Cubs and Giants each win Game 1 of NLDS, Blue Jays extend ALDS lead

Chicago Cubs' Javier Baez (9) celebrates with his teammates after Game 1 of baseball's National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, in Chicago. The Cubs won 1-0. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Cubs' Javier Baez (9) celebrates with his teammates after Game 1 of baseball's National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, in Chicago. The Cubs won 1-0. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO (AP) — Jon Lester gave the Chicago 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 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.

“We both were pitching a great ballgame and obviously we knew — we were aware that one run was going to decide the game,” Cueto said through a translator.

Baez’s homer stopped San Francisco’s postseason scoreless streak at 23 innings dating to the World Series in 2014. The Giants also won it all in 2010 and 2012, leading to talk of even-year magic for manager Bruce Bochy’s club, but it was the Cubs with the good fortune in the series opener, a strange turn of events for the usually snake-bitten franchise.

The Giants had at least one hit in each of the first four innings, including leadoff singles in the first three, but Lester held them off each time. The left-hander got some help from his usual catcher, with David Ross throwing out Gorkys Hernandez trying to steal second in the first and picking off wild-card hero Conor Gillaspie at first in the third.

San Francisco had runners on second and third after left fielder Ben Zobrist misplayed Pagan’s sinking liner into a fourth-inning double, but Brandon Crawford bounced out to end the inning.

“We had a couple chances there. We just couldn’t get the key hit,” Bochy said.

Cueto retired his first 10 batters and had the Cubs shaking their heads all night long. He also got some timely help from his defense.

Hernandez got revenge on Ross with an outstanding, sliding catch on the warning track in left-center in the third. Kelby Tomlinson, starting at second in place of Joe Panik with the lefty Lester on the mound, robbed Zobrist of a two-out RBI single in the fourth, then took a hit away from Anthony Rizzo with another diving stop in the seventh.


Actor and comedian Bill Murray was in the crowd cheering on his beloved Cubs. He did his best to bust the team’s infamous curse, wearing a shirt that read: “I Ain’t Afraid of No Goat.”

Rocker Eddie Vedder, Chicago Bulls stars Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook each got a loud cheer when they were shown on the videoboard in left field. Wearing a white Kris Bryant jersey, former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka fired up the crowd before the first pitch.

“It’s time to play ball,” he said while standing in front of the home dugout. “Go Cubs Go!”


Giants: Jeff Samardzija gets the ball in Game 2 for his first postseason start in the same place he began his major league career. The right-hander was drafted by the Cubs in 2006 and spent his first 6 1/2 seasons with the team before he was traded to Oakland in the 2014 deal that brought shortstop Addison Russell to the Cubs.

Cubs: Coming off a breakout season, Kyle Hendricks makes his third career playoff start. The right-hander went 16-8 with a major league-best 2.13 ERA this year. He was nearly unhittable at home, going 9-2 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 games.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Scherzer takes blame for Nationals losing Game 1 to Dodgers

WASHINGTON (AP) — Max Scherzer believes the Washington Nationals were one hanging curveball away from beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of their NL Division Series.

Scherzer hung a curveball to Justin Turner that became a two-run home run and gave up a home run to Corey Seager as the Nationals lost to the Dodgers 4-3 on Friday night. Hitters decried the missed opportunities of going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position, but Washington’s ace took the blame for “mistakes” that proved costly.

“Giving up those two home runs, I really feel like that was the difference in the ballgame,” said Scherzer, who allowed four runs and five hits in six innings. “I’m accountable for that and I’ll shoulder that and I’ll take the blame for that. I know I’m capable of executing pitches at a higher level and I’ve got to do it.”

Scherzer (0-1) allowed a solo shot to Seager on a first-pitch fastball in the first inning that the rookie shortstop drilled to center field. Seager said the Dodgers “were looking for any runs” they could get off Scherzer, a 20-game winner and NL Cy Young Award candidate.

In the third, Los Angeles scratched across another run on an RBI single by Chase Utley, who broke up a potential double play and set the stage for Turner to go deep to left.

Scherzer said the third inning will keep him up late at night. He settled down and didn’t allow a run from that point on, but Turner’s blast loomed large.

“We were pretty aggressive and that kind of affected the way Max pitched to us,” said Turner, who had 27 home runs during the regular season. “The second time through, he went through all the secondary stuff even more than we saw him do on tape. That’s what you have to do, you have to make adjustments on the fly and see what other teams are doing and attacking and you have to try to make adjustments with them.”

The Nationals got to Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (1-0) for three runs on eight hits and knocked him out of the game after five innings. Anthony Rendon had a two-run single in the third, and rookie Trea Turner drove in another run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

But shortstop Danny Espinosa struck out three times with two runners on, and Washington got only one hit in four innings against LA relievers Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton, Pedro Baez and Kenley Jansen. Manager Dusty Baker acknowledged Espinosa “didn’t have a very good night,” but teammates shared the responsibility for the offensive futility.

“We’re a great team,” said reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, who went 1 for 5 with a double and a run scored. “When we get guys on base, we usually have pretty dang good at-bats and usually get those guys in. Definitely tough scoring three runs tonight.”


Of all the Nationals’ missed opportunities, no bad decision loomed larger than the seventh inning when second baseman Daniel Murphy walked and took off to try to steal second off Baez. Murphy was coming off missing time with a strained glute, had the green light to go because he thought Baez’s deliver was slow and was thrown out by catcher Yasmani Grandal.

“There’s only two choices on that play: It’s either be safe or don’t run, and I can’t get thrown out right there,” Murphy said. “It cost me an at-bat in the ninth inning as well, running into an out on the bases.”


Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen hours before Game 1 — his first time on a mound since he hurt his right elbow a month ago. He was ruled out for the NLDS, but the Nationals hope he could return if the team advances. … All-Star C Wilson Ramos, out for the season with a torn knee ligament, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.


In Game 2, RHP Tanner Roark (16-10, 2.83 ERA) starts for the Nationals, taking the assignment that likely would have gone to Strasburg if he were healthy. LHP Rich Hill (3-2, 1.84 ERA in six starts after a trade from Oakland) will pitch for the Dodgers. He was let go from Washington’s Triple-A Syracuse affiliate last year.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Blue Jays hit 4 home runs, beat Rangers for 2-0 lead in ALDS

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — 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 a 5-3 win Friday.

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.

Osuna entered after reliever Francisco Liriano was hit near the back of the head by Carlos Gomez’s line drive. Liriano was taken by ambulance after the game to a hospital, where he was checked out and then cleared to fly home with the team that evening. It was Osuna’s first appearance since he left the mound in the AL wild-card win Tuesday night with a shoulder injury that left his status in doubt.

Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Encarnacion, who ended the wild-card game with a three-run homer in the 11th inning, hit solo homers in a five-batter span in the fifth. Troy Tulowitzki’s two-run drive in the second put 20-game winner J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays ahead to stay.

“Getting behind in the count, and they were looking for fastballs,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “When I left it on the plate, they got it.”

Texas scored twice in the eighth, including Gomez’s single that struck Liriano. The pitcher walked off the mound.

A day after Cleveland homered three times in an inning against Boston and won its ALDS opener, the Blue Jays matched the feat against the team that won an AL-high 95 games this year. The home runs boosted the Blue Jays in a game in which they got outhit 13-6.

While Toronto finished the regular season fourth in the majors with 221 homers, only eight came in the last 11 games. They already have eight in three postseason games.

“Home runs are always a good thing,” Gibbons said.

Darvish had as many strikeouts (four) in his five innings as homers allowed, becoming the first pitcher in the postseason to allow four homers in a game since Minnesota’s Rick Reed against Oakland in Game 3 of the 2002 ALDS.

Texas has lost five straight ALDS games to the Blue Jays since winning the first two games in Toronto last October. The Rangers dropped to 1-11 in ALDS games in their home ballpark, including Cole Hamels’ worst postseason outing in the 10-1 series-opening loss Thursday.

“We’ve come back from a lot this year. … We all believe in each other,” said Texas outfielder Ian Desmond, who drove in two runs but was also thrown out trying to score on a grounder.

Happ allowed nine hits but only run before leaving one batter into the sixth.

“You go into a game knowing that at some point they’re going to get their hits,” Happ said. “But yeah, it was a battle. It seemed like a long five innings.”

Osuna, who afterward said he felt no pain, came in a little earlier than planned, a move that followed Liriano getting struck.

The ball off Gomez’s bat was measured at 102 mph, and Liriano turned away just in time to avoid being hit in the face. Gomez winced as the ball caromed into right-center field for a single to make it 5-2.

Desmond drove in a run with a grounder before Osuna struck out Carlos Beltran to end the eighth.

Adrian Beltre was stranded at second after a leadoff double in the ninth.


At first pitch, it was overcast with a temperature of 67 degrees, but the game started on time after rain fell overnight and in the early-morning hours at Globe Life Park. It was 90 degrees Thursday at the start of the series opener that was played under bright, sunny conditions.


Desmond had a leadoff double in the seventh, but was later thrown out at the plate after third baseman Josh Donaldson fielded a grounder. The out call stood after a replay challenge by the Rangers.


Blue Jays: 2B Devon Travis was scratched from the starting lineup about an hour before the first pitch because of right knee irritation.

Rangers: RF Shin-Soo Choo was out of the lineup after playing Game 1, but manager Jeff Banister said Choo was fine physically. Choo was on the disabled list four times this year, and had missed 39 games with a broken left forearm until last weekend.


Blue Jays: One of the two losses this season by RHP Aaron Sanchez, the AL ERA leader at 3.00, was to Texas. He gave up six runs, matching his season high, and was the loser in that May 15 game with the bench-clearing brawl after Toronto star Jose Bautista was punched by Rougned Odor.

Rangers: RHP Colby Lewis is 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in nine career postseason games (eight starts) for Texas. In 2010, he won the AL Championship Series clincher to get the Rangers to their first World Series, and beat San Francisco in Game 3 for their only victory in that series.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.