Instant Replay: Giants drop Game 1 of NLDS on Baez's eighth-inning blast

Instant Replay: Giants drop Game 1 of NLDS on Baez's eighth-inning blast


CHICAGO — The Giants were right to think their rotation could go neck-and-neck with Chicago’s in the National League Division Series. They still have not figured out, however, how to be the team that gets the big hit at Wrigley Field. 

Johnny Cueto and Jon Lester were brilliant in Game 1 of the NLDS, but Cueto made a mistake in the eighth and his shot at a victory drifted away, out past the shaking bleachers. Javier Baez hit a poorly located fastball in the eighth, providing the only offense in a 1-0 game with a solo shot. 

Cueto gave up just three hits, two fewer than Lester, who matched his eight innings. Aroldis Chapman was the only other pitcher to take the mound, and he worked past a two-out double by Buster Posey to give the Cubs the series lead. 

The city of Chicago waited all season for this night, but Cueto took the air out of Wrigley Field early, retiring the first 10 hitters he faced. He got some help from two players — Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson — in the lineup to provide right-handed bats against Lester. Hernandez robbed David Ross of extra bases in the third. Kris Bryant snapped the perfect game with a hard double to left in the fourth inning, but Tomlinson made a diving stop to prevent an RBI single from Ben Zobrist. 

On the other side, the Giants put the leadoff runner on in each of the first three innings against Lester. Hernandez led off the first with a bunt single and sped off two pitches later, trying to take advantage of Lester, who doesn’t hold runners well. David Ross made a perfect throw to second for the out. Two innings later, the Giants lost another baserunner on a bizarre play.

Conor Gillaspie led off the third with a single and first baseman Anthony Rizzo walked toward the dugout to get a new glove. Rizzo then stood alongside Lester as second baseman Javier Baez shifted over to hold Gillaspie on at first. The Giants surely thought Rizzo was preparing to field a bunt. Instead, the Cubs called a pitchout and Ross nabbed Gillaspie with a backdoor throw to Baez. The Giants put runners on second and third with two down in the fourth, but Brandon Crawford grounded out. 

Lester and Cueto, who finished second and fifth, respectively, in the National League in ERA, charged into the night. Lester was perfect in the middle innings, getting through seven on just 79 pitches. Cueto struck out the side in the sixth and finished the seventh at 99 pitches. He got an assist from bench coach Ron Wotus — who positions the infielders — and Tomlinson, who made a diving stop in shallow right to prevent a leadoff single. 

Cueto looked poised to match Lester’s eight innings, but Cueto grooved a fastball to Baez with one out in the eighth and paid for it. Baez crushed a moonshot that dropped right into the basket that separates the field from the bleachers. Angel Pagan made it to the ivy and jumped, but the ball was inches out of reach. As Baez flipped his bat, Cueto dropped his head back in despair, knowing the Giants did not have a ninth-inning comeback victory all season long. 

In five games at Wrigley Field over the past five weeks, the Giants have just 20 hits. 

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”