CHICAGO -- Gorkys Hernández and Kelby Tomlinson started in Game 1 of the National League Division Series because of what they offer offensively -- specifically, which side of the plate they hit from. As it turned out, it was their defense that kept the Giants alive in Friday night's 1-0 loss at Wrigley Field.
Hernandez and Tomlinson, a pair of right-handed platoon players inserted into the lineup by manager Bruce Bochy, helped preserve a scoreless tie into the eighth inning. But the Giants' sure-handed defenders couldn't grab Javier Báez's game-winning homer, which accounted for all the offense. The Giants will look to even the best-of-five series Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, MLB Network).
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"Especially if the offense isn't clicking on a particular night, we have to have the good pitching and defense," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "I think you saw that from us tonight. I just wish we'd gotten across a run."
As Johnny Cueto breezed through the Cubs' formidable lineup and Jon Lester mowed down the Giants, there was a sense that one play would decide the game. It could have been David Ross' third-inning line drive to the warning track, but Hernandez chased it down and silenced a raucous crowd that had been roaring for the popular backup catcher.
According to Statcast™, Ross' liner came off his bat at 94.2 mph. Hernandez, starting in center field in place of Denard Span, reached a max speed of 19 mph, covering 91 feet with a route efficiency of 96 percent. That precision put him in place to make the tricky sliding grab.
Lying on his back, Hernandez held up his gloved left hand. Cueto stepped off the mound and tipped his cap.
"As soon as he hit the ball, I knew it was in the gap," Hernandez said. "I ran to the gap, I saw [left fielder Angel] Pagan and he's yelling at me, 'You can get it!'"
With two outs and a runner on third in the fourth inning, Tomlinson went to work at second base, where he got the nod in favor of lefty-swinging Joe Panik. Ben Zobrist slapped a hard ground ball, but Tomlinson laid out to his left and stopped it. He quickly rose to his feet and fired to Belt at first base, ending the inning and keeping a run off the board.
Zobrist's grounder came off his bat at 99.8 mph, according to Statcast™. Batted balls with a similar exit velocity and launch angle go for a hit 65.8 percent of the time. Not this one.
"Fortunately, I was in the right spot," Tomlinson said. "Last year, when I came up here, I dove for two balls and had them nick off my glove. To be on this side of it's a little bit better."
Tomlinson delivered again in the seventh, keeping Anthony Rizzo off the bases with another diving play. Already shifted into shallow right field, the bespectacled infielder made his first move in one-tenth of a second then ranged 25 feet to his left, according to Statcast™, then sprawled out to stop the hard-hit ground ball.
"I thought it was going to get through," Tomlinson said. "I think the grass kind of aided that one."
And Tomlinson's efforts aided Cueto. The right-hander matched Lester, zero for zero, until Baez finally hit a ball the Giants couldn't reach.
"It was big," Pagan said. "They kept us in the game."