CHICAGO – Best in the majors during the regular season, the Chicago Cubs are one win from reaching the N.L. Championship Series for the second straight year.
Travis Wood took over when starter Kyle Hendricks got hurt and became the first relief pitcher since 1924 to hit a postseason home run, helping the Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 5-2 Saturday night for 2-0 N.L. Division Series lead.
Madison Bumgarner, coming off a four-hit shutout of the New York Mets in the N.L. wild card game, tries to save the Giants’ season when the series resumes on Monday in San Francisco.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon remains wary of the Giants, World Series champions in 2010, ’12 and ’14.
“You watch how they react to different moments,” Maddon said. “They’re never panicked. They’re never concerned. … I really believe our guys will come ready to play knowing that they are also. That’s just a given.”
The Cubs, who start reigning N.L. Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, are now one win from a matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers or Washington Nationals. Swept by the New York Mets in last year’s NLCS, Chicago led the big leagues with 103 wins during the regular season and is hoping for its first World Series title since 1908.
Ben Zobrist hit a run-scoring single off former Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija in the first, and Hendricks added a two-run, bloop single in a three-run second.
The Cubs were leading 4-2 in the fourth when Hendricks left the game with a bruised right forearm after being hit by Angel Pagan’s line drive.
Wood struck out Conor Gillaspie to strand Pagan, then sent a one-out offering from George Kontos halfway up the left-field bleachers in the bottom half. The only other reliever to homer in the postseason was the New York Giants’ Rosy Ryan in Game 3 of the 1924 World Series.
Given a curtain call by a screaming crowd of 42,392, Wood joined Rick Sutcliffe (1984) and Kerry Wood (2003) as the only Cubs pitchers to go deep in the postseason. Travis Wood has nine regular-season homers in his big league career.
Wood pitched a hitless fifth and was credited with the win. Four more relievers completed Chicago’s second straight six-hitter, with Aroldis Chapman throwing 12 of 16 pitches at 100 mph and up for his second consecutive save.
Hendricks, the major league ERA leader, gave up two runs and four hits in 3 2/3 innings.
“We picked him up tonight, having his injury and stuff and that’s what we have done all year long,” Wood said. “We pull on each other and end up backing each other up.”
Samardzija’s first career playoff start was a short one. The right-hander, who spent his first 6 1/2 seasons with the Cubs, was pinch hit for in the third after allowing four runs and six hits.
Down 4-0, San Francisco scored two in the third when Gregor Blanco doubled in a run and scored on Brandon Belt’s sacrifice fly.
“Just can’t put your team in that much of a hole early in the game, especially against a good staff like they have over there,” Samardzija said. “Like to have that one back, for sure, that one’s on me.”
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