’t allow a hit until there were two outs in the sixth. Javier Baez reached on third baseman Anthony Rendon’s error to start the inning and was sacrificed to second by Hendricks. One out later, Bryant drove in the first run with a single to right-center and went to second when Bryce Harper missed the cutoff man.
The next batter, Rizzo, singled to right in front of a diving Harper to make it 2-0.
With a heavy beard and a lot of sweat on a muggy, 77-degree night, Strasburg dialed up his fastball to 97 mph and occasionally used an unhittable changeup. To cheers of “Let’s go, Strasburg!” from many in a sellout crowd of 43,898, he held the Cubs without a hit for 5 2/3 innings and wound up with 10 strikeouts, a playoff record for the Expos-Nationals franchise.
In only his second postseason appearance — remember the shutdown of 2012 and the arm injury of 2016? — the righty showed precisely the sort of power and poise that made him the No. 1 pick in baseball’s amateur draft. Until, that is, the sixth inning. That’s when everything changed in a matter of minutes.
Until then, the Cubs managed only one baserunner, and that was via a walk. But Baez led off with a bouncer that Rendon gloved, then bobbled while trying to transfer it to his throwing hand. It was Rendon’s first error since July 22; he made only seven in 145 regular-season games.
After Hendricks’ bunt moved Baez to second, 2016 NL MVP Bryant lined Strasburg’s 60th pitch, a four-seam fastball, to right-center for the game’s first run. Harper’s throw missed the cutoff man, and Bryant took second. Two pitches later, on another fastball, Rizzo sent a sinking shot to right, where Harper came up just short trying to make a diving catch, and suddenly it was 2-0. As pitching coach Mike Maddux came out for a mound visit with Strasburg, Rizzo whooped it up at the bag, high-fiving first base coach Brandon Hyde.
Strasburg wound up allowing those two unearned runs in seven innings, with three hits and one walk.
Hendricks went about things differently — his best fastball is about 10 mph slower than Strasburg’s — but was every bit as good. The slender righty from Dartmouth, who led the NL in ERA last season, did not give up a hit after the second inning. He walked three batters and struck out six.