NLDS Game 2: Relentless Cubs push Giants to brink of elimination

Despite their dominant regular season, no one suggested it would be easy for the Chicago Cubs in the postseason. Even with starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks leaving early due to injury, they made it look that way Saturday. The Cubs dispatched the San Francisco Giants again, winning Game 2 of their National League Championship Series 5-2 to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

The Cubs made quick work of former ace Jeff Samardzija, knocking him from the game after two innings. The Giants scored two runs off Hendricks in the third inning, but mounted little offense otherwise against Chicago’s five different relievers. They need answers and they need them quickly, but they won’t come easily with Jake Arrieta awaiting them in Game 3.

If there’s one thing working in San Francisco’s favor, it might be history. They will play in their tenth elimination game since 2010 and are 9-0 in the previous nine.

• Though Kyle Hendricks outing was shortened to 3 2/3 innings, he was a huge part of the Cubs win due to his bat. Hendricks’ delivered a two-run single in the second inning, which extended the Cubs lead to 3-0. Worth adding, Hendricks only had two RBIs during the entire regular season.

Cubs reliever Travis Wood takes a curtain call after hitting a home run in NLDS Game 2. (Getty Images)
Cubs reliever Travis Wood takes a curtain call after hitting a home run in NLDS Game 2. (Getty Images)

• With Hendricks out, Joe Maddon turned the ball over to Travis Wood. He recorded four outs, including two by strikeout. More impressively, he added to the Cubs offense with a solo home run in his lone at-bat. That made for a notable night for the Cubs pitching duo.

• The entire Cubs bullpen deserves credit. In addition to Wood, Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman were all splendid. Together they recorded 16 outs, including six by strikeout, to keep the Giants offense at bay.

• Attempting to become the first pitcher to defeat his former team in the postseason in 10 years, Jeff Samardzija came up way short. In just two innings, “Shark” allowed four runs on six hits and one walk. That included Hendricks’ two-run single. The Giants were concerned Samardzija would be too amped for this matchup. That may have been part of it, but it was mostly just the Cubs having his number.

• San Francisco’s offensive struggles can be traced to the top of the order. Denard Span, Brandon Belt and Buster Posey were a combined 1-for-11, with Belt notching a double and an RBI on a sacrifice fly.

• We like Javier Baez, but we can’t ignore him repeating what was nearly a disastrous mistake from Game 1. Baez admired his game-winning home run a little too long on Friday, acknowledging he would have been embarrassed had the ball not landed in the basket. He was not so lucky Saturday, nearly getting out at second after admiring another deep drive too long. He actually got there in time, but popped off the base. Either way, he should have been easily safe.

Hendricks’ two-run single felt like the dagger, even in the second inning. However, one half-inning earlier, the Cubs turned an inning-ending double play that quickly squashed a budding Giants rally. It happened right after Angel Pagan reached via catcher’s interference, which set up the Giants at first and second with one out. Wild-card game hero Conor Gillaspie was retired 4-6-3, leaving the Giants frustrated and scoreless through 11 NLDS innings.

Can the Giants pull another rabbit out of their hat? As noted, they’re 9-0 in their last nine elimination games. However, we don’t think they’ve faced a team as balanced, confident or determined as the 2016 Cubs. AT&T Park in San Francisco will be frenzied and it’ll be Madison Bumgarner’s turn too, so this is all leading to a fascinating showdown.

About Samardzija’s struggles, they were pretty much the norm against good teams in 2016.

It’s do-or-die time for the Giants and they’ll have the right man for the job in Game 3. Coming off his wild-card game shutout in New York, Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74) will get the call against the 2015 NL Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10). Fox Sports 1 coverage will begin at 9:30 p.m. ET on Monday, and that’s regardless of the American League results.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!