WASHINGTON -- Kristopher Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are the two players the Cubs' lineup counts on most, but Stephen Strasburg made them both look silly in their first two at-bats on Friday night. It wasn't until the sixth inning that the Nationals' right-hander blinked.Bryant and Rizzo both delivered RBI singles
WASHINGTON -- Kristopher Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are the two players the Cubs' lineup counts on most, but Stephen Strasburg made them both look silly in their first two at-bats on Friday night. It wasn't until the sixth inning that the Nationals' right-hander blinked.
Bryant and Rizzo both delivered RBI singles with two outs in the sixth inning to lead the Cubs to a 3-0 victory at Nationals Park in Game 1 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. It was a nail-biter. Bryant's sixth-inning hit was the Cubs' first against Strasburg.
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"You get to the third time around and you're seeing what the pitcher has, and even if he is no-hitting us, you have to take advantage of the mistakes," Bryant said. "Strasburg was on tonight, and thankfully we put something together there."
Strasburg no-hit the Cubs through 5 2/3 innings, striking out both Bryant and Rizzo twice, but things changed in the sixth.
Javier Baez reached on an error by Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon to open the inning and advanced to second base on Kyle Hendricks' sacrifice. One out later, Bryant singled to right on an 0-2 pitch to drive in Baez and reached second on the throw home. Rizzo then drove in Bryant with a single. That was all Hendricks and the Cubs' bullpen needed.
"Those guys together, they're really special," Baez said of Bryant and Rizzo, or "Bryzzo" as they're known in Wrigleyville.
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Bryant said he wasn't looking for a particular pitch in his at-bat in the sixth that eventually put the Cubs on the board.
"Down 0-2, the odds aren't in your favor, so you just react," he said. "I saw some good curveballs from him earlier, good changeups. Just go up there and hope he throws something in the middle."
Strasburg was successfully mixing his pitches to the point where he was confusing the Cubs' lineup.
"He was really in a rhythm," Bryant said. "Getting a guy on base, getting a guy in scoring position, getting him out of his rhythm a little bit, I think that was huge. Also, the third time through, you get a sense of what he has, and tonight, he had some really good stuff. I think just seeing more pitches helped us out."
Rizzo called Strasburg "the best pitcher I've seen."
"First two at-bats, he made me look silly, the whole lineup look silly the first couple times through," Rizzo said. "He's Stephen Strasburg for a reason. ... The timely hitting is huge in the playoffs. [Bryant] with that big hit to break [the no-hitter] up, get the monkey off the back in the dugout for all of us, and then another hit there and then an insurance [run] -- that was big for us."
Rizzo added an RBI double in the eighth, driving in Jonathan Jay, to finish with as many hits as Cubs pitching gave up in the game.
How did the Cubs avoid pressing at the plate against Strasburg?
"We trust each other," Rizzo said. "That's the big, big thing for us, is that we know someone is going to come through at some point.
"We trust that someone is going to do it. It doesn't have to be me or Kris or [Addison Russell] or [Jason Heyward]. It's not 'I.' We know that someone is going to do it."
How good is the pair? Bryant's and Rizzo's 14 career postseason RBIs are tied for the most in franchise history with Russell.
"K.B. and Rizzo, two of the best in the game, our leaders. For them to come up huge was big for us tonight," Hendricks said.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.