Who would’ve thought that Pablo Sandoval would play the hero for the Giants in 2018?
In a tough, hard-fought pitcher’s duel, the Giants outlasted the Cubs 2-1 in 11 innings, Sandoval hitting the game winning single to left with the bases loaded and one out.
While it wasn’t an easy loss to stomach, there was a significant positive from the evening. That positive was Kyle Hendricks.
Tonight was the outing from Hendricks I’ve been waiting for. Pitching into the ninth inning, he dissected a veteran Giants lineup — an encouraging performance that reminded of his quiet dominance we’ve all taken for granted. Tonight felt like the turning point for Kyle; expect a fantastic second half.
From the get go Hendricks was locked in, an homage to the pitcher that finished third in the Cy Young voting in 2016. Even when batters reached base it was clear Hendricks was in control. Generating strikeouts when needed or inducing weak contact otherwise, he efficiently worked ahead in the count, creating outs with aplomb. It was vintage Kyle, and it was impossibly appealing.
Case in point: A first pitch breaking ball to Alen Hanson, with Pablo Sandoval having just hit a two out double. Bottom of the second, bottom of the order, Hendricks looking to escape a quasi-jam that could jeopardize a bounce-back start. He surprises with a get-me-over breaking ball — Willson Contreras banking on Hanson’s aggression — and it pays off by generating a swing and a miss. A classic change-up a few pitches later and Hendricks escaped the inning unscathed, at a mere 24 pitches.
The key to the evening for Hendricks was the confidence with which he mixed his pitches. The fastball was painted on the corner or up in the zone in counts where a change-up was expected. The change-up kept batters off-balance and looking silly. And the curveball was an unexpected wrinkle that further befuddled San Fran’s lineup. All told, Hendricks pitched to the tune of 8.1 innings, zero earned runs, five hits, one walk and eight strikeouts.
The Cubs gave Hendricks an early 1-0 lead in the third, Ian Happ scoring on an Addison Russell ground out. While opportunities to score emerged beyond this — such as Russell leading off the sixth with a double — the Cubs offense was stagnant. Hat tip to Andrew Suarez of the Giants, who allowed just one run and three hits in six solid innings of work.
The Giants tied it in the bottom of the fifth, compliments of an awkward two error sequence by Anthony Rizzo. After missing a throw on an easy ground out, Rizzo later whiffed on a pick-off attempt by Hendricks, allowing the speedy Hanson to scamper all the way home from first. Even though Hendricks escaped the inning otherwise unscathed, the unearned run tied the game at one apiece.
That score remained into extra innings, until Sandoval’s walk-off single gave the Giants the win. Still, the Cubs just came off a 7-1 home stand. Losing game one in San Francisco is hardly upsetting.
Pitching clearly dominated the evening. On the Cubs’ side, it was a welcome return-to-form by Hendricks. For the Giants, it was a young lefty pitching with moxie and receiving fantastic support from his relief. For those that love pitchers executing pitches and relying on the defense to make plays, this was your kind of game.
Up Next For The Cubs
The Cubs and Giants will resume this three game set Tuesday evening at 9:15 CST, with Jose Quintana facing off against Johnny Cueto. You can listen to Pat and Ron on 670 The Score or watch the game along with Len and J.D. on WGN TV.
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