WASHINGTON, D.C.: “He was the best pitcher I’ve seen probably,” Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo told reporters after he went 1 for 3 with an RBI single off of Washington Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg tonight in the Cubs’ 3-0 win in the nation’s capital.
Strasburg struck Rizzo out the first two times he faced him, and took a no-hit bid into the sixth before an error and back-to-back, two-out RBI singles (the second by Rizzo) put the Cubs ahead, 2-0.
“First two at bats, made me look silly,” Rizzo said.
“The whole lineup looked silly the first couple times through. You just have to tip your hat to him. He’s Stephen Strasburg for a reason, and he’s an ace for a reason.
“His changeup was on, he was locating his fastball, and you just have to wait those guys out.”
Strasburg, who struck out 13 of 26 Cubs’ batters when he faced Chicago in the regular season, struck out seven of the first 13 hitters he faced in tonight’s NLDS opener.
Strasburg took his no-hit bid into the sixth inning, but an error by Anthony Rendon put the leadoff runner (Javier Baez) on, and two outs later Kris Bryant hit an 0-2 fastball up in the zone out to right for an RBI single, 1-0. Rizzo followed with the Cubbies’ second hit, an RBI liner to right that made it 2-0.
Strasburg added two Ks in a scoreless, 16-pitch seventh for 10 Ks total on 81 pitches, but the Cubs still led, 2-0.
Strasburg needed just 81 pitches to strike out 10 batters. The last pitcher to accomplish the feat in postseason: #Padres Hitchcock in 1998.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 7, 2017
Stephen Strasburg’s Line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 Ks, 81 P, 60 S, 6/5 GO/FO.
Wieters on Strasburg: "Maybe the best he’s been all year."— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) October 7, 2017
“Strasburg, he was pitching,” Dusty Baker said after the Nationals fell behind 1-0 in the NLDS. “He was doing all he could.”
“You know, we just couldn't muster up too much offense tonight. We'll be better tomorrow.”
“Strasburg with that changeup,” Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon said.
“Now, I know he's had it, but I mean, I haven’t seen a lot of this guy, but that is such a weapon to go with the other things that he does.”
Strasburg, who held opposing hitters to a .111 AVG on his change this season, threw 12 changeups total against the Cubs, and got 11 swings, and nine swinging strikes with it.
Rizzo said he and his teammates just waited for an opportunity.
“We trust each other, that’s the big, big thing for us is that we know someone is going to come through at some point.”
“Some of our guys had really good at-bats,” Maddon said. “I thought Addison [Russell] had great at-bats all night. I thought Jason Heyward had really good at-bats all night. It was actually the bottom of the batting order, [Kyle] Schwarber, first at-bat, really good.
“Just keep going. Look for that little thing to occur that you can jump in there. And then -- but then your pitcher has to be, you know, in line with what their guy [is doing] -- otherwise, it doesn't matter.
“And so their guy was that good; so was our guy. And eventually you just look for the opening. So great baseball game. Obviously a great way for us to start here. The fans for them were totally into it from jump street. It was really an energized situation tonight.”
The Cubs, as Maddon mentioned, got an impressive outing from starter Kyle Hendricks, who gave up just two hits total in seven scoreless innings.
“Strasburg was outstanding and you had to pitch as well as Kyle pitched today in order to beat him,” Maddon said.
“We took advantage of a mistake,” he continued.
“The third baseman is outstanding. We got lucky right there. But again, the two-strike knocks, KB and Riz had difficult first four at-bats combined, and after that they come up with two pretty big hits. Pretty spectacular.”
“Strasburg threw a great game,” Baker said. “Anthony, we've never seen him do that, and it led to a two-out hit, and they got three two-strike, two-out hits, and that was the ballgame.”