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Cubs' timely hitting, Kyle Hendricks' crafty pitching earn Game 1 victory over Nationals

Mark Gonzales, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Baseball

WASHINGTON -- Power dominates, but Cubs style points Friday night proved more valuable in posting one of their most skillful victories of the past three postseasons.

Despite Steven Strasburg not allowing a hit for 5 2/3 innings, the Cubs' precision-like play produced a 3-0 victory Friday night over the Nationals in Game 1 of this best-of-five National League Division Series.

Kyle Hendricks relied on his mixture of changeups and curveballs that made his high-80 mph fastball appear faster and, in some cases, break the bats of the Nationals' most formidable sluggers.

And Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, who each looked helpless in striking out in their first two at-bats against Strasburg, came through at the right time.

Bryant collected the Cubs' first hit -- a single into right-center field on an 0-2 count with two outs in the sixth to score Javier Baez and snap a scoreless tie. Bryant cleverly moved up to second base and scored when Rizzo's line drive fell near the outstretched glove of a diving Bryce Harper in right field.

It was third baseman Anthony Rendon's error -- his first since July 22 -- that enabled Baez to reach first base safely to open the sixth and set up the clutch hits from Bryant and Rizzo.

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It also soiled Strasburg's impressive performance as he struck out 10 and walked one in seven innings.

The Cubs, attempting to become the first major league team to repeat as World Series champions since the Yankees (1998-2000), played near-flawless defense behind Hendricks and reliever Carl Edwards Jr.

Hendricks, who finished the regular season with a 2.19 ERA in his final 13 regular season starts, lived up to his dependable reputation despite outside cries for veteran left-hander Jon Lester to start Game 1.

Lester, who allowed only one run in his final 11 innings of the regular season, will oppose left-hander Gio Gonzalez in Saturday's Game 2.

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