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 Chicago Cubs' precision-like play produced a 3-0 victory Friday night over the Washington 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.
"(Hendricks) did a great job, and this obviously was a tone setter for us," said Jon Lester, who will start Game 2 on Saturday against Gio Gonzalez.
"And the offense did a great job of grinding out Strasburg."
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.
"In that situation, (Strasburg) has the advantage," Bryant said. "You have to go out there and try less. That's what (manager) Joe (Maddon) says. Sometimes that works. That's kind of what I do."
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.
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 team to repeat as World Series champions since the Yankees (1998-2000), played near-flawless defense behind Hendricks and relievers Carl Edwards Jr. and Wade Davis.
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 Lester to start Game 1.
"It was nothing but excellence," catcher Willson Contreras said. "He didn't miss a spot, didn't miss a pitch. We did everything we wanted."
Hendricks, who earned the deciding Game 6 victory in the 2016 NL Championship Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers and started Game 7 of the World Series, never was in trouble after the second and frustrated the Nationals with his mixture of pitches.
"Maybe not my best ever (start), but it was right up there," said Hendricks, whose velocity touched 91 mph to make his changeup all the more effective.
Hendricks and Edwards held speedy leadoff batter Trea Turner hitless in four at-bats after Turner went 6-for-14 with seven stolen bases in a four-game series against the Cubs in June.
The Cubs added an insurance run as Jon Jay, who was 13-for-40 (.325) as a pinch-hitter during the regular season, batted for Hendricks and poked a double down the left field line to start the eighth. Rizzo fouled off four two-strike pitches with two outs off reliever Ryan Madson before his double scored Jay.
"The big thing for us is that we know someone is going to come through at some point," Rizzo said.