Friday’s MLB playoff results: Javier Biaz blasts Cubs to NLDS lead
CHICAGO — Jon Lester gave the Cubs a chance, Javier Baez supplied the power and Aroldis Chapman finished the job.
A positive playoff opener for a city draped in “W” flags and hoping for a historic championship.
Lester outpitched Johnny Cueto with eight sparkling innings, Baez homered in the eighth and the Chicago beat the San Francisco Giants 1-0 in a tense Game 1 of their NL Division Series on Friday night.
Lester retired his last 13 batters in a dominant performance, but the game was scoreless when Baez sent a towering drive into a stiff wind. With a raucous crowd of 42,148 and every player anxiously tracking the flight of the ball, left fielder Angel Pagan ran out of room as it landed in the basket that tops the ivy-covered walls at Wrigley Field.
Baez thought it was surely gone as soon as the ball left the bat.
“I forgot about the wind,” he said. “The wind’s blowing straight in, and I hit it really good. Good thing it just barely went.”
Chicago’s relievers in the bullpen in foul territory down the left-field line broke into cheers as Baez rounded the bases with the delirious crowd in a frenzy. Baez then came out of the dugout for a curtain call.
“Just waiting for him to make a mistake and he finally did,” Baez said.
Chapman allowed Buster Posey’s two-out double off the ivy in the ninth before Hunter Pence bounced to second for the final out, wrapping a bow on Chicago’s first meaningful game in weeks.
Lester’s $155 million, six-year deal in December 2014 was a key moment in the Cubs’ turnaround from also-ran to contender. They clinched the NL Central title on Sept. 15 and led the majors with 103 wins this year, but have their sights set on the franchise’s first World Series crown since 1908.
“I kind of figured as we got going it would come down to one mistake and luckily we didn’t make one and they did,” Lester said. “And I think that’s just kind of the beginning of the series.”
Game 2 is Saturday night.
Cueto was outstanding, following up Madison Bumgarner’s four-hitter in San Francisco’s wild-card win at New York with his own gem. The right-hander, deftly varying his delivery to keep the Cubs off balance, struck out 10 and allowed three hits in his second straight complete game in the postseason.
L.A. Dodgers 4, Nationals 3
WASHINGTON — Clayton Kershaw was hardly at his best.
Nothing new when it comes to October.
He allowed eight hits and three runs. He needed 101 pitches just to make it through five innings. His career postseason ERA even rose a bit, up to 4.65.
Didn’t matter a bit to the lefty. Only this did: He earned a rare playoff victory.
Backed by early homers from rookie sensation Corey Seager and Justin Turner off Max Scherzer in a matchup of Cy Young Award winners that promised more than it delivered, Kershaw helped the Los Angeles Dodgers edge the Washington Nationals in Game 1 of their NL Division Series.
“It was a grind. A lot of guys on base all the time. Definitely wasn’t easy,” Kershaw said. “As close as you can bend without breaking, I guess.”
His work done, Kershaw was able to relax in the dugout, chewing gum and blowing bubbles while watching relievers Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton, Pedro Baez and Kenley Jansen combine to give up one hit over four scoreless innings. Jansen got his first five-out save since April.
“Whatever we’ve got to do to win, right? Those guys are up to the challenge,” Seager said about LA’s bullpen. “And they’ve been up to it all year.”
Game 2 in the best-of-five matchup is Saturday at Washington.
Indians 6, Red Sox 0
CLEVELAND — David Price finally walked off the mound to a standing ovation in October.
This wasn’t the one he craved, though.
Cleveland’s fans derisively cheered Price’s exit in the fourth inning as the Indians roughed up the left-hander and beat the Boston Red Sox to take a 2-0 AL Division Series lead.
Price was convinced this time would be different than with Tampa Bay, Detroit or Toronto, the three teams he pitched for in the playoffs over the past three seasons. But nothing has changed and now he must face the wrath of Red Sox Nation, which will undoubtedly remind him Boston isn’t paying him $217 million over seven seasons to crumble when the stage grows.
Lonnie Chisenhall connected for a three-run homer in the second inning off Price, who lasted just 3 1/3 innings and looked at the grass as he walked to the dugout as Indians roared.
Afterward, Price said he’s counting on another chance.
“I know my number is going to be called again to pitch another game in 2016,” he said. “I want it. I’ll be ready. If they need me, I’ll be ready for Game 4 because I didn’t throw a lot of pitches today. I take a tremendous amount of pride in what I do and want to establish myself in the postseason. I’ve got two wins in the playoffs. I just haven’t got one as a starter.”
Showing no signs of a late-season leg injury, Corey Kluber limited the AL East champions to three hits over seven innings as the Indians moved within one win of returning to the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2007.
David Ortiz and the Red Sox hope they can start to turn around the series on Sunday when Clay Buchholz starts Game 3 at Fenway Park or their season will be over and Big Papi’s career will be done.
Blue Jays 5, Rangers 3
ARLINGTON, Texas — Talk about a 1-2-3 punch for the Toronto Blue Jays in these playoffs.
The wild-card Blue Jays have rediscovered their power stroke in October, and are going home with a chance to sweep the Texas Rangers in the AL Division Series after another win.
Edwin Encarnacion capped a three-homer burst in the fifth inning off Yu Darvish, and Toronto won on a dreary, misty afternoon for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five matchup.
One important reminder, though: Last fall, Toronto lost the first two games of the ALDS at home against Texas, then rallied to win the series.
“I learned something last year … you got to win three games,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “They’ve got a great team over there. You don’t lead the American League, powerhouse league, you don’t luck into that.”
Wearing spikes that had “No Panic” printed on them, closer Roberto Osuna got a five-out save that sent the Blue Jays home looking to clinch the series in Game 3 Sunday night.
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