WASHINGTON -- Before a pitch was thrown in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, Cubs manager Joe Maddon laid out his ideal scenario for Friday night's game against the Nationals. A few hours later, it came together just as he hoped in a 3-0 win over the Nationals."Hopefully,
WASHINGTON -- Before a pitch was thrown in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, Cubs manager Joe Maddon laid out his ideal scenario for Friday night's game against the Nationals. A few hours later, it came together just as he hoped in a 3-0 win over the Nationals.
"Hopefully, you grab a lead," Maddon said Friday afternoon, "and you alter your defensive game in progress."
Maddon proved prophetic as the Cubs took the opener of the NLDS presented by T-Mobile.
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When making his lineup, Maddon plugged Kyle Schwarber in left field, sacrificing defense for power. It mattered little as Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks permitted only two flyouts during his seven shutout innings, leaving Schwarber with scant defensive responsibility. Hendricks bided time for his offense to strike against Stephen Strasburg, who carried a no-hit bid into the sixth.
Javier Baez reached on a rare error by third baseman Anthony Rendon to begin the sixth, scoring on Kristopher Bryant's two-out single. The Cubs' first hit of the postseason provided the lead Maddon sought. Anthony Rizzo followed with an RBI hit of his own to propel Chicago to a two-run advantage.
With the Cubs ahead, Schwarber remained in left for another frame, Maddon cognizant that the slugger would lead off the seventh. Once Schwarber's third at-bat ended, so did his night.
With his infield set the way he planned, Maddon went to work on his outfield. Leonys Martin took over in center, sending Jason Heyward to right and Benjamin Zobrist to left. That alignment lasted only an inning, one that featured no fly balls but began with a barehanded play by Bryant at third.
Jonathan Jay opened the eighth inning with an opposite-field double as a pinch-hitter, scoring an insurance run before remaining in the game in left for the bottom half. When closer Wade Davis took the mound for the ninth, Maddon moved Martin to left as Albert Almora Jr., who made plenty of defensive highlights last postseason, entered in center.
"The team we had in the field in the ninth inning out there, I couldn't be happier with that defensive alignment," Maddon said. "That's about as good as it gets for us."
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With a lead on the scoreboard and Martin, Almora and Heyward in the outfield, Maddon couldn't help but feel Game 1 went according to plan.
"If we could finish every game like that, having the lead, I'll take it," Maddon said. "Tonight, it was perfectly put for us in regard to that and the ability to finish the way we did.
"That's a warm fuzzy from the dugout, man."
Nathan Ruiz is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.